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Feb 12, 2008 09:33 AM

Yasuda - wow

I love it when you go to restaurant that you like, but haven't been to in a while and remember exactly why you thought it was so good in the first place. That recently happened at Yasuda where I decided to take my gf to show her why i like good sushi so much. She sorta liked sushi, but never was a big fan and never understood why i liked it so much, so i told her let me take you to a real sushi place and if you still aren't that big a fan i'll stop pestering you to come with me. Yasuda has always been so consistent that i decided that i couldn't go wrong taking her there, but i hadn't been to Yasuda in at least a year b/c ive been going to every other sushi joint in the city.

We got the omakase, sat at the sushi bar and had a really nice sushi chef (Yasuda was gone that day). I won't bore you with every single piece of sushi we had, but i'd say here were some of the highlights:
- uni - really great uni from santa barbara, served with just rice (i think its better with no nori which dilutes the flavor the uni); nice texture, creamy almost sweet flavor, really outstanding. gf still doesn't like uni, but said this was the best one she'd ever tried (sushi chef gave me a free piece b/c he guaranteed she'd love uni after this haha)
- unagi (fresh water eel) - served with just a bit of sea salt on it, really great rich eel flavor, tender...i almost forgot what it should taste like (i got two orders of this b/c it was so good)
- medium fatty toro - they gave us both super fatty and medium fatty...both were great, but i really liked the medium fatty toro which had that buttery quality along with a nice texture, the super fatty tuna was almost too fatty (but still delicious)
- saba (spanish mackerel) - they did an awesome job on this, not fishy at all and just a really great flavor that im having a hard time thinking of how to describe. My gf just said "wow this is mackerel? ive never had it where it wasn't really fishy"

We had a variety of other sushi (mostly fish) and they were all really excellent as well, but those were the really outstanding pieces. I also forgot how good the sushi rice is at Yasuda, i was talking to the sushi chef and he was saying how yasuda actually makes the rice and its actually two different types of rice which he blends.

Anyhow, I now remember why i thought this place was the best and im putting it back on top (kuruma is a very close 2nd and 15 east is 3rd)...go again if you haven't been in a while, its such an outstanding restaurant

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  1. Hi Lau,

    Thanks for the review. I also think that Yasuda has the best rice overall, so for sushi it is definitely the place to go. However, if just judging by the fish, I think Kuruma Zushi get the edge and I will put them on the top! (I am sure there will be people who disagree but that just my thought).

    As for 15 East, while the fish is fresh, I somewhat did not like the way that they cut the fish. It is particularly a problem for me when I ordered sashimi. However, I wouldn't complaint about the freshness of the fish. They also have some good offerings in the non-sushi areas which is good as I can go there with my friends who are not crazy about sushi.

    When you were at Yasuda, did you see any shirako available?

    Once again, thanks for the review!

    4 Replies
    1. re: kobetobiko

      i agree with you on kuruma and previously thats why i always had it locked at #1 with Yasuda, but this time i would say the fish was on par with kuruma, but i would say in general you're right on kuruma (kuruma is also twice as expensive, so you are paying for the slight difference), i think they have a very slight edge on the quality of fish, but i also think yasuda has a much broader variety of fish / eel / shellfish etc while kuruma has been almost exactly the same everytime ive been there and as we both agree yasuda has the best rice.

      i'd agree on fish cutting execution at 15 east, which is why it falls below yasuda / kuruma, but i think the quality of the ingredients is among the best in the city, i also like the sushi chef who is a very nice guy. I'm obsessed with their octopus, which is probably one of the best if not the best octopus i've ever had (unbelievably tender b/c of the hour long massage they give it and just having a tad of sea salt allows you to really taste it)

      also to answer your question, i didn't see shirako, but i also wasn't looking for it, so i cant tell you they didn't have it (and i can't imagine most americans would be that crazy about it). I did have it at sakagura a while back, it was decent, but im also not a huge fan of it so im probably not the best judge

      1. re: Lau

        Hi Lau,

        I absolutely agree with everything you said, and you brought up a good point about the price difference. It is indeed very expensive to get that slight incremental enjoyment of fish quality at Kuruma when compared to Yasuda.

        I am also a huge fan of the octopus at 15 East. It is THE dish that I always order there. While flavorwise it wasn't particularly that special, the texture is certainly what sets it apart. I will give them the slight edge on freshness over Kanoyama, but I prefer the way Kanoyama cuts the fish for sashimi.

        Thanks for the tips of shirako!

        1. re: kobetobiko

          I was in front of Yasuda for lunch last Friday and he had shirako. I was done with my meal when he offered it to one of his regulars as part of her sashimi plate. Sucks for me. In 7 years, this was my first time in front of Yasuda for the lunch service and I must say, the pace was a little more rushed than the dinner service. I also counted around 30 different types instead of the usual 35-40. Still, he has my vote for best in the country for pure sushi. My meal consisted of:

          -Chu toro (from the tail): delicious, pristine in quality.
          -Buri: decent, but my recent visit to Mori in LA was better.
          -Shimaaji: delicious. Still the best shimaaji I've had. The skin/fat snapped with a certain crispness while the rest of the fish was soft and rich.
          -mirugai: sweet, crisp, refreshing
          -mirugai himo: sweet but good for the flavor contrast
          -sea scallop: lush and also amazingly sweet
          -peace passage oyster: amazing. Briny, clean, and sigh, yes, very sweet.
          -Santa Barbara Uni
          -Alaska Uni
          -Shirayaki: grilled fresh eel with a sprinkle of salt and lemon
          -Unagi Kuro: deliciously rich
          -Sawani: lean and in stark contrast to the shirayaki and unagi kuro
          -toro hand roll
          -Gen saba
          -Aji- All three oily fish were delicious without a hint of fishiness...even without the ginger and scallion topping that's used to mask lesser quality oily fish.

          To finish, I requested to try Yasuda's tamago. He had two types. One more dense and custardy, and the more common fluffier type (you can taste how the latter has a more prominent egg taste). He then gives me a little history lesson on how egg and cane sugar both used to be very expensive items back in the day which means, ironically tamago used to be a high priced/luxury item.

          Other items available that day included shirako, hamachi, arctic char, king salmon, tazmanian sea trout, rainbow trout, ebi, amaebi, yari ika, yari ika legs, blue fin and big eye tuna.

          Having just had sushi at Mori in LA a few weeks ago, Yasuda is still unrivaled when it comes to knife skill, variety, and his freshly prepared eel. Even the famed Urasawa in LA only offers prepared eel (evidenced by the brown color through and through and not like the white fleshed fresh eel served by Yasuda). However, I do think Mori (who used to work in the same restaurant as Yasuda) has closed the gap between the two.

          Maybe one day, someone will unseat this quirky master. But for now, he is still tops in my book for sushi.

          1. re: Porthos

            Never had tomago at yasuda. Thought I have been through the whole menu. Next time I will request it if he says it is good.

    2. every 2 months i treat myself to a massage and to yasuda. i think im due!

      i have a hard time trying other places because i know the quality and the whole experience of yasuda is perfect for me.

      as for the uni, whether its from russia or santa barbara, its always delicious there. next time, go for the peace passage oyster.

      3 Replies
      1. re: sam1

        you know i forgot he did give us a great oyster seasoned with just a bit of sea salt, it was excellent! i love oysters

        1. re: Lau

          Those oysters are wonderful.

        2. re: sam1

          ooh yes. That peace passage oyster is something special. And I'll agree with everything else the OP mentioned. The place is really, really great.

        3. I'd just like to show off that after reading about Yasuda post after post after post, my lovely bf made reservations for Yasuda this Saturday night!!! He's got us parked right in front of the man himself for the omakase. I CANNOT WAIT.

          If this is anywhere near as good and selection of fish as varied as 109 in Tokyo, I will die happy.

          4 Replies
          1. re: janethepain

            you got yasuda just a few days in advance? thats hard to believe but good to hear nonetheless. my go to guy is hiro...awesome chef...nice guy.

            1. re: sam1

              I guess so, I was surprised too - especially for this weekend. I don't know the time, but maybe it's like 10pm or something, haha. I just hope he doesn't rush us out and go home.

              1. re: janethepain

                1) How early does one have to book for a lunch at the bar? 2) Could someone give me a price range for the (lunch) omakase? Thanks.

                1. re: Agordo

                  I would say anywhere from 125-150 per person all in will do for the average appetite.

          2. I had oral surgery yesterday and hadn't eaten for 2 days. So breakfast at noon today was Yasuda. I sat in front of his second in command. The o-toro was magnificent. Had about 12 varieties of sashimi which were sensuous before getting started on the sushi. shimaaji, hiramasa, warasa, fluke, bass, sea trout, orato (from Greece the chef advised), 3 varieties of king salmon, arctic char, tazmanian trout, jack mackerel, gensaba, spanish mackerel, sardine, scallion, ama ebi, rock crab, 2 varieties of orange clam, 2 varieties of scallop, 2 varieties of uni (interestingly without nori), sawani, anago, toro maki, tamago, seconds and thirds and fourths of uni. A nice generous $10 glass of sake, 2 types of tea. Heaven.

            3 Replies
            1. re: guttergourmet

              glad it was good...and jesus you went to town!

              1. re: guttergourmet

                I forgot the peace passage oysters! Zenlike!

              2. I'm from the DC area and went to Yasuda about 3 years ago when I was working in the city. It was, and still is, by far the best sushi I've ever had. I'm glad to hear it's still widely considered the best, not only in the city but also the country.

                Next time I'm up there, which should be the beginning of April, I'll definitely make reservations to go.

                2 Replies
                1. re: MarcDC

                  definitely the best in the city although kuruma might be just slightly better (straight fish quality)...although whether it is the best in the country is highly debatable...some of the places in LA are better (although just slightly)

                  whatever though, definitely blessed that yasuda is in the city i live in

                  1. re: Lau

                    Nah. Yasuda is tops even in LA. Mori's rice comes close to Yasuda, Zo offers close to the same variety as Yasuda, and no one makes 3 types of fresh eel like Yasuda (not even Urasawa). No one in NY, SF, or LA has it all like Yasuda when it comes to straight nigiri sushi.