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Sushi Yasuda – Great Last Meal with Yasuda

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**For full post and pics**: http://www.lauhound.com/2010/12/sushi...

When I read that Yasuda was leaving his namesake restaurant Sushi Yasuda to go back to Japan, I immediately picked up the phone and made a reservation in front of him because I knew if I didn’t do right then it’d end up being impossible to make a reservation in front of him. Luckily I did because a week later I tried to make a 2nd reservation and he was completely booked for the next month.

Sushi Yasuda has been my “go to” sushi place in New York for many years. The quality of the seafood is always outstanding (in particular their eel is by far the best in NY) and they definitely haves the best rice in NY.

Yasuda told me he is going back to Japan because his daughter will go to high school soon and they had to decide whether she would go to high school here or in Japan; he is 52 and he either needs to leave now or go when he is 57 and he decided he’d rather go now. He plans on opening a small 8 seat sushi bar in Tokyo (forgot what district), but that is up in the air as of now as it’s hard to find a good space and it’s possible he may end up working for someone else. He also said at this point in his career he just wants to perfect his craft and he needs to go to Japan to compete and learn at the highest level of competition.

Here’s what we got:
- Fugu kara-age (fried blowfish appetizer): This was listed as one of their special appetizers. It was perfectly fried pieces of blow fish with pickled grated daikon and scallions. It was excellent, the batter was light, the fish meat was very tender and clean tasting. 4.5/5
- Tsukemono (Pickles): They gave you this as a start to the meal. It was just a nice combo of slightly sweet pickled cucumber, seaweed and diced carrot. 4/5
- Big Eyed Toro (Tuna Belly): This was a nice way to start the meal off with a bang, this was one of best pieces of big eyed toro I’ve had in a while. So buttery and delicious, it was a beautifully marbled piece of fish. 4.7/5
- Uni (Sea Urchin): This was from Santa Barbara. Very clean tasting, creamy and a little bit briny. Really good. 4.5/5
- Blue Fin Toro (Tuna Belly): This was also excellent, fatty although not quite as fatty as the big eyed toro and a beautiful piece of fish although it wasn’t quite as good as the big eyed toro. 4.25/5
- Ebi (Cooked Shrimp): I’m not the biggest fan of cooked ebi, but the version here was really nice and I loved the rock salt and squeeze of lemon on it. 4.25/5
- Anago (Conger Eel): Eel is one of my favorite Japanese foods and Yasuda really just blows the competition in NY out of the water. The eel has such good texture and the meat is almost slightly sweet, I love the simple preparation of just being broiled with a dash of rock salt. 4.6/5
- Hamachi (Yellowtail): This was from Kyushu. Nice tender meat and a good flavor. 4/5
- Spanish Mackerel: I like Spanish mackerel a lot and the cut here was very nice and had a good clean taste. 4.5/5
- Butterfish: A nice piece of fish although butterfish is a fairly plain tasting fish. 4/5
- Farm Salmon: This was a really nice piece of salmon, very clean tasting. 4.25/5
- Wild Salmon: I really liked the wild salmon, it was interesting that it really did taste different than the farm salmon and since they gave them to us at the same time you were able to really compare. 4.5/5
- Snow Crab: Crab sushi is not one of my favorite sushi because it generally ends up being sort of bland. That said the version here was nice as the crab meat was quite sweet. 4/5
- Mackerel: This was a great piece of mackerel and also one of the cleanest and least “fishy” tasting pieces of mackerel I’ve ever had. 4.25/5
- Anago (Conger Eel): I had to get another piece because it was so good. 4.6/5
- Unagi / shirayaki: This is always one of my favorite things at Yasuda and it was so good again. The quality of the meat and flavor is just so much better than everywhere else in NY. 4.6/5
- Oyster: Unfortunately they didn’t have Peace Passage oyster which is what I normally get. However, this oyster was still quite good, I love the rock salt and lemon on it. 4.25/5
- Big Eyed Toro: I had to get another piece because it was so good. 4.7/5

Sentiment aside, I think this was the best meal I’ve had at Sushi Yasuda and my GF agreed with me. Also fyi, they are not closing (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/din...). Mitsuru Tamura is going to be head sushi chef, I’ve eaten in front of him several times and he is excellent. I’m sad Yasuda is leaving, but everything must come to an end. This is one of my favorite restaurants in NY and I really hope they are able to maintain the high standard of food that I have come to enjoy.

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  1. Is it gauche to ask what a meal that like costs? I have a lust for this but need to get grounded in reality :)

    6 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      it costed $125 / person....generally i spend $100 / person, but i ordered more than normal and drank one carafe of sake, normally i don't drink at sushi

      in terms of top sushi places, i think yasuda is one of the more reasonable places....although that is obviously on a relative basis and its clearly not cheap on an absolute basis

      1. re: Lau

        That 's amazingly modest I could do that. Thanks for your frankness.

        1. re: c oliver

          yah i generally find people are surprised at how much yasuda costs given the quality of good....i would much rather be at yasuda than a steakhouse

          at the end of the day alcohol is what really drives the price up significantly, but i prefer not to drink much if its a real sushi meal anyhow

      2. re: c oliver

        Yasuda really does serve some of the best sushi in NYC at prices that, in my opinion, could be a lot higher, but really quite reasonable for what they serve. Easily comparable to the quality of Masa, but at lower prices.

        10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

        1. re: PennMD

          Yasuda the same quality as Masa? That's funny.

          10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

      3. great review Lau! I love your number rating system. you should comply a list of all the things u had that were 4.5 and above out of 5. lol

        3 Replies
        1. re: daffyduck

          yah ive decided the numbering system was a better way of doing it plus that way id be able to rate specific dishes since even good restaurants have certain dishes that are better than others

          1. re: Lau

            Glad you had the nuts to take pics. The two times I was there, I would have been too embarrassed to snap each nigiri....

            1. re: linguafood

              haha i find that most people end up being interested in why you are taking so many pics of food, ive yet to find anyone who is offended by it even in chinese restaurants where people are always skeptical of what you doing if ure taking pics

        2. Very nice writeup. Thanks for sharing.

          1. Glad you liked it. The pics for me only confirmed what I am not missing.

            6 Replies
              1. re: sushiman

                what exactly looks bad about the sushi in the pics?

                1. re: Lau

                  Lau - Not to belabor the point, but was that 120 with tip? If so, that seems like an absolute bargain.

                  1. re: Rich D.

                    i just checked my amex online statement and it was exactly $250 for 2 people, so $125 per person including tax, tip. I ordered omakase, one carafe of sake and the fried blowfish appetizer

                    i normally spend between 90-125 at yasuda, but the delta is usually function of whether i drank anything (i usually dont as i prefer not to drink when eat good sushi) and whether or not i ordered one of their special appetizers

                  2. re: Lau

                    Because it's tough for a 6'2" 250lb. manimal to get his paws on those puppies!

                  1. i went today for lunch. for some reason when i asked the sushi chef to give me an omakase he seemed hesitant and prefered that i choose my own fishes. it is definitely a level higher than your regular sushi place but i didn't find anything transcendental. My favorite bites were the fatty tunas and the white fresh water eel. I would give my meal at Sushi Yasuda a 80-85\100. I like 15 East better but the uni, rainbow trout, and salmon pieces I had were better at Yasuda than 15 East.

                    15 East
                    15 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

                    Sushi Yasuda
                    204 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: daffyduck

                      id go to yasuda for dinner, i think the lunch time experience is a bit different than the dinner for some reason. ive only eaten lunch there once and it was sort of weird b/c it was a business crowd mainly getting in and out.

                      i like 15 east alot, but i do think yasuda is a little bit better...it is a thin line though b/c 15 east is quite good.

                    2. thanks for this great, detailed review. one question - when you go there, do you sit at the bar? My wife and I received a very generous gift certificate there as a wedding gift and want to make the most out of the occasion.


                      3 Replies
                      1. re: metfan630

                        As with any good sushi restaurant, you want to sit at the bar. This way you will be served piece by piece instead of in a set. If it is a generous gift certificate, you can set the price with the sushi chef before the meal and leave the meal to them.

                        1. re: metfan630

                          agree with MVNYC, sushi has a very short half life and you will notice the difference if you sit at a table. You want the sushi served to you and to immediately eat it. So definitely sit at the bar

                          1. re: Lau

                            perfect. thats what I figured. Thanks!

                          1. re: Lau

                            Good news.
                            I'll try to pop over for lunch at the bar next week or so.
                            Thanks for the link.

                            1. re: steve h.

                              I sat in front of Mitsuru since Yasuda left and it was stellar. I have sat in front of him before but he was clearly making an effort to step up his game. the rice was still incredible and so was the fish.

                              1. re: Yaxpac

                                This is very good news.
                                I'll follow your lead and ask for Mitsuru at the bar. I'm happy to hear about the rice.
                                Thanks for the update.

                                1. re: steve h.

                                  im having dinner in front of Mitsuru, ill report back

                                  1. re: Lau

                                    Had lunch at Sushi Yasuda today. A colleague and I arrived promptly at noon and were led to Yasuda's old station at the bar. I'm assuming Mitsuru was our chef. He's young and a bit tentative when it comes to verbally engaging the customer but his skills are quite good. $250 all-in (food/drink/tax/tip) for the two of us. I expected quality fish but was concerned that the rice would fall-off a bit. I should not have worried. The restaurant is in good hands.

                                    I'm looking forward to your thoughts.

                                    Sushi Yasuda
                                    204 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017

                                    1. re: steve h.

                                      had dinner at yasuda tonight with mitsuru, quality was roughly the same. he is qiueter but i like him, he's a nice guy although ive eaten front him several times

                            2. re: Lau

                              I ate there this week at the urging of a friend. We sat with the new chef and as far as I can tell nothing has changed. We ordered omakase and were not even offered sashimi. Straight to sushi. The waitress was annoying as hell, rush rush rush. The place is all about turnover. An hour and a half maximum and out. The sushi came fast and furious. One piece at a time, but at one point two hit the bamboo and I had to tell him to slow down. Out of nearly 20 pieces, only 4 were exceptional.
                              The rice tasted good, but the texture was off, too mushy. Half way through some new rice came and was somewhat better. At some point they switched from a mix of three grains to two, fyi. The kitchen was mixed. One plate was downright awful, something was amiss. The crab butter was great.

                              You can tell that he was trained by Yasuda, very similar knife skills. Cuts everyting more or less the same way, tiny. Even the sashimi he cut for someone that ordered it was small and thin. This visit also confirmed for me that Yasuda does not get the top quality uni. I have never seen it there, and this visit was no different.

                              The best part of dinner was that the Chef was really nice. I wish him well.

                              1. re: sushiman

                                My colleague is a very fast eater, I prefer to slow things down a bit. I have no problems with leaving my sushi on the bamboo until I'm ready to enjoy it. I control the tempo.

                                I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of your waitress. I think of staff as highly efficient and willing to please, polite to a fault. They hover a bit but I like that. My colleague had a single drop of soy fall from a roll. It was dispatched immediately. My finger napkin was replaced three times during the course of our meal. My beer was replenished at the right time with minimal chit-chat. Staff is competent.

                                Chef asked up-front about sushi/sashimi so no issues there. I agree with you about the uni. I never felt rushed but I have to add that our stay clocked in around 90 minutes.

                                I'll be back.

                                edited to add: I concur with Lau's comments on seasoning.

                                1. re: steve h.

                                  yah it took me a few pieces of sushi to figure out what was different, but when i thought about it that was the main difference

                                  1. re: steve h.

                                    Crazy - of all the visits I've had at Yasuda I've barely noticed the waitresses. They're usually super quiet and polite.

                                    If you set out to find faults, I guess you can find it everywhere.

                              2. Can anyone recommend a sushi place that is reallly reallly good like Yasuda but with a smaller price tag. I love yasuda and go whenever I can afford to but I have been craving lately and have no budget for yasuda.

                                Honestly I told chef yasuda this right before he left that he ruined sushi for me because no place can compare. The texture and flavor of his fish/rice just is so next level.

                                So back to the topic, any good alternatives under 100 bucks.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: freshies

                                  if you go to ushiwakamaru, you can eat for below $100 and if you get the sushi set at sushi azabu ($65) you can eat for under $100. neither is as good as yasuda, but both are among the better sushi places in the city

                                  i also like hasaki in the e village and you can eat there below $100, probably more like $50