The fried oysters appetizer ($7) gives you only three, in rather too much bread-crumb coating, but they’re pretty good with the spicy mayonnaise. Soft-shell crab tempura ($12) also had a little too much batter, but an excellent ponzu (lemony) dip rescued that platter.
There are two pages of maki (rolled sushi); we rather lucked into Bob’s Maki ($12). The inside is red, smooth, spicy tuna, and it looks like that will dominate, but the texture is changed by tempura flakes inside, and the flavor is set more by eel and avocado (and spicy mayonnaise) on the outside. All these ingredients work together like a favorite casserole.
Privus maki ($12) is almost as remarkable, with the ingredients sort of inverted. The eel is on the inside with avocado; the outside is torched salmon, scallion, and salmon roe. How these inside-out rolls stick together is where religion and science part company and we all stand in awe. These expensive maki are double portions, long rolls cut into about 10 pieces, and make an entrée for one or for sharing.
There are a few entrées, but our teriyaki salmon ($15) wasn’t up to the level of the sushi. It came on a sizzling platter that actually sizzled, but this is never a good sign, since the hot iron plate that makes that sound and wonderful aroma almost invariably overcooks what’s on top of it. That didn’t matter with the simple carrots. And the broccoli florets came out about right. But the teriyaki itself was flaky and overdone. The bowl of rice was sticky in the Japanese style but not aromatic.
Privus has a few sakes and several unusual Korean drinks brewed from rice and corn (or even buckwheat, in one case). I’ve reviewed bokbunja ($13), the port-like raspberry cordial, elsewhere. This time I tried baekseju ($13), a slightly sweet white wine with ginseng and herbs. It’s served cold, and Privus has a carafe with a side pocket for crushed ice to get it even colder. It tastes sweet and innocuous — easier to drink than sake. A Korean drinking custom is to blend it with one of the other variants. Warmed up, it gets more herbal and weird. A draught of Kirin Ichiban ($5.50) is what I still prefer with sushi. A wasabi martini ($10) was exactly what I feared: the traditional bitter symphony of gin, vermouth, and olive overwhelmed by peppery wasabi.
Privus has only one dessert, and it’s the only one they need: chocolate gelato ($5) with cinnamon-chocolate sauce. You’ve been good: you’ve eaten all that low-fat, high-omega-3 raw seafood, you’ve sipped your nutritionally superior Korean rice wine. Now you’re entitled to two or three scoops of the most exquisite chocolate ice cream.
A definable atmosphere at Privus didn’t seem to develop on my two weeknight visits. People would come in, but all the couples would disappear into the side booths, so the room would still seem almost empty. On weekends, there are DJs, and if the food is any indication, the owners probably do things properly, so the music could be quite diverting. Service was very good, with all our servers quite knowledgeable.
Although I ate mostly exotic delights, Privus does have all the familiar Japanese appetizers, salads, and sushi. But what is more fascinating is the high-end sushi palace hiding inside a nightclub with velvet ropes.
Robert Nadeau can be reached atRobtNadeau@aol.com.