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Aug 2, 2008 12:29 PM

Where to go for a great omakase

I've been to Nobu, Megu, Koi, Morimoto, Kai, and Yasuda and would like to try somewhere else.
Masa is not in my budget. I was thinking about: Kuruma (but I don't know the price, my budget is about $150 pp not including tax, tip, drinks), Sushi of Gari, Jewel Bako, Sugiyama, or Sushi Seki. Any thoughts, or other suggestions would be great. Thanks.

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  1. To the extent it helps - Gari and Seki have v. similar styles (the Seki chef used to work at Gari), but I prefer Gari (UES), even though the room at Seki is much nicer.

    1. Kuruma is probably not within budget as I've spent more there than I would at Masa. Sustitute 15 East for Bako (that's where the chef went). Gari and Seki are good, non-traditional and similar as MMRuth mentioned (Seki came from Gari). Sugiyama is kaiseki, I believe, not sushi. Add Soto, Ushi wakamaru, Sasabune and Kanoyama.

      3 Replies
      1. re: guttergourmet

        Can you explain the difference between omakse and kaiseki please.

        1. re: misnatalie

          Kaiseki is a type of cuisine and omakase is a method of ordering.

          Kaiseki is a multi-course, usually formal and seasonal, "cuisine". It may or may not include a sushi dish as one of the courses. Usually not. There is usually a sashimi course and rice is done in separate manner in another course. Kaiseki restaurants focus purely on this type of cuisine and serving style. Many Japanese might say that kaiseki is the ultimate expression of Japanese cuisine because it highlights seasonality, variation in preparation, attention to aesthetics, as well a culturally attentive serving style….not to mention price. There’s more to this cuisine of course. Sugiyama is a kaiseki place.

          Omakase, as a noun, has come to generically mean a prefixe set of courses or "chef's pick" course menu. It's used in many different types of Japanese restaurants- sushi being one of them. The literal meaning, or when it is used as a verb, may imply more familiarity or trust. But these days, the term has come to be printed on menus and represents more or less a daily pre-fixe special. At sushi restaurants, an “omakase” can be printed or left to the judgment of the chef. Sometimes it includes just sushi and sometimes it includes other fish dishes like sashimi, a braised item, a grilled item, a steamed item, fried, and/ or other preparations.

          Out of the restaurants you have tried and listed (i.e. Nobu, Morimoto, etc.) only Yasuda is a sushi-ya. The ones you have listed and are considering are all sushi-ya- save for Sugiyama, the kaiseki place. So it’s not necessarily clear if you are looking for sushi or just a pre-fixe Japanese meal in general. If you are looking for the later, you can consider Sugiyama. If it's just or mainly sushi you're after, the other suggestions would fit....Soto sounds the most dynamic as he seems to straddle the line of sushi and broader (and hauter) cuisine based on coverage here.

          1. re: misnatalie

            Kaiseki- the formal presentation of a variety of foods prepared with very specific aesthetics and techniques in connection with the Japanese tea ceremony. Sushi may be included but is really a street food. Omakase at the sushi bar only is when you literally "put your trust" in the itamae (the sushi chef) by leaving the menu entirely up to his judgment or as I like to think of it -"wow me with something so fresh and unusual that I don't mind blowing a wad of cash".

        2. Everytime I've asked a Japanese friend what they're favorite sushi restaurant is, I hear the name Sushiden. Doesn't matter if they're a student or work on wall street, when they want it authentic, I almost always here there (surprisingly).

          However when I went, I can easily say it's worth spending 100ish for an excellent experience. Sushiden has a very colorful omakase; it is both "Old Japan" and "New Japan" in it's influence in crafting sushi. I highly recommend it and can say my friends know what they're talking about. I've yet to go to 15 East but it's on my list, and have heard nothing but positive things (and yes, go to 15 east over jewel because the prime sushi chef of bako is at 15 east).

          As a regular customer of Mr Yasuda's and other luminaries, I enjoy Sushiden's counterpoint to Yasuda's old school approach. Enjoy

          1. Sushi of Gari!!! I like much better than Sushi Seki-you must sit at sushi counter to get the real effect. Not a fancy place (eastside that is) but fancy sushi!!! Can I come with you?

            1. Silverjay and guttergourmet thanks so much for the info. I love the idea of a seasonal menu and the tradition of the dinner. I will definitely be going to Sugiyama to experience it unless there is a better option. I also noticed on the menu there were different variations: 6 Course Kaiseki, 8 Course Modern Kaiseki, and Omakase Kaiseki. Which would you suggest.

              1 Reply
              1. re: misnatalie

                Hi misnatalie,

                I love Sugiyama and I will highly recommend the kaiseki course that comes with wagyu beef. It was of very good wagyu beef and worth the extra cost.

                Also, if possible, you should try to sit at the sushi bar in front of the chef (request that when you make reservation). He is extremely nice and you will have the best experience sitting there.