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Ideal Sushi (Omakase) for Group of 4

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Hi all - I'm fairly new to Manhattan (moved here a few months ago), and would love some advice from fellow hounds.

It is my parents' 30th anniversary coming up in March, and I'm flying them to NY for a long weekend, and would like to take them to a really nice omakase meal (a mix of sushi and cooked foods), sitting at the sushi bar.

While they've had sushi many times before, they've never had a high-end omakase meal before, and I'd like to introduce the experience to them. The "problem" is, it's going to be 4 of us (bringing the gf) - I'd like to sit at the sushi bar, but sitting 4 in a row makes conversation a bit more difficult. I've considered getting a table, but I feel you lose out on part of the omakase experience not being at the sushi bar.

I was wondering if anyone knew of top-calibre sushi restaurants that have a two-sided sushi bar (ie. where there's a 90 degree angle, so I could request the 4 corner seats, where you can still have some convo, but get the full omakase-at-the-bar experience).

Price isn't really an issue - expecting to spend $1k+ for the 4 of us. Only Masa I think is a bit out of the price range. From searching, I've heard good things about Yasuda, Soto, 15East. Does anyone know if these sushi bars have 2 sides, or have other recommendations? Thanks in advance!

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  1. How about a kaiseki meal instead, like in the private room at Kyo Ya? They don't do nigiri sushi but their sashimi dishes and their "box pressed" sushi is excellent.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Thanks for the suggestion Kathryn. I haven't had a kaiseki meal before, but from my understanding, it focuses on simplistic, subtle flavors.

      I think for this anniversary meal, I'd like to have my parents try a more traditional nigiri omakase.

      That being said, I read a few quick reviews on Kyo Ya, and I think I'll definitely check it out myself in the future!

      1. re: tylerchris

        I'd call the flavors at Kyo Ya subtle but not simplistic. Rather, there is a very sophisticated complexity that melds in amazing ways, I thought.

    2. in general, i think a 4-person nigiri-based omakase at the sushi bar is difficult/not-ideal, esp in NYC...it's hard to converse and reservations are difficult at the best places -- omakase at the sushi bar is best either solo or in a party of two...

      Especially given that your folks a) would enjoy some cooked dishes too, and b) haven't had a high-end sushi omakase before, i think your best option might be a table at 15 East...now, purely for sushi, the bar is the way to go there, vastly superior...but for the combo of fine meal/cooked-dishes/sushi/4-people, i think 15 East at the table is one to consider...

      i also like the Kyo Ya suggestion...and Ushiwakamaru at a table would be fine too, though a bit more casual...

      1. Soto has quite "futuristic" food so I don't recommend it since it would be somewhat distant from traditional sushi cuisine. I like both Sushi Yasuda and 15 East, and they both have L corners.

        Only downside of 15 East is it's a tad cramped and can get noisy (Union Square "scene"). But the food is really wonderful.

        I think the another possibility would be Brushstroke, I've never been.

        1 Reply
        1. re: calf

          unfortunately 15 east has a 3 max for their sushi bar. i've seen yasuda and gari handle 4 tops at the bar but most other top sushi places will not accept a group that large...

        2. I would recommend Kanoyama as my first pick. The tables for the omakase ( in the back room) are directly across from the chef. He makes very creative dishes and has excellent sushi. When the high ranking diplomats from Japan needed a place to dine, they went to Kanoyama and reserved the whole sushi bar.
          15 East would work as well but no contact with the chef.
          Blue Ribbon Izakaya has good mix of both in a real nice decor.
          Soto I only recommend for his Tartare creative type dishes. The sushi is just ok.
          You might want to consider Kyo Ya, have the great kaiseki dishes and order the pressed sushi and daily sashimi special. That would be great mix of sushi and other japanese dishes. Kyo Ya is amazing.

          2 Replies
          1. re: foodwhisperer

            Thanks for everyone's suggestions thus far, very helpful.

            I think I am going to look into getting the 4 corner seats at the 15 East sushi bar (will plead the "special circumstance" card). Hopefully given it's quite a bit in advance, they'll help out.

            If not, it sound like a table could work as well.

            Has anyone gotten good omakase sitting at the table before? What worries me (and maybe I'm taking it a bit too seriously...) is that, especially with four people, the chef will pre-make all the nigiri at once and bring it out to the table together ("sushi boat" style), which loses much of the effect of chef's-hand-to-mouth.

            1. re: tylerchris

              I've never seen them bring out individual pieces to tables at 15 East. I've also never seen the head chef make sushi for the tables - he seems to delegate that to another chef.

          2. I'm pretty sure that 15 East has a 90-degree bend at the right side of the sushi bar.

            2 Replies
            1. re: meatme

              it does; but it's a difficult reservation to guarantee those four seats, and still not ideal for 4 person convo

              1. re: Simon

                That's the best seat in the house, as you can see Masa's every move. Also quite difficult to get.

            2. If I were in your position, I'd try to get the corner at 15 East. Call them and explain what you want, or even stop by in person - it may require flexibility on time/date, but if there's a better place in the city to have traditional nigiri omakase AND cooked food while sitting at the sushi bar, I haven't found it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: lexismore

                For people who've done 15 East omakase before, reading through some reviews, it looks like this place doesn't really have a "chef's tasting" menu (like Masa, or Neta for example, where there's a set price for a set tasting menu), but is in more of the true "omakase" style where I would tell them in advance that I'd like omakase, some rough preferences of what we'd like (eg. nigiri, some cooked foods, lots of uni, etc.), and ballpark cost per person... is that right?

                Their website seems to be down so no info there (actually looks like they forgot to renew their domain name, since it's taken by some squatter advertising?)

                Thanks all!

                1. re: tylerchris

                  They have both Tasting and Omakase.

                  Site is fine right now.

                  http://15eastrestaurant.com/home/menus/

                  TASTING MENU

                  The Tasting menu at 15 East showcases a series of seasonal ingredients from the land, ocean and mountain in the influence of “Kaiseki” format. The best collection of seasonal ingredients from around the globe will be featured. Our Tasting menu is six courses and starts at $120 per person. You will experience dishes from our kitchen and sushi bar. Your server will explain the nightly offerings.

                  OMAKASE

                  Which literally means “From the heart”.
                  Our chefs will select the best fish of the day for you to experience.
                  Please select your preference of Sushi or Sashimi, or Sushi and Sashimi

              2. there are corners at the bar at 15 east, ushiwakamaru, and yasuda...those are my favorites...in order.

                omakase for 4 would be weird but if you all love sushi...could be nice.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sam1

                  Why would omakase for 4 be weird? i have done omakase for 4 100's of times. What is weird is, more than one or 2 cooked dishes with an omakase sashimi/sushi meal. Personally, I like a chawanmushi or soup, and maybe a small portion of soba.

                2. There is a corner at Ichimura's bar too.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sushiman

                    That's true, but Ichimura doesn't accept reservations for more than 2 (or at least, that's what I was told by the hostess this past Saturday)

                    1. re: lexismore

                      Ichimura doesn't mix cooked food with his omakase except for chawanmushi. It is $150 pp. The sushi bar is small and the OP really wanted a table so they can't talk to each other. There are no tables at Ichimura. However, Brushstroke has a great tasting menu with a sushi course, you can add all the extra pieces of uni that you want ( extra cost of course), Brushstroke is in the same restaurant as Ichimura, but the sushi will be from different sushi bar in the restaurant. They have tables there. You will leave much more satisfied than you will from Neta. It is a nicer atmosphere also.
                      Kanoyama and Blue Ribbon Izakaya are still excellent choices and I'm sticking to it.

                  2. Neta on west 8th street - newest spot opened by an ex sushi chef of Masa/Bar Masa. Small/intimate and you can sit at a table for omakase. Definitely worth checking out - its the newest of them all.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: haleyvr

                      Neta is definitely the spot you should go to! I've been to every restaurant on this list, and while they all offer great sushi, Neta seems to fit what you are looking for. You will be able to share a communal table near the sushi bar, with an omakase that includes both sushi and cooked dishes. The fish is locally sourced, making it much cheaper than Masa, but definitely comparable. My second choice would be Soto.

                    2. Try EN Japanese Brasserie

                      435 Hudson St
                      (between Leroy St & St Lukes Pl) West Village

                      1. I would call 1 or 8 and see what they can do at a table. If not for your parents, you should definitely go sometime. I've been to most of the places mentioned, and 1 or 8 is as good if not better. Also, awesome feel in the space.

                        1. How about Sushi Azabu?
                          They have omakase. You can sit either at the counter or at table. The sushi bar is pretty small, so it'll be pretty intimate, even without a bend. It's also intimate enough that you can ask the chef that you'd like a sushi only omakase with a specific budget, and I'm sure it won't be problem.

                          Kyo Ya is nice, but it's not exactly sushi.

                          15 East is good option too, but I think their omakase had more cooked food than sushi/sashimi. It was delicious, for sure, but I recall thinking, "I wish there was more sushi..." I can't remember if they had a sushi specific omakase.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: myamada

                            I am not sure that Sushi Azabu has tables are available, according to their site:

                            HURRICANE SANDY AFTERMATH
                            ( Info is Updated as of Dec. 12th.)
                            SUSHI AZABU has reopened the counter seatings for dinner.
                            Table seating is limited due to temporary tables
                            until renovation is complete. Thank you for your cooperation.

                            1. re: kathryn

                              I have a table reservation for my family on Christmas Eve, so it's back.

                            2. re: myamada

                              Thanks everyone for the replies. Foodwhisperer, just to clarify, I *don't* want a table if possible, really want to sit at the sushi bar so my parents can experience the true omakase experience.

                              Neta is a great spot - I've been a couple times actually (my go-to sushi spot), but unfortunately they have one long sushi bar with no L-bend. I've always sat at the bar there, and seen a few people get the omakase at the tables behind the bar. The nigiri especially gets brought out all together on one big plate - trying to avoid that.

                              I called 15 East to ask for a reservation - they generally don't take more than 3 at the sushi bar, but I explained the situation, and they said it could likely be arranged (to have the corner 4 seats at the sushi bar which will hopefully still mean some reasonable conversation can be had). Unfortunately they only take resos 30 days out, so I'm going to have to make sure to call exactly 30 days before.

                              Thanks for everyone's suggestions!

                              1. re: tylerchris

                                The tables at Sushi Azabu, if I remember correctly , they have 4 tables. But the tables are in close proximity to the sushi bar, and the omakase can be an enjoyable experience. They have unbelievably good ankimo ( served warm) and shirk ( also served warm)

                            3. Gari UWS at the corner of the bar. I did the same and it was a huge hit!

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: hawkeye1999

                                Just a quick follow-up, as I ate at 15 East for the first time this past Sat to get a first-hand look at the sushi bar. The gf and I got the 2 seats to the right of the L-shape. Definitely agree that the far to the right is a great seat where you can see Masa-san do his thing!

                                Got what was labeled on the bill as "Chef's omakase" (just said we wanted Masa-san to go to town), and was really delicious. Started out with a few amuse-bouche courses, including his well known octopus that was very tender as per reviews. Nigiri was amazing, sashimi was very fresh, tried the 3 kinds of uni (with very generous portions).

                                There was a good crowd that night (including two girls sitting next to us who I think were wine sommeliers who had some good convo / questions for Masa-san through the night, which we joined in on especially regarding the uni!). We finished with some house-made soba noodles (with another generous portion of the Santa Barbara uni) which was great.

                                Loved this place, although I thought it interesting how separate the sushi bar is from the rest of the restaurant. The restaurant itself was quite trendy / dark-ambience, whereas the sushi bar was separated by the big coat closet and much brighter. In some ways, I prefer the atmosphere at Neta (where restaurant and sushi bar are seamlessly integrated), though I can understand why some may prefer the separation at 15 East.

                                Overall, great experience, although having seen the 4 corner seats first-hand, I don't think I'm going to go with 15 east sushi bar for my parents. I do think conversation would be difficult for the 2 sitting on the outside. Will have to think about other options.

                                Thanks again everyone for your help!

                                1. re: tylerchris

                                  Do kanoyama with your parents , in the special omakase room . The tables are integrated with the sushi bar. The food both sushi and cooked are artistic and very high quality. Nobu-san will make sure you are very happy.

                                  1. re: tylerchris

                                    Tylerchris: 15East has been on my must-visit list for some time now. It appears that your meal was really enjoyable and the descriptions you gave only further cement 15East at the top of my list. If you recall, would you mind sharing how much you spent on the dinner you described above? Did it include sake? Thanks in advance and thank you for your thorough write-up.

                                    1. re: Rich D.

                                      foodwhisperer - thanks, will take a look at Kanoyama, have heard good things and sounds like the omakase room is good layout for 4 people.

                                      Rich D - so I read a couple reviews of getting omakase at 15East, and it was a bit confusing. There's a "sushi" and a "sashimi" only omakase, as well as a "Chef's Tasting" (which I believe includes more cooked dishes).

                                      From other hounds, best way I had heard if you want both sashimi/nigiri + a few cooked apps, is to go with what's called "Chef's Omakase", where you really just tell the server that you want to let Masa-san take care of you.

                                      As I mentioned, that was listed as "Chef's Omakase" on the bill, and was $130 per person. I also ended up getting a bottle of sake so that added to my total cost, but thought the meal was well worth the $130.

                                      1. re: tylerchris

                                        You could do 4 at the bar at Shinbashi. Let Nakajimi know it is special event b4.