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Sushi Newbie?

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futurememory Apr 18, 2011 04:58 PM

So, I'm a pretty adventurous eater that has explored a tremendous amount of the Manhattan dining scene, but I've never gotten into sushi. I had a really bad experience with a California roll back when I was a teenager, and ever since then, I've been terrified to let any sushi pass my lips.

What's a good place for a sushi beginner to go to in the city? Neighborhood really doesn't matter. I want something that's really authentic and fresh (nothing too fusion-y) but won't absolutely break the bank (as I'm not even sure I'll like it). What are some nigiri I should try? Rolls? Is there anything I should avoid?

It's all so incredibly daunting, especially when you're not really where to start. Thanks in advance!

  1. a
    AdamD Apr 19, 2011 11:50 AM

    When I dont fell like spending a ton of money, I go to Hatsuhana on 48th street.
    A la carte sushi will always cost you more than a set and the "pick ten" and prix fixe at hatsuhana are great deals for really good sushi IMHO.

    For starters, I would stick to more mild fish like tuna, salmon, fluke, madai/tai, yellowtail and of course eel.

    As far as rolls go, I love them if they have no more than two ingredients (negi-toro, eel cucumber, yellowtail scallion). And I like them with just veggies as well (kanpyo, oshinko, cucumber). But most often, I will order rolls for lunch. Once you get a taste for eating high quality nigiri, you will always want to save room for the fish.

    +1 on passing on yama. Tomoe is decent for a cheaper place, Ive had decent sushi there.
    You have been warned, its an expensive habit!

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    Hatsuhana
    17 E 48th St, New York, NY 10017

    1. f
      futurememory Apr 19, 2011 04:04 AM

      I should have probably also mentioned that I like raw fish, prepared sashimi-style. I've had crudo and tartare and other similar preparations in other restaurants. I also like uni (Marea's ricci!). So it's not the whole raw fish thing that freaks me out. It was that really bad experience with that California roll that ruined all thoughts of sushi in general for me.

      Would this change anyone's recommendations? Am I just being silly for avoiding sushi in general? Thanks so much for the recommendations so far!

      5 Replies
      1. re: futurememory
        g
        gutsofsteel Apr 19, 2011 04:16 AM

        Go to 15 East! You will enjoy it on every level.

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

        1. re: gutsofsteel
          y
          yebo Apr 19, 2011 04:47 AM

          Yes, but check the prices on menupages.com and see if they agree with your pricepoint.

          1. re: gutsofsteel
            s
            Simon Apr 19, 2011 06:31 AM

            yeah, i'd say either 15 East (more elegant, refined atmosphere, and a more patient/informative teacher in Masato-san) or Ushi Wakamaru (more informal, and a more garrulous/smiley/cheerfully-gruff-and-beer-drinking chef in Hideo-san)...both are great, and we're lucky as New Yorkers to have such a nice choice...

            Also, since the OP has enjoyed crudo, tartars, etc in the past, i'd recommend doing an omakase that starts w/ sashimi, then proceeds to nigiri...

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

          2. re: futurememory
            v
            villainx Apr 19, 2011 08:34 AM

            Haha, in that case, you are being silly for avoiding sushi in general.Rolls are a small part of the sushi experience. And california rolls are probably the most harmless (fake crab, avocado, cucumber) and least "authentic" as you can get.

            Any of the better sushi places listed here (15 East, Ushi) should be pretty impressive. Go omakase or "omakase" set if you have the time and cash. Assuming you are sitting at the sushi bar, explain that you are starting your exploration and that should help the chef and the experience/conversation better.

            But there's also no harm in not sitting at the bar, and ordering whatever sushi/sashimi/deluxe set of the menu. At the good places, they'll provide you good quality of the basics/essentials.

            1. re: futurememory
              Silverjay Apr 19, 2011 11:09 AM

              Suggest 15 East or Yasuda or Shimizu or one of the decent places. Consider luchtime sets, which are not expensive and you won't need to compromise quality and authenticity. I'm totally against going to shit places and ramping into the cuisine with Americanized, fatty items. I've seen people converted first-hand many times by just having sushi that has been done right. Give the cuisine an honorable chance.

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              Shimizu
              318 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019

            2. Silverjay Apr 18, 2011 09:39 PM

              15 East is an excellent, authentic, shop and perfect for newbies. It's one of the better sushi restaurants in the city, but the sushi counter itself is quite small. So you'll get personalized attention. Masa, the chef, speaks very good English and enjoys serving in "teach" mode. He has a couple of well-illustrated and visual fish books behind the counter that he uses to point out the type of fish and/or part of the fish you are eating. The menu is broad and offers fallback non-sushi items...Avoid? Rolls in general. They are, classically speaking, merely stomach stuffers at the end of the meal. Most of them are lame and contain scrap or dated fish.

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

              1 Reply
              1. re: Silverjay
                g
                gutsofsteel Apr 19, 2011 03:59 AM

                I agree completely - 15 East is a wonderful choice for this OP.

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

              2. v
                villainx Apr 18, 2011 05:37 PM

                I'd say go to Yama (or Tomoe or any decent neighborhood place) and get whatever you want. It's not the greatest but it's okay for a good warm up. Then build from there.

                Focus on tuna, yellowtail, salmon, and eel. And if you need a crutch, mix in some spicy tuna rolls, and soft-shell crabs rolls, and whatever peeks your interest. Once you digging that, 1) try sea urchin, raw shrimp, raw squid, and widen the varieties or 2) head to a better place and get the sushi or sashimi or the deluxe versions of them.

                Or that's how I did it. Just build on the knowledge and taste. But if you want to start closer to high quality, Ushi is a great start.

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                Yama
                308 E 49th St, New York, NY 10017

                Tomoe Sushi
                172 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012

                5 Replies
                1. re: villainx
                  g
                  gutsofsteel Apr 18, 2011 08:36 PM

                  Yama and Tomoe are both awful.

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                  Yama
                  308 E 49th St, New York, NY 10017

                  1. re: gutsofsteel
                    s
                    Simon Apr 18, 2011 09:20 PM

                    agreed...if the OP had a bad experience w/ sushi in the distant past, going to Yama will surely make him/her never eat sushi ever again...that advice is like saying: "Oh, you didn't like your first hamburger at McDonald's?? Try Jack in the Box instead!"...

                    Ushi Wakamaru would be my call too...for the OP: go there on a not-crowded day/time...order at the bar by the piece...chat...see what things you like/dislike, what your preferences are (it's ok to not like some things :)...even if it's a splurge, it's a good investment in the exploring the world of sushi...it'll be 50+ bucks well spent...

                    Please report back and tell us your experiences...

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                    Yama
                    308 E 49th St, New York, NY 10017

                    1. re: Simon
                      v
                      villainx Apr 18, 2011 09:42 PM

                      I love Ushi. But if I went early on in my sushi journey, it might not have converted me.

                      Yama or Tomoe ain't by any means awful. It certainly also ain't top tier. But for folks that ain't ready for going all omakase, these places are certainly solid enough. It might be me, but it's about the journey to discover whatever cuisine. It took me a long time to jump from the cooked stuff (basically california and eel rolls) to the raw stuff, and my college/just out of college visits to solid places brought me from "ewww" to "this is pretty good" to eventually "what else is out there."

                      If the OP has the wallet to jump to Ushi (which I think is more than "mid" tier, it's as good as it gets in NY without going top tier) and don't mind a bum rush to ikura and uni and amaebi before really acclimating to the "cleaner" tuna/yellowtail/etc, or their tasty spicy type rolls, then go for it.

                      I just think testing the waters in "solid" places before going to "splurge" places like Ushi (and certainly there are many more comparable or better places, like Azabu, Seki, Sasabune, Yasuda, 15 East, etc), and getting some grounding is a good idea.

                      Umm... if you do go to Ushi, the beef sushi is pretty good.

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

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

                      Sasabune
                      401 E 73rd St, New York, NY 10021

                      Yama
                      308 E 49th St, New York, NY 10017

                      Sushi Azabu
                      428 Greenwich St (basement), New York, NY 10013

                      1. re: villainx
                        s
                        Simon Apr 18, 2011 10:58 PM

                        not sure if the video is findable anywhere, but one of the local NYC tv stations did a report where they went into Yama (Gramercy location) on off hours, and, well, it wasn't pretty...it's really the lowest of the low...

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                        Yama
                        308 E 49th St, New York, NY 10017

                  2. re: villainx
                    e
                    ESNY Apr 19, 2011 06:53 AM

                    Oversized slabs of mediocre fish certainly isn't going to help a newbie

                  3. r
                    Riverman500 Apr 18, 2011 05:00 PM

                    I'm not a sushi expert either, but a good mid priced option is Ushiwakamaru.

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                    Ushiwakamaru
                    136 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

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