I like sushi, but am not any kind of expert or afficionada. Last year we ate at Sushi of Gari, and I was absolutely blown away by it. I'd never seen sushi treated in this modern style, with all the flavorful sauces and condiments, and I loved it. I can understand why sushi purists might have a problem with it, though.
We're coming to NY again this year, and I want to go to a good sushi place. My question is, does Gari represent an authentic Japanese style, or is it a New York creation? Are there other places that do sushi like Gari does, and are worth trying (as opposed to going back to Gari?). Sushi Seki, I understand, is a similar style. On the other side of the spectrum, I guess Yasuda does a more traditional style, although I've heard whisperings that Sushiden actually does the best traditional sushi in NY.
There are two locations of Sushiden, which are local branches of a small chain from Japan. They recieve very good comments (often better than Yasuda) on Japanese user sites. If you opt to go to a Sushiden, please post. Very little coverage here of them... Yasuda is very good and would be my first choice as I think that namesake places usually trump chains- but not always.
Gari is great and is a modern take on sushi and I would not qualify it as authentic Japanese style sushi. Yasuda is absolutely wonderful, traditional sushi, no creative sauces or fusion flavors, just top-notch fresh fish, fantastic rice and incredible service. I am such a big fan of Yasuda because i am more of a sushi "purist", and as much as i love it, I know several friends here in NY that are more into the creative and fushion-style sushi, and they have told me that they were not as impressed with Yasuda. I guess what I am trying to say is that the sushi place you pick might be a more memorable experiece if it aligns to what you enjoy in sushi, if you really appreciate and enjoy creative flavors and integration of novel ingredeints in sushi, Gari is a great pick. If you can swing and enjoy both ends of the "fusion-purist" sushi spectrum, Yasuda or Sushiden are going to be great experiences for you.
I am also a Sushi of Gari fan.....am caucasian, and took a Japanese friend to S of G, who in-between swooning and appreciating/loving the arc of cool to warm & back to cool in the Omakase, exclaimed that she'd never experienced sushi like this. Embrace your predilection for creative sushi (which also happens to be VERY fresh...Gari sources from Tsukijii Market and 2 other sources---I asked him). Another place in a similar vain is Soto on 6th Ave.
Quality fish shouldn't need Americanizing. I am not a fan of Gari or Morimoto (Philadelphia locale) at all. It's like the steak saying, all a good steak needs is salt and pepper, a great steak will stand on its own. I find the same applies with sushi. A sauce should compliment fish not over take it. Yasuda and Taro, both Japanese style. Both are minimalists in use of sauces and both have sauces that compliment not overwhelm.
What Gari & similar artists are doing has nothing to do with "Americanizing." It's about broadening the palate, and you certainly don't have a contract to have to like it. I happen to respond to Gari's inventions, and illustrated that my Japanese friend, reared with traditional sushi, did as well. 'nuff said.
+1 on Yasuda being tops for traditional sushi (my personal preference), but it can be steep depending on how much and what you eat - there are endless posts about this on CH you can reference. Since pieces can be priced very differently, if you want to play it safe with any itamae i.e. sushi chef, including Yasuda-san, just give them a budget for your omakase and then take into account that drinks, tax, and tip will be on top of that.
For a similar style and slightly less expensive, though definitely not cheap, you could also try Shimizu. This is my go to place, also because Shimizu-san is a lot more, uhm, pleasant than Yasuda-san, and it's not a huge PITA to get a reservation at the bar.
Got a reservation at Sushiden. The receptionist who took the reservation began by saying that only regulars could get a reservation at the counter for omakase, at which point I was about to say thank you and hang up, but then she changed her tune, apparently after talking to the sushi chef. Will report back.
it has been years since i've been to Sushiden, so keep in mind that my comments may no longer be applicable...
- the E side branch is the better of the two
- the fish is traditional, fresh, and good variety, including some pieces i've never seen elsewhere, including yasuda, like shako and kani-miso (they do have kani-miso sometimes as a special at yasuda, but it's an entirely different animal, and not what i want)
- excellent quality uni
- kani miso!
- will serve fried heads with amaebi (very important to me)
- quite traditional
- rice and nori always perfectly textured
- best selection overall of cuts of fish i've experienced in one sitting
- usually 5 styles of eel, most of them wild-caught
- (for me) annoying habit of putting shoyu on everything unless you ask them not to (i only like soy on tuna; lemon and sea salt on other fish)
- very traditional
- traditional sushi, sashimi, and maki are fine, but a waste of their strengths
- lovely prepared dishes with inventive pairings
- sauces and garnishes are subtle, and highlight the flavor of the fish, they do not mask it
- can get quite expensive
- dishes i'm still fantasizing about: shiro ebi tar tare (sweet white sprimp with yuzu, shaved cured mullet roe, caviar, shiitake ginger broth); salmon citrus (lightly cured fresh salmon with cilantro, scallion, sudachi citrus sacue); steamed lobster with uni mousse (wrapped in lotus, garnished with smoked uni and cavier, surrounded by delicate cucumber slices, lightly brined); miso soup (with unnecessary pieces of lobster, and very amazing flavors from including uni creamed into the soup, and garnished with ginger shoots and chives)
notes on kani miso (a.k.a. "crab liver"):
- at sushiden, this comes from a tub-container (i don't know if it's made in-house and stored this way or imported this way), and it's a pate-consistency grey-sludge that tastes of the sea in a "low tide" kind of way. traditional ways to serve are either in maki with julienned cucumber or as a small-plate paired with crab-meat, cucumber, and nori-shavings
- at yasuda, this was a small plate with crabmeat with a "sauce" that was yellow in color and indistinctive in taste. i don't recall any of the funkiness that i love in the sushiden preparation.
uh, i think i need to go back to sushiden and get a fix.