Once you reach the table, your oasis, matters improve. Somewhere beyond the labyrinth of narrow, claustrophobic rooms is a kitchen in which some very good cooks toil. From them, you can have slivers of fluke folded into a thick creamy sauce of coconut milk, ponzu, scallion and a dash of ginger oil and orange zest. You can have dumplings bathed in a green curry broth rich with kaffir lime. Stuffed inside the dumplings are black tiger shrimp that pop in your mouth. And you can have skate that is poached (so much better than sautéed), then laid in a pool of browned butter infused with ponzu and sake. Chinese broccoli, sautéed and draped over the skate, adds just the right note of bitterness.
What you can't get is the attention of the maître d'hôtel, and what you can't do is think straight, because it is a place designed for sensory overload. My advice is to get in early, say around 6:30 p.m., and enjoy the scene ramping up as you nibble on petits fours. Hope for the deft waitress with the brown hair who works in the back dining room, and hope there isn't a fire so you won't have to push through all the drinkers by the door. Then you'll have an almost very good dining experience. (And if you go at lunch, it's serene.)
The kitchen is run by Michael Vernon, who was sous-chef at Le Bernardin for four years. His former boss, Eric Ripert, is the consulting chef at Geisha, approving Mr. Vernon's menu items. There is a sushi chef as well, Kazuo Yoshida, who worked at Brasserie 360 and Jewel Bako.
. . . Many other dishes work well — so well that I would be tempted on my next visit to skip the sushi and stick to the cooked dishes. The sushi is prepared competently, but the fun lies elsewhere on this menu.
Halibut is sautéed and served with spinach in coconut milk, curry and garlic butter. As you eat it, it collapses into a shrimp sauce, so that it ends up as a rich fish porridge. The lamb chops, dark and caramelized, are served with a buttery taro root purée and tiny rounds of spinach wrapped in Napa cabbage, shaped and cut to resemble maki rolls. The chicken stuffed with mushrooms, a bit salty, is paired with a scattering of young beets, carrots, parsnips and pea shoots, each just cooked and lightly glazed with butter.
Last night after watching the Queen Mary 2 sail by, we headed over to Corner Bistro for cheeseburgers and fries. Not quite full, we walked across town to ChikaLicious for dessert. Together, a perfect meal.