Sasabune - very good
I ate at the NY branch of Sasabune (it's an LA sushi bar and I've eaten there as well) for the 2nd time today. I think its very good and probably tied with Soto on my list of sushi bars (#1: Yasusa / Kuruma, #2: 15 East, #3: Soto / Sasabune / Gari and #4: Ushi).
A few things you need to be comfortable with to like Sasabune:
- Warm rice: a signature feature of Sasabune is that they use warm rice as opposed to the room temperature that almost all sushi bars use. I like this, but some people don't. So if you don't like that then this probably not your place, but I think some people hold it against them which I think it sort of unfair b/c it's simply a different style
- Omakase style: this is one of the LA "sushi nazi" type places, its all chef's choice (although you can tell them you don't eat certain things like sea urchin or clam etc and you can tell them if you want more of something at the end). There is no menu (they don't offer anything besides what the sushi chef is cutting up literally) and you can't order spicy tuna rolls (i get a kick out of that haha). They also instruct you whether to put on soy sauce or whether it doesn't need it
One thing is that I ate kind of late at around 8:45 and they start to run out of some stuff. Like they ran out of uni and I think they might have run out of other things b/c they gave us scallop and amber jack twice. So I'd recommend going earlier if possible
Oh yeah...its a bargain (at least as far as top sushi restaurants go), it was around $120 (pre-tip / post-tax) for 2 people with 2 bottles of beer and 2 cups of green tea + I ordered two extra pieces of sushi...$60 a person is very reasonable for type of quality (and i was very full)
On to the food:
- albacore sashmi - this is a plate of about 5-6 slices of albacore in a sort of ponzu sauce and finely sliced scallions. Excellent, the fish was very nice and the sauce was not overpowering
- spanish mackerel - one of the best I've had in a long time, not fishy at all (not even a little bit) and just a really awesome cut (also it comes with no skin which is a little unorthodox)
- scallops (got this twice) - this was alright, i mean it was a good scallop, just nothing special
- amber jack (got this twice) - this was pretty good, but nothing amazing
- maguro - pretty good, very fresh
- yellow tail - excellent, very fresh
- butter fish - excellent, tender piece of cooked butter fish with a eel type sauce on it...i've never had this at any other sushi restaurant and i've had it both times here and I like it alot
- unagi - very good (one of the better places I've had unagi in NY outside of Yasuda, which takes the crown in NY for all things eel)....it was tender, wasn't oversauced and had great flavor...i ordered a second piece
- blue crab handroll - a little too much rice, but it was good...i mean crab sushi is not the most flavoful out there, but this was tasty
- monk fish liver - this was awesome, soft (not hard like some places i've had), creamy and had a sort of tangy sauce on it (i don't even really like monk fish liver very much)...probably one of the best that I've had
We might have had one or two other pieces, but I can't remember. Anyhow, this is a great addition to the Manhattan sushi scene and I think is highly worth trying if you're a sushi fan.
It's essentially the same menu every day at Sasabune -- that tired albacore sashimi dish all the way through the dull hand roll (looks like monk fish liver is the one unique exception). This makes that "no California roll, no spicy tuna roll, trust me" sign seem like such a gimmick, not a chef's choice. The quality is good but I dislike how the sushi rice falls apart even if I try to pick it up as gently as possible with two fingers.
My knock against Sasabune is that the rice is hot. Not just warm. But like you said, so hot the rice falls apart. Properly formed sushi rice should not fall apart when you pick it up and it is actually one of the things you judge a sushi chef by. It's also not carefully seasoned and the individual grains don't stand out like the rice at Yasuda but that all seems minor compared to the hot, poorly formed rice.
Also, as previously mentioned, the omakase is a lie, almost like an inside joke actually. It's the same selection and same prep over and over again. It always begins with that albacore ponzu dish and ends with a blue crab hand roll. There's no chef's choice on what's fresh for the day and what kind of fish is good in season. Clearly not omakase.
But then again, that's just my personal knock against the Sasabune chain.
i hear you, but i mean the whole hot rice thing is their "signature" thing...i kind of like it just b/c its different, but i mean the rice is nothing compared to yasuda who does an amazing job with their rice
i also hear you on the omakase, that said i still think its one of the best sushi places in the city (with my ranks in the original post)
I'm almost certain that the omakase alone is $60 pp, so I'm not quite sure how you came in at $60 pp having ordered beers, tea, and some extras. Regardless, the $60 omakase may be a pretty good deal given the quality(and quantity for that matter), but it's still an expensive meal. I think when you're dealing in that price range, the restaurant has to offer a little bit more bang for your buck than just the food. It's a small, drab restaurant with very little atmosphere and no menu selection. The OP mentions places like Soto and 15 East. Those restaurants offer more than just really good Sushi. It's not that I wouldn't go to Sasabune. I just wouldn't return that often because of it's limited appeal.
As i said $60 is cheap for a "top sushi restaurant" not on an absolute basis and by "top sushi restaurant" i'm speaking strictly about the quality of the sushi itself...for instance kuruma is kind of a dump, but the sushi is amazing...if I were going by atmosphere it'd be like bond st or somewhere like that (fyi, i think bond st's sushi sucks)
At 15 East the omakase alone with $110-120 per person, no drinks or anything else...I think you're more than paying for atmosphere etc...that said i don't mind paying up for good food at all and 15 East is right by me, so i go there fairly regularly b/c its awesome
Soto, I agree with as their omakase is in the same price range as Sasabune although I think the sushi is slightly better than sasabune and you get more plus it's a totally differently type of sushi from sasabune...the other "value" sushi place is ushi
also, personally while i'd prefer a nice atmosphere I don't really care about the atmosphere if the food is excellent unless I'm there for a specific reason (i.e. a cool place to have drinks, a date, a celebration, accomodating someone's taste etc etc)...but that's my own personal preference and everyone has their own