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Jan 22, 2013 10:50 AM

Live Spiny Lobster back at 15 East (review)

As usual, full review with photos on the blog:

A couple of weeks ago I brought a friend to 15 East and forgot that it's that time of the year again. I was a bit hesitant at first because while my friend loves great food, this was his first full-on omakase experience. But my friend was game and I'm glad we decided to get the lobster.

The meal started innocently enough with a kitchen amuse of pickled daikon radish, carrots, and sweet wine vinegar. Just sweet and tart enough to get the taste buds going.

Our first full appetizer was a trio featuring the signature super-tender slow poached octopus from Spain, as well as a super meaty Japanese conch with the simmering liquid having all kinds of umami. But the simmered shirako was something that I'd never had before. Speaking of being game and adventurous, shirako is essentially cod sperm. I didn't find it particularly flavorful or unique in texture, but I can cross it off my list of things I haven't eaten before. I did find it amusing that while they were perfectly fine to serve it, the chef and server were relatively shy about saying what it was, using the Japanese term and saying "boy reproductive" when I asked to make sure.

The lobster sashimi was once again a perfect crisp texture. A ponzu sauce was provided which further accentuated the lobster's sweetness. The lobster sashimi was served alongside the usual plate of sashimi, which that night featured melt-in-your-mouth otoro (fattiest tuna) from Spain, saba (mackerel), shima aji (striped jack), red snapper, mirugai (geoduck), and aoyagi (orange clam).

I was probably most wowed by this the entire night. The light tempura batter was crispy and covered a perfectly cooked piece of lobster. Enough to give you some chew, but not chewy in any way. The sweet flesh was paired with a lemon butter sauce and the accompanying shishito pepper tempura provided a slight bitterness that balanced everything out.

Then came the sushi. According to my notes, we had shima aji, akamutsu (sea perch), red snapper, kinmedai (golden eye snapper), tuna from two different parts of the fish, bonito, kohada (gizzard shad), aji (horse mackerel), saba (mackerel) served with marinated seaweed, sayori (needlefish), ika (squid), uni (sea urchin) from Santa Barbara and Hokkaido, and anago (sea eel). My favorite is the lightly seared kinmedai while my friend enjoyed the akamutsu the most.

I asked for this because I wanted my friend to experience some good quality soba. We were pretty full at this point. They originally wanted to bring out an even larger portion but we just couldn't.
The salmon roe (ikura) here is fresh and lightly marinated with dashi and sake. This means it's way less salty than what you get at many other places while retaining its texture so that you get that burst of flavor with each egg.

The remaining course was a delicious, flavorful soup made from whatever was left of the lobster.

The dessert had cooked fuji apple, vanilla ice cream, and another fruit that I've forgotten. It was satisfying without being over-indulgent.

While I was a little dissatisfied with the non-food aspects of my experience at Brooklyn Fare , 15 East is just a bloody good time! It's great to have a place serve this quality of food while allowing you to put back half a beer too many. They were also very friendy and open to my friend who wasn't as experienced in sushi. The chef let us have a look at his knife, which he said cost $2000 (while his senior itamae's knife cost about $1000).

I've seen a couple of rowdier (nothing over the line) customers in the past and it's a good thing the sushi bar is completely separated from the rest of the dining room. This is especially true on the weekend, when his regulars tend to show up. That same night, a few enthusiastic regulars even got the chef to make matcha (traditional Japanese green tea from powder)!

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  1. Beautiful review (and love the pics). An idea of the cost?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Chuck Lawrence

      Also, was this an off-menu omakase, or did you start by requesting the Tasting Menu (which is 120)?

      1. re: calf

        The lobster itself is usually $120 for the three courses, and is usually good for 3 people. I tend to just tell them omakase, and occasionally I'll make some specific requests (cooked foods, in this case soba).

        At most of the top tier sushi places in the city I usually say omakase and then give them an estimated price I want to spend. This could be the minimum $ as listed on the menu, but I tend to go a little higher so the chef knows I want "the good stuff". I believe that is the best way. At 15 East, I no longer specify my price range and my omakase bill tends to run $140-160 depending on what they have on the day.

        1. re: fooder

          Wow, that's a substantial supplement for a lobster course, but if it is shared amongst 2 or 3 people that isn't too unreasonable in an NYC restaurant. The three courses look pretty awesome.

          1. re: fooder

            Great report, thanks! Just called and was quoted $90 (three lobster courses). I was also told that they expect to have spiny lobster through February and that it's important to call ahead because the supply's unpredictable (tonight, for example, there's enough for just one order).

            1. re: squid kun

              Apparently they don't always have it. I was first seating and they didn't have any last week. They substituted botan ebi.

      2. Thanks for the review, nice pics on your blog. It appears you had the best seats, if that's where you took the pictures from .
        The first shirako experience is usually the most memorable. The first time I had it was at a restaurant called Kameda back in the '80's, and the chef called it "male eggs". I said " cum again?". Anyway, These days they usually describe it on a menu as fish milt. Most often it is cod milt, and I've had it in japan from fugu. My favorite shirako in NYC is at Sushi Azabu, where they serve it warm, similar to how they serve their ankimo . 15 East's anago is in my opinion the best, and always consistently awesome.

        4 Replies
        1. re: foodwhisperer

          Thanks. Yes, I specifically reserve the two seats on the short end of the counter if possible.

          The shirako was certainly interesting, but I wasn't particularly drawn to it. I also might have been disappointed because the shirako replaced ankimo which is one of my favorite things.

          Yes their anago is awesome. I'm also partial to their tamago, although that night they didn't make a fresh pan.

          1. re: foodwhisperer

            LOL, foodwhisperer, male eggs! I recently had shirako for the first time while on vacation. It was molded into more of a meatball and toasted a little on the outside.

            1. re: kathryn

              I wouldn't mind a little shirako toasted meatball. I strongly recommend as I have said in earlier post, Sushi Azabu for a warm shirako is fantastic.

              1. re: foodwhisperer

                I also love shirako, or male eggs (LOL) both from cod and fugu. Attached photos are not from New York, but I really miss them all... (weep)

                fugu shirako with ponzu sauce on chawan-mushi

                grilled fugu shirako with grated spicy daikon (momiji oroshi) and yuzu

                fugu shirako with ponzu sauce on chawan-mushi

                grilled fugu shirako with shiso & uni

                fugu shirako with ponzu sauce

                fugu shirako tempura with camembert & uni tempura

                tempura of fugu shirako and ama ebi rolled in shiso and nori seaweed

                karaage of fugu shirako

                fugu and fugu shirako steamed in sake

                cod shirako with ponzu sauce

                fugu shirako and fugu skin nabe (hot pot)

                fugu and fugu shirako steamed in sake

                fugu shirako agedashi

                grilled fugu shirako sushi

          2. Yes! I love, love, loved it too!

            Having live spiny lobster, or ise ebi (伊勢海老) in New York! That is really something!

            More photos:


            5 Replies
            1. re: kosmose7

              I'm getting psyched. I will surely have some soon.
              It is rare that I can get the short end of the sushi bar, but right in front isn't too bad. I got spiny lobster on my mind now.

              1. re: foodwhisperer

                Way to go, foodwhisperer! You won't regret it.

                Also, this lovely izakaya you had introduced to us before, Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya, seems to have "ise ebi sashimi" on their online menu but its English translation is simply "lobster", rather than "spiny lobster". I called them and asked whether it was real "ise ebi" but they told me it is just plain lobster. I need to double check it though.

                1. re: kosmose7

                  I've had the lobster at Blue Ribbon. They give you sashimi, and cooked, they give you sushi with the tomalley(sp), I prefer ordering the omakase and they throw in some dishes with the lobster. If you order the lobster it is expensive. But it is good. I was at 15 East since my last post, they didn't have the spiny lobster, they did have botan ebi. They didn't have shirako, they had ankimo, anago kimo, awabi and fresh santa barbara uni and hokkaido uni. All was fantastic. The chu toro was amazing so was the akami, better than the otoro. I'm attaching pic of the fresh uni, only because it looks so good

                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                    That uni is really beautiful!
                    Sounds like your dinner was equally as awsome as spiny lobster course! Now I crave Shimizu san's sushi big time!

                    I had uni don for dinner too!

                    1. re: kosmose7

                      I think I could eat uni everyday, 3 meals a day. I want some now Your uni pic is delicious looking.
                      Not sure if I mentioned, while in Kyoto i had an amazing kaiseki dinner centered around Torafugu. It included the shirako in a broth. sashimi,and more.

            2. So, in order to get the whole experience-as in have them bring out the best stuff- you will be safe by asking for a $200 per person omakase, or is that overdoing it?

              2 Replies
              1. re: shekamoo

                I've never told them how much I would like to spend at 15 East. At some other places , yes. Not at 15 East. I just say omakase and I get the best they have. At some point they will say , are you full. Or sometimes if they are busy , they will say that is end of omakase, if you want more it is extra I would not recommend telling them how much you want to spend.

                1. re: shekamoo

                  I agree with foodwhisperer. 15 East is not one of those places that'll give a newcomer second class treatment so you don't have to worry about not getting the best stuff.

                  They also tend to be reasonable when it comes to price. If you don't specify your price at a place like Kurumazushi you could end up with a $400 bill.

                  One way to do it is to order the omakase and then tell the chef (with a smile) that you want to experience the best he has available. I think that's what I did the first time I went there years ago.