best sushi in Philly
Setting aside Morimoto because of cost, I would like to hear your opinion of which is the best sushi restaurant in Philly. I scanned opinions and there appears to be much disagreement, which strikes me as odd because I am knowledgeable about Chinese food and the difference between good and bad is very clear. Here are three likely suspects culled from the boards:
37 W Crescent Blvd
Collingswood, NJ 08108-1003
1225 Raw Sushi & Sake Lounge
1225 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
1017 Germantown Pike
Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
The goal is a birthday dinner for someone who loves sushi.
Well, let me say this about this age old best sushi question (I could write about this for paragraphs). I think you'll get different opinions on sushi places depending upon the experience level of the eater. Newbies to the food will like the less traditional things and gravitate to rolls. Sushi veterans like myself will tend to prefer more traditional things which a newbie rarely likes initially (my wife and I love uni and natto now but rarely if ever a newcomer will). So, when you ask or read about "best sushi" recs, you have to try to dig deeper and might have to read between the lines. If your friend is a newbie or close to it and you'll just be ordering "sushi A" or the equivalent plate, I will also suggest both Sagami and Bluefin. But if you want a more customized experience (which once I learned to how to ask for, I would never not sit at the bar) to get what for me is substantially better food, I'll suggest how to go about this in another post.
Let me preface my faves w/ the following. My foodie friends now know when they ask where we prefer to go for sushi that the important part is not the restaurant but the particular sushi chef. I believe the itamae has a bigger influence on the 'sushi experience' than a traditional kitchen chef has at a non-sushi place. Any first-rate itamae also orders the fish the serve, inspect it when it arrives (and don't take something if they don't like it), and preps (when necessary) and stores it properly before being served. In my opinion, most places in Philly aren't doing this well. They take pretty much whatever the truck delivers to them, then frequently don't handle or store all the material properly. I wonder how many people that get their usual 'sushi A' combo plate and sit at a table know that often most of the fish like the maguro (tuna) and sake (salmon) has been pre-cut hours before to allow speedy service? I don't want pre-cut fish as I think it isn't as fresh! We've educated ourselves enough on sushi and have been 'coached' by a couple of experienced itamaes to think we really know what separates good from the great. We go to whereever these itamaes are located, go early on say a Friday or Saturday night and sit at the bar in front of them, and b/c we are regular customers, they'll serve us a pretty much custom meal where we don't really order anything (they choose for us). You'd be amazed how much stuff many good places have 'secretly stashed' that doesn't go to regular customers that have ordered 'sushi A'! So, with that all stated I suggest that if you've progressed past the 'ordinary' stuff a sushi bar offers, try to cultivate a relationship w/ an itamae that really knows what they are doing. Our favorite itamaes in the area have all been trained in Japan. I'll reveal one of them now: Hosaka-san at Genji downtown. We've been going to him for years although we haven't been there in probably 9 months or so now (I heard rumors from our other fave itamae that Hosaka-san may be leaving there soon but I can't confirm this). If you are willing to spend some big money, sit in front of him and see if he is willing to serve you omakase style. It is quite an experience. But why don't we travel to Genji regularly anymore? We no longer live in the city and have found an itamae in the 'burbs about 8 years ago that we love. We've followed him around at whatever restaurant he currently works at. But I won't reveal where he is now as we don't want him to get any busier than he currently is as this would jeopardize our ability to get this custom experiece. ;-)
If you're considering Collingswood and Plymouth Meeting as 'in Philly', then Teikoku should be on your list, it's on Rt. 3 near Edgmont, a few miles east of West Chester.
Buckethead, you beat me to the punch. Teikoku in Newtown Square is simply the best, whether you are a novice or an expert in sushi.
Here is a Sagami story which may or may not give you the heebie-jeebies:
One night I got take-out from Sagami. My kids ate most of their sushi but left some. I put it in the sink and went to bed. In the middle of the night I woke up for a glass of water and went into the kitchen. There was a strange purple glow emeanating from the sink. I looked in to see the leftover sushi glowing purple. It was some sort of bioluminescent bacteria.