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What's a Reliable Neighborhood Sushi Restaurant?

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I recently moved to Manhattan from Los Angeles where I ate my fair share of sushi both high and low end. What I really wanted to find when I moved was a small sushi restaurant with a knowledgeable chef that's not too crowded and not too expensive. I want a place where I can develop a rapport with the chef. My requirements for the restaurant are:

1. Chef must be experienced and knowledgeable of fish and sushi
2. Small sushi bar
3. Not too crowded, able to get a spot without too much fuss on weekdays
4. Affordable to eat at regularly, ($20-30 range (for like 5 pieces of nigiri), maybe an outside $80 omakase)
5. Preferably in uptown Manhattan

Notice that I don't specify that it has to be an extraordinarily good restaurant. It can be middle of the line, given the requirements. Mostly I prize consistency of a decent sushi meal.I realize that if someone had the perfect place, they might be hesitant to spill the beans. But please post if you are trying to drum up support for your favorite little restaurant.

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    1. re: MMRuth

      I live in Morningside Heights, but anywhere uptown and away from crowds would be nice. Of course if a place was good enough, I'd go to any of the boroughs

    2. For "not too expensive" but not your garden variety California roll factory in Manhattan I would expect to spend closer to $50 (are you including tax and tip?), honestly.

      And not too crowded is really hard to do unless you make a reservation in advance -- spots like Ushiwakamaru and Kanoyama are small and popular. Sometimes it's impossible to walk-in to Ushi or get sat at Kanoyama without an hour long wait.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kathryn

        Haha, you might be right Kathryn, this is all wishful thinking. Let me clarify then, $20-30 for like 5 pieces of nigiri not including tax and tip.

      2. Tenzan on Columbus and 73rd could work for you. they recently renovated their interior and it's just one avenue off the express 3 for you.

        3 Replies
        1. re: coasts

          Tenzan is awful - all of their locations. Their unskilled "chefs" cut their fish like slabs of beef, the qualityof the fish is lousy, and the fish is cut full of sinew. The wasabi is crap, the rice is freezing cold, and the cooked food is mediocre.

          On the UES, Tsuki is still a good neighborhood place, small sushi bar, very friendly, good value for the money, family owned and run.

          1. re: gutsofsteel

            damn, you and i should never eat out together. let me guess - you hate Caracas, too?

            1. re: coasts

              Caracas arepas place? I can't say it's memorable enough to "hate" - it's an okay little neighborhood place that I have no burning need or desire to go back to.