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Jan 29, 2009 09:01 PM

Sugiyama is incredible.....

i just had one of the most incredible dining experiences at sugiyama tonight. i went with my mom, my sister, and my sister's fiance and we all ordered the 8 course kaiseki set.

the seasonal appetizer to start was homemade tofu with monkfish liver. soft, creamy, rich with the flavor of the liver, but not overpowering. it was truly a taste of what was to come. delicious!

the next course was the sashimi course. sugiyama is by no means a raw fish japanese place. but, having been at yasuda just a few days ago, it compares with the city's top tier sushi places for sure. i was quite surprised, actually. the sashimi was RIDICULOUS! it was served on a plate in a tray of ice, beautifully presented. there were two pieces of amberjack from japan that were so fresh, melt-in-your-mouth, yet rich in the mouth. two pieces of tuna that also just melted in my mouth. the uni was crazy good and full of flavor and not just texturally delicious as most uni is. there was a kumamoto oyster that was great, though i have to say i enjoyed the peace passage oyster at yasuda more. the ika was great as were the two pieces of red snapper, fresh as could be. the highlight was definitely the raw sweet shrimp. words cannot describe this..... not too sweet, and the texture was orgasmic. the wasabi was SO fresh and made such a difference. and the ginger was homemade and beat even the ginger at yasuda. it was SO flavorful and so fresh. my sister and i both said that we could take a bowl of rice and eat it with sugiyama's ginger and it would be satisfying.

course three was the seasonal fish and vegetables. there was a small baby crab the size of my thumb - crunchy, full of flavor. i had the flash-fried version of these as a special appetizer at yasuda and it was better there. but then there was a small shrimp, a small fried shrimp (delicious!), two edamame, baby japanese sardines, boiled sweet giant black beans (DELICIOUS, PERFECTLY cooked), wine jelly with a small apricot-like japanese fruit inside (very interesting, very delicious), tuna cake, and another fish cake. beautifully presented, very delicious.

course four was a clear soup that was so refreshing and perfect for the winter. it had tofu skin and a lobster filled fish cake. it was just wonderfully balanced.

course five was a choice of either steak or seafood with vegetables to cook on a very hot stone that they brought to the table. i got the seafood and it was squid, shrimp, a fish (i forget which), shiitakes, long green pepper.

course six was oshitashi with one piece of a vegetable roll (burdock, pickled carrots, etc. - DELICIOUS! we all thought this would be our least favorite, but it was my mom and sister's favorite of all of the oshitashi), red snapper sushi with pickled carrot (this was my and ryan's favorite - fresh, perfectly textured red snapper with the added textural contrast of the crunch of the pickled carrots and also the contrast of the acidity of the pickle flavor with the smooth taste of the snapper flesh, YUM), crab with yuzu jelly (delicious!), fried fish with vegetable pickles on top (as my sis said, only they could make something fried taste so refreshing!).

course seven was a small piece of japanese sweet potato (PERFECTLY cooked, creamy, delicate seasoning) and a tofu fish cake - again, delicious....

course eight was miso soup with enoki mushrooms, small button mushrooms (a japanese variety i don't know the name of, but so good....), seaweed, spinach, etc. and sticky rice with small bits of fish and vegetables along with japanese pickles.

the dessert was a grapefruit wine jelly with a drizzle of fresh cream on top that was the perfect ending to an amazing meal. the dessert was SO refreshing, yet the hint of cream on top provided that nice richness that gave enough of a sense of indulgence for dessert, but didn't punch you in the gut after such a large meal. it was one of the best desserts i've had in a while.

on top of that, chef nao and his wife, kaori, were delightful and so warm. it was like stepping into japan for a few hours. when we left, we were a bit disoriented to find ourselves on the streets of new york rather than in japan. this place is a GEM and truly one of the best restaurants in new york. if you haven't been, GO GO GO GO GO!!!

i just had to share with my fellow chowhounders. if you go, please post here and let me know how you liked it!!

251 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

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  1. ive always really liked sugiyama, i think its one of the best japanese restaurants in the city...glad u had a good experience

    1. great review...i had a lovely meal there several years ago...

      1. Sugiyama is my favorite Japanese restaurant in NYC. But, for a variety of reasons, I haven't been there in two years. It sounds as if the menu is basically the same, however.
        How much did the 8-course kaiseki cost?
        Don't you love the staff's welcome as you enter the restaurant?

        1. I have to agree that Sugiyama is one of the best Japanese restaurants in NYC... Kaiseki or not. I've only eaten there twice but after reading J.Jessica's review, I'll have to go there again.

          3 Replies
          1. re: KobekkoMike

            I just got back from my first dinner at Sugiyama and fell in love. I had the 8 course modern and it was perfect, very similar to j.jessica.lee description. I waited too long to go and know I will be back very soon

            1. re: misnatalie

              @misnatalie: what did the 8 course cost? I've not been to Sugiyama for about 2 years and want to return soon, so an idea of the price would be helpful. I think I recall it being $85 last time I was there. Were you greeted by chef and servers when you entered the door? Wasn't that a pisser?

              1. re: famdoc

                It was $75, a STEAL, as far as I'm concerned. And yes a very friendly greeting from the Chef.

          2. The eight-course for $75 is I'm sure a good value in Manhattan but a bit steep for me. But I was curious and just looked at their Web site.They have a three-course menu for $32 if you go before 6:30 or after 9. That's more my speed. Has anyone done that?

            1 Reply
            1. re: NYCkaren

              Hi...we stumbled onto the restaurant last night. We were going to Yakitori Totto but noticed Sugiyama and the high Zagats rating in the window. We did the $32 course you describe since it was a late dinner after the movies.

              Menu allows you to choose an appetizer and then an entree. There was an amuse-bouche of cold tofu blended with cod-fish liver....was excellent...really.

              For appetizers, I chose the broiled octopus and my wife had the tuna tataki. My octopus looked more like regular tako sashimi so I asked if they gave me the right dish. The waitress said it was very lightly broiled and was indeed the right dish. I was expecting something a bit more almost what you would find at a Greek restaurant but it was fine...was sitting in a nice mix of citrus and vinegar. My wife's tuna tataki was very good. For entree, both my wife and I had opted for the sashimi. The portion was comfortable (within the boundaries of what you would expect for the price). The fish quality was very good but not mind-blowing melt in your mouth quality. Some of the fish was sprinkeld with gold flakes...different, supposedly good for you, and did not alter the taste. Course was accompanied with pickles, rice, and miso-soup. We ordered a 300 ml bottle of sake for about $19. At the end, we received dessert (which we were not expecting) and was the grapefruit wine jelly described above in another post. The dessert was excellent, light, and refreshing.

              Hostess, waitress, chef were all very nice.

              Long story short, I think the course is well worth the price and the more expensive courses looked quite interesting. No regrets. If I were in the hood, I would likely return but I think there are comparable restaurants elsewhere in the city. Go check out won't be disappointed.