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oonth Mar 9, 2007 11:41 AM

HIGHER END

Was at Yasuda a couple of weeks back. It was my best Yasuda experience so far (and also @ $130pp all in my most expensive one so far). Mixed sushi/sashimi omakase and once again the instant comparative between the same fish or fish varietal from different waters/parts of the world was a supreme eating experience and is what really marks Yasuda out from the competition.

Sushi Seki. Was there early evening a couple of Saturdays back and did a mini omakase not with Seki but with one of the other chefs. I just have a sense that Seki is down a notch or two from my earlier experiences but it's still high grade and a good bet when you want top quality fish but with a twist when compared to Yasuda or Ushi.

Ichimura. Has been on my wishlist for a while finally made it there earlier this week. Quite strange reservation experience over the phone when they made a point of telling me (pretty abruptly) that they don't serve California rolls and the like and that there is a minimum spend of $30 per person. Nevertheless I persevered and had a very enjoyable $70 sushi omakase comprising 12 pieces of nigiri and a tuna roll as well as a tasty marinated lotus root appetiser. Highlights were the two premium tuna nigiri pieces - one was traditional tuna belly (o-toro), the other a cut from the fleshy part of the neck, both oishi-ne. Had a sense that it was maybe a little overpriced but on reflection maybe not, will certainly add this place to the rotation.

Sushi Sennin (midtown). Disappointing, I wouldn't recommend this place and it's expensive to boot. The novelty item I ordered (spicy salmon carpaccio = slivers of salmon sashimi topped w/ spicy sauces and fried panko) was pretty tasty but ultimately there were too many competing flavours and the fish was overwhelmed ($24 for this btw, not cheap). Nigiri sushi selection was very humdrum - size over quality, I've had much better fish in many other places in NYC. No Japanese customers in sight, lots of corporate expense accounts, slightly themed feel, says it all really.

My current ranking 1. Yasuda; 2. Ushi Wak; 3.= Seki and Ichimura. I'm being encouraged to check out Masa but I don't think so, just can't justify the spend (and Bar Masa was a major letdown last year). Maybe Urasawa in LA when I'm next over there.

MID RANGE

Was last at Kanoyama early Feb. I've always eaten really well there and for the first time I perched at the sushi counter and had the sushi omakase platter. I love some of the more esoteric fish selections that they have (and which you can't find anywhere else) and at $30 for the platter (8 pieces of nigiri and a roll) it's great value. Next time I'll do piece by piece though.

Lan. I've always liked this place both for cooked food (well documented) as well as sushi (less heralded). I also like the funkier vibe and, like Seki, it's another place that stays open late (2am). Anyway I was delighted to be re-acquainted with one of the sushi chefs who used to work at Ushi Wak and who I have a good rapport with and I had a mini-omakase based off the specials list. Worth knowing that on Monday evenings they do 50% off on all their sakes and they have an impressive list of sakes including namazakes (seasonal releases).

OTHERS

Ise (Pine St). I posted separately a few days ago. I think that this is probably the best value-for-money omakase you can do in the city. Fish quality is great, prices are very reasonable, chef is a character and it's one of the few restaurants I know where you are never hurried, very un-New York in that sense.

Aki. I finally revisited a couple of Sundays back after having very much enjoyed my 1st visit there last year. Sushi but with a Caribbean twist courtesy of a stint that chef Siggy (who resembles a James Bond villain!) had working for the Japanese ambassador in Jamaica in the 90s. By chance we stumbled across a happy hour (6-7pm) 4 course prix fixe for $28. Great value and fine food, the eel napoleon stood out as I remember it with the chirashi not far behind. Romantic setting, would be a good and offbeat place for a date.

Hasaki. Was there last Sunday, again it's a place that has never let me down, a great standby. Always plenty of Japanese customers, a good sign. Very charming and gracious chef. Another great deal $16 sashimi lunch special (less 10% as a result of Japanese restaurant week) and I also ordered a special of aji tataki and was out of there for around $30 which is great considering the quality.

Next up in the rotations: Sachiko, Inagiku, Lure, Ushi Wak, Shimizu.

  1. j
    john Mar 9, 2007 01:18 PM

    You should check out the sushi bar at Upstairs also.

    1 Reply
    1. re: john
      oonth Mar 10, 2007 05:47 AM

      Yes a good tip and I have been a few times as TriBeCa is my hood. One of the chefs there also looks like a bond villain!! Very good sushi and Japanese apps from the main menu. Used to find it on the expensive side but they have now introduced a 20 dollar 5 piece nigiri plate which offers better value. Only problem is sticking to the sushi/Japanese when the rest of the menu is so damned good but at the same time it's nice to mix and match different cuisines.

      Upstairs is the best sushi in TriBeCa. I also like Megu Downtown both for sushi and cooked food which puts me in a minority I know. Takahachi is not bad either but more for funky rolls than real sushi. I used to like Tokyo Bay but the last couple of times I went there it was terrible so I don't go any more.

    2. b
      bh_ Mar 9, 2007 04:39 PM

      great post. for what it's worth couldn't agree more save one observation:

      i think seki is way overrated. i live near it and have eaten there multiple times. the gari-style omakase dishes are *quite* tasty but have had incredibly mediocre fish in chirashi and sashimi (on two occasions actually inedible maguro). two possibilities: (i) they mask bad fish with the strong saucing of the omakase (unlikely to me, I think it would come through) or (ii) they use dramatically different quality for omakase and "regular" orders. Regardless, I think it is unacceptable in a supposedly top tier joint. for example, would never have happened at any of: yasuda, ushi or shimizu (and shimizu is actually cheaper to boot).

      6 Replies
      1. re: bh_
        oonth Mar 10, 2007 05:53 AM

        Interesting and as mentioned my last couple of visits to Seki have been lesser experiences - maybe its standards are sliding? What's your view on Sushi of Gari? I only went once and wasn't blown away but I haven't been to Gari 46. At the moment if I fancy sushi with a twist I would probably head to Sasabune.

        Shimizu is great and that place deserves plenty more praise and publicity than it gets. Shimizu-san is also a pleasure to interact with, he is so humble unlike a couple of sushi chefs I could mention!

        1. re: oonth
          l
          Lau Mar 10, 2007 07:23 AM

          gari has a great omakase, its a little bit different (i.e. not that traditional), but i really like it

          you should also try Kuruma (straight fish and I think its the best sushi in the city, though yasuda is very close). I also eat at sushi ann quite a bit b/c its close to my office, i recommend that place, sit at the sushi bar though (its much better).

          Totally agree with you on Hasaki, thats a great standby in my neighborhood...also I tried Hedeh on great jones the other day, they basically changed chefs and the sushi was actually good, i'd say its definately worth trying

          1. re: Lau
            oonth Mar 10, 2007 08:27 AM

            Thanks for the feedback and the tips.

            Maybe I'll try Gari again and opt for the latest outpost Gari 46.

            My one Kuruma experience was on the whole a little negative. A Saturday lunchtime, me the only customer and dropped (or got taken for) $150 in 30 minutes ordering off the non-menu list of fish imported from Japan. The fish quality I remember thinking was good but not astounding - did I miss something? Also the place was devoid of any character - totally soulless - and the chef was aloof, I heard a rumour that he charges arbitrarily based upon how much he likes or dislikes you. Could this be true?

            Hedeh, I only went to once and was disappointed. But if there's been a change of chef I'm tempted to revisit as I like the space, the street and the neighbourhood.

            Sushi Ann, I haven't tried before but will add it to the neverending list!

            1. re: oonth
              l
              Lau Mar 11, 2007 09:41 AM

              go to the original gari on the upper eastside, its more consistent at least from my experience, also sit at the sushi bar, its much better

              I don't know what happened at Kuruma, the place definately doesn't have much in decor (though i dont really care about that), just let him give you what he wants, everytime i've been its been very good (better than anywhere i've had). Remember its going to be straight fish, little in the way of sauce or creative new things. The sushi chef is old school (i think he might be the owner) and he has an assistant. I don't know about the rumor your heard, i've always had very good experiences there.

              Hedeh was mediocre the first time i went, but it was substantially better when i went a week ago or so, i talked to the waitress...she said they basically blew out the entire kitchen staff and got all new chefs and changed up where they got their fish and their menu. Said even though same name and place, its basically a new restaurant

              1. re: Lau
                oonth Mar 11, 2007 09:49 PM

                great, thanks. based upon what you say i'll be revisiting kuruma and hedeh over coming days.

                and if i get a craving for sushi with a twist (as i call the seki, gari etc genre) i'll revisit original gari.

                in each case, i'll sit at the sushi counter as i always do.

          2. re: oonth
            b
            bh_ Mar 10, 2007 04:19 PM

            couldn't agree more about shimizu. great quality and very interesting selection. when in season have had shirako, sea pineapple, little tiny eels and other things that can be hard to find. as you point out, he's a really nice guy, and i think does a very good job of making selections .. really pays attention to what you like and what you don't.

            used to go to the original gari location a lot - was sort of my introduction to higher end sushi. haven't been back in a long time so not sure how it is fairing now that it is a mini empire! i think very highly of gari, with the caveat that for me it's really a separate genre from the more straightforward and traditional style of sushi served at shimizu, yasuda, ushi wakamaru, etc. as a result actually think it's not 100% comparable. that said, i have found the ingredients to be of consistently high quality, and the stuff they come up with is inventive and interesting. again, haven't been there for almost 2 years so may be completely out of date.

        2. k
          kenito799 Mar 9, 2007 07:25 PM

          Thanks for this helpful post. Nice to hear Ise get some props, I think it is one of the more underrated NYC sushi joints. Have you tried Taro in Brooklyn? Would love to hear what you think. He does a nice omakase centered around some good fish he gets from Tokyo each week, Friday is the best day to check them out. Great toro, big-eye tuna, several mackerels and yellowtails, butterfish, sublime sea eel.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kenito799
            oonth Mar 10, 2007 08:06 AM

            Yes I did try Taro once and on a Friday (I think based upon a post of yours recommending it) and liked it a lot. It was amazing value better even than Ise. Didn't the chef at Taro work at Ise before? I need to revisit and since I go to the BAM Rose cinema regularly (there is a great Shohei Imimura movie season taking place at the moment), I could easily combine with Taro.

            Btw I also tried a new place in and around the Financial District called Suteishi but it was mediocre at best.

          2. e
            elyseNY Mar 10, 2007 12:22 AM

            excellent post. i can't wait to try some of these!!

            1. k
              kobetobiko Mar 10, 2007 06:05 AM

              Hi oonth, I am also a sushi sashimi fanatic and love to go to different places to try out! I personally like Yasuda and Kanoyama the most, but that's because I went to these two place more times than the other ones, so I need to visit the rest more to make a fair judgment. I am surprised that Gari is not on your list! Have you try Kuruma Zushi? It is one of my favorite sushi places as well.
              When you go to Inagiku, remember to order the uni tempura (it is wrapped in shiso leaf) and anago tempura!

              Thanks for the excellent post! Hope to read your next review again.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kobetobiko
                oonth Mar 10, 2007 08:34 AM

                Hi kobetobiko, I've read your posts on sushi related and other threads and always enjoyed them, keep up the good work.

                Kuruma Zushi, please see my reply above to Lau. Maybe I need to revisit - can you expand on the experiences that you have had there and advise on how to get the best out of the place?

                Another vote for Gari, I think that I definitely need to revisit. Inagiku seems to be a bit of a sleeper and I look forward to sampling the tempura and other items.

                Anyway enough sushi discussion for the moment, I'm heading off to 11 Madison Park for the lunchtime menu gourmand.....

              2. guttergourmet Mar 10, 2007 09:23 AM

                My top ten-Yasuda, Kuruma, Ushi Wakamaru, Gari (original), Shimizu, Sasabune, Seki, Sushi Ann, Kanoyama, Aki.
                Some that have been on the list and which on any given night might still make the list: Blue Ribbon, Sachiko's, Kirara, Jewel Bako, Le Miu, Tomoe, Taka, Hedeh, Lure, Hasaki, Ebisu
                Those I still need to try: Masa (saving my yen for my birthday) and Ichimura

                1 Reply
                1. re: guttergourmet
                  k
                  kobetobiko Mar 10, 2007 10:02 AM

                  Is your ranking by order?

                2. guttergourmet Mar 10, 2007 04:34 PM

                  more or less.

                  1. g
                    gutsofsteel Mar 11, 2007 06:04 AM

                    Inase needs to be on your lists. It's small, very traditional, pristinely fresh fish, very nice sushi chef who is seriously trained and very dedicated. At least two shipments a week from Japan, and his creative use of local fish is also to be noted. It's on the UES.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gutsofsteel
                      guttergourmet Mar 11, 2007 06:22 AM

                      I've heard of it. Exact location please.

                    2. g
                      girlcritic Mar 11, 2007 05:03 PM

                      inase is 83 between 1 and 2nd...
                      and add gayjumura (spelling?) on 1st between 87&86

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: girlcritic
                        oonth Mar 11, 2007 09:54 PM

                        Thanks. I walked by Inase today and will endeavour to get there at some point soon. It seems to be a bit of a "sleeper" as doesn't get much coverage, often the best places.

                        I did go to Gajyumaru once on the recommendation of a Japanese friend and enjoyed it (see photo, beautiful presentation) but I was frustrated that you couldn't do piece by piece omakase and took the view that it wasn't quite worth the schlep for someone like myself who lives way downtown.

                         
                      2. g
                        gutsofsteel Mar 13, 2007 02:07 PM

                        Inase is on 1st Ave., between 82 - 83. I think it's better than Gajyumaru by a long shot.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: gutsofsteel
                          a
                          aviva1 Mar 13, 2007 02:33 PM

                          Lurker here. Coming to NYC in Aug for a first time visit w/husband who lovs sushi, picky daughter, 15 yo and me likes cooked Japanese and some basic sushi.

                          Have heard alot about Sushi of Gari- can someone explain what they mean by it not being "normal" sushi? Would like to do a Japanese place on our trip especially for husband to enjoy. We go locally around Chicago suburbs and one big splurge surprise overnight trip to Philly 2 yrs ago to go to Morimoto...

                          1. re: aviva1
                            j
                            jeanki Mar 13, 2007 04:29 PM

                            The specialty omakase at Sushi of Gari is adorned with things like light sauces, toppings, or lightly grilled, so it isn't just straight nigiri. That being said, it still has a very Japanese gestalt underneath the innovation; it's harmonious in its own way and not some sort of forced fusion-style frippery.

                            1. re: jeanki
                              oonth Mar 14, 2007 11:51 AM

                              Agreed and the quality of fish at places like Gari and Seki is still very high albeit inevitably the fish flavour itself can get somewhat lost in amongst the various additional flavours. It's horses for courses really, whether you want traditional nigiri or something more playful and experimental. I like both depending upon my mood. And note that Gari and Seki do serve traditional sushi/sashimi - it's just not really what they are known for and it's almost de rigueur when going there to do the off menu omakase with all the chef's twists and creations.

                              To answer your question though, Kanoyama (175 2nd Av @ 11th) would be a good fit for your various needs as it excels on both the raw fish and cooked food front and is a quality restaurant in terms of setting, atmospherics, service etc.

                        2. guttergourmet Mar 14, 2007 03:39 PM

                          I am a sushi traditionalist but Gari won me over with cold salmon sashimi covered with a hot grilled tomato. Also, Aki on West 4th for sushi with a Jamaican influence.

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