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Mar 28, 2011 12:08 PM

15 East - More Than Just One of the Best Sushi Restaurants in NYC (long review)

As usual, full review with photos on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

It had been quite a while since my amazing solo dinner at 15 East last year. This time, I went with two friends. The meal was spectacular yet again, but what made the experience special was how accomodative the service was.

This was extremely important to us, especially that evening. One of my friends had been having some serious back pain, and needed to be seated comfortably. The chairs were by far the most comfortable chairs I've ever sat in at a sushi counter. More importantly, One friend was not a fan of raw fish in general. We took three seats at the sushi counter, but they had no problems with our non-sushi eater (NSE) ordering off the kitchen menu. In fact, they were nice enough to bring us the menu from their (same owners) wonderful restaurant next door, Tocqueville. My other friend and I, meanwhile, had the omakase with some soba and tempura added to our menu, as I'd heard very good things about their soba and tempura.

Dinner starts off with edamame in seaweed salt that they give you as soon as you sit down.

WATERCRESS GOMAE Our amuse was a watercress salad with sesame paste. Crunchy, refreshing, and simple. A good start to the evening.

TASTING TRIO Our omakase started off with a trio of slow poached octopus, smoked ankimo with spicy daikon, and a simmered small fish with a sweet and sour sauce. The octopus was remarkably tender, and the pieces were cut much thicker than I remembered, which made it an even better bite texture-wise. Dipped into the seasalt, the flavor was superb. The smoked ankimo (steamed monkfish liver) was also delicious, with a nice sauce that matched well with the smokiness. The small fish had a very light sweet and sour sauce that was quite enjoyable. While we had these, they started our NSE's meal with a house-made miso soup.

DUO OF WILD SALMON AND YELLOWTAIL For our NSE's first course, a beautiful plate of cooked salmon and yellowtail, infused with sweet saikyo miso and accompanied by soy ikura (salmon roe) butter.

ASSORTED SASHIMI Our captain grated fresh wasabi for our sashimi platter, which consisted of mirugai (giant clam), saba (mackerel), cherry salmon cured with red vinegar, hamachi (yellowtail), seared Japanese black bass also known as "chicken fish", botan ebi (sweet shrimp, with head), and otoro. Everything was fresh and lovely. The shrimp was very sweet and the cured salmon was an interesting approach. I thought the seared "chicken fish" was the most interesting piece on the plate, as it was completely cold despite the searing.

BABY ARTICHOKE AND SPRING GARLIC RISOTTO with house made ricotta cheese. Our NSE's second course was a risotto from the Tocqueville menu that wonderfully represented springtime.

CHILLED SOBA Our soba course was delicious. The sauce was light, everything mixed together well, and the soba was very good.

SEASONAL TEMPURA Our tempura course consisted of two fritters made of tiny shrimp, mitsuba, and bamboo shoots. Excellently fried with a terrific texture. For me, this was absolutely amazing in terms of taste. The shrimp taste was so strong it almost felt artificial, like it was some chemically created chip flavor.

We then moved on to the sushi part of the meal. Upon my friend's first bite, she could immediately tell that the sushi rice was superior, especially compared to our trip to Masa.

SEARED KINMEDAI The smokiness from the searing worked really well with the kinmedai (golden eye snapper). Since this was seared, we urged our NSE to have a piece, and the chef was nice enough to sear it a little bit more "well done" for him. He really enjoyed it.
AKAMI Lean tuna which was extremely flavorful. Lots of places have some variation of toro. But to have lean tuna muscle be so tasty was a treat.
CHUTORO Medium fatty tuna is usually my favorite type, being more melt-in-your-mouth than other variations. This was wonderful.
OTORO Sometimes the fattiest tuna can be too fat and become a bit chewy, but this was perfect.
KATSUO Early spring bonito is hard to find and one of my favorite pieces of sushi. I actually asked for an extra piece as I liked this so much.
SMOKED SPANISH MACKEREL This had a smoky flavor that was very interesting with the sushi rice.
SANTA BARBARA UNI This variety of uni (sea urchin) is usually the cleanest-tasting one, and the one most recommended for those new to uni. This was one of the better versions of Santa Barbara uni I've had.
HOKKAIDO UNI This uni from the Northern Japanese island had a much brinier and oceany taste to it, and was my favorite.
MAINE UNI The uni from Maine is of the same type as the one from Hokkaido, just in different waters. I found this one to be too funky, with a weird aftertaste.
ANAGO The final piece of the omakase was the sea eel, covered with a terrific sauce that was not overly sweet.

During our sushi omakase, Our NSE had a nice assortment of palate-cleansing JAPANESE PICKLED VEGETABLES in preparation for his main course. For his main course, he got the CHERRY WOOD SMOKED DUCK served with shiitake mushrooms, scallions, and braised satsuma yam. He enjoyed this very much, even though the smoking meant that the skin wasn't crispy.

We're superhuman eaters so we pushed on beyond the normal omakase.

CHOPPED JACK MACKEREL The chopped jack mackerel was mixed with ginger, scallion, shiso, and miso. It had a delicious and bright flavor and was quite unique.
HOTATE Japanese sea scallop was very fresh-tasting and sweet.
TUNA COLLAR The chef likes to refer to this piece as being from the cheek of the fish, but it doesn't matter where it's from when it's this delicious. Lightly seared (well done sear for NSE), it was a great mix of fat and flesh.
TAMAGO Our final piece from the sushi chef was the egg custard. He explained some of the ingredients that went into this, but I was too busy stuffing my face to remember what he said. This cake-like, slightly sweet piece was a perfect way to end a long meal.

Except that we weren't done, and ordered desserts as well. These were pleasantly comped by the sushi chef when the bill came.

GREEN TEA AND WHITE BEAN CREME BRULEE This was really interesting. The white bean is just slightly sweet, and is a good bridge between the sweet burnt sugar and the slightly bitter green tea. It also added a little grittiness to the custard which I found very enjoyable.
SHIRATAMA PARFAIT Green tea ice cream with red beans was a very tasty combination.
BAKED FUJI APPLE WITH VANILLA ICE CREAM There was a terrific range of textures to the apple dessert.

My friend felt that these were the best desserts she's ever had at a Japanese restaurant.

In addition to the massive amounts of food, we also drank a good amount of wine and sake. The sushi really is amongst the best in NYC, but what really separates 15 East from other sushi restaurants is the quality of the cooked food from the kitchen, and the extremely accomodative service. A truly wonderful experience where both sushi aficionados and their non-sushi eating friends can have a great meal together.

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

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  1. Great report. I'm going to 15 East tonight. Out of curiosity, did you have one of the set menus?

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

    7 Replies
    1. re: Nancy S.

      Nope, just omakase, chef's choice, and mentioned that I wanted to have some soba and tempura in addition to it. The FOH and chef took care of the rest.

      1. re: fooder

        Would it be possible to know the cost of your dinner, so I can gauge my approach?

        1. re: Nancy S.

          I did not pay the bill, so I don't know how the food/wine breaks down. Usually with sushi places if you give them a target price you want to spend on the omakase they will take care of the rest.

          1. re: fooder

            and your target price here was ...?

            1. re: Phil Ogelos

              I recently put myself in the very capable hands of chef Masa at 15 East and it was the best japanese meal that i have had in NYC, hands down.

              As much as I like Yasuda, i thought that both the sashimi and the sushi were superior at 15 East...and cut better.

              the Chawanmushi made with foie gras and black truffles was amazing. even the soba ice cream to finish was top notch.

              we had 2 drinks each and it was about $200/head.

              1. re: Yaxpac

                His name is Mr. Masato Shimuzu, and he is a very talented chef. I have enjoyed eating with him for many years, since he was at the original incarnation of Jewel Bako. His skill, combined with his passion for what he does and his generosity of spirit, makes for a very special experience.

                Jewel Bako
                239 E 5th St, New York, NY 10003

    2. Shimuzu is one of the best in NYC.

      1. I had an excellent dinner as well there last night. The fish and rice are just spectacular. The soba is the best I've ever had. I also applaud their wine and sake selection. The place was packed last night -- not a free seat, either in the dinner room or at the counter to be had from 8pm.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Nancy S.

          What did you have and what did you spend? Did you leave yourself in the chef's hands? Did you set a budget?

          1. re: Nancy S.

            I have to second the praise of their sake and wine selections and pairings. They're definitely very attentive and go out of their way to have dynamic and unexpected pairings.

            Both the sushi chef (shimizu) and the sake sommelier were very attentive and did a great job of explaining the process and thought behind each dish and the pairing.

            I had a great omakase meal at the sushi bar in January and I think with the wine pairing it was about 180 a person.

              1. re: gutsofsteel

                ”It's Masato Shimuzu, not Shimizu.” 

                His family name is Shimizu. There's no word nor name "Shimuzu" in Japanese language.

                1. re: Silverjay

                  I'm sure you're right - I saw it as Shimuzu, written by Jack Lamb, his former employer...perhaps he made a mistake.

                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                    His name in Japanese is 清水雅人.

                    1. re: gutsofsteel

                      Jack has made a lot of mistakes (e.g. losing the best sushi chef in NYC, being seemingly oblivious to the fact that his wife/co-owner Grace is rude to customers in all their restaurants, etc) his mispelling is not surprising...

                      1. re: Simon

                        But you gotta concede that there was a time when Jewel Bako was a wonderful gem of a place.

                        Jewel Bako
                        239 E 5th St, New York, NY 10003

                        1. re: gutsofsteel

                          absolutely: i was a hardcore regular at Jewel Bako 6 years ago or so (there were some weeks when i went there 2 times)...i went there for a) Masato's sushi, b) the wine pairings, and c) location because it was a 7 minute walk from my home...

                          Jack was generally running things at JB and he was also pleasant enough...but Grace was always cold at best, obnoxious at worst when she was at their Oyster Bar or in Jewel Bako...and once they parted ways with Masato-san i didn't see any reason to return...

                          Jewel Bako
                          239 E 5th St, New York, NY 10003

                          1. re: Simon

                            Same here. I loved it so much that we spent New Year's Eve 2002 into 2003 there. Was a wonderful meal and a great evening.

                      2. re: gutsofsteel

                        Just checked. Stand corrected. Shimizu.

              2. As can be seen from the sheer volume of food we had, we're not much for price targets. To compare, I've previously had meals at Yasuda costing over $250 in sushi alone. Heck, I've spent $250/pp on food at Kanoyama, so I never understood how people think that that place is one of the "cheaper" options.

                Given the amount of food I've eaten on my visits, 15 East has to be the best value of the top sushi restaurants.