The last time I checked -- and some of my info is a little dated, so everyone keep me honest -- the top tier is made up of:
Sushi of Gari
-- Omakase is arguably (and in my opinion) the best way to enjoy a one-off visit to these places.
-- Masa is (g)astronimically expensive, out of the league of most casual diners. If you can afford it, omakase at Masa is considered by many (many -- not everyone) to be the best sushi experience in NYC.
-- While Masa is the most expensive, none of the others is close to cheap, especially for omakase.
-- Jewel Bako is very good, but inferior to the others, and was only often considered along with them years ago; I include it for the sake of completeness. Actually I thought it had closed.
-- 15 East is newer (or its fame is newer) than the others.
-- I've heard that Yasuda-san moved on from Sushi Yasuda and there has been a quality fall-off since then.
I've personally experienced Jewel Bako (long ago), Sushi of Gari, Sushi Yasuda and 15 East. JB was quite good. I thought post-Yasuda Yasuda was great, but didn't live up to its historical reputation. 15 East was great and Sushi of Gari is very great. Gari is more experimental; Kurumazushi is supposed to be fantastic and more traditional.
If I had one try at this, I'd do omakase at Kurumazushi. Not sure if that's restricted to dinner hours.
Finally, a lot of people like Nobu. It's good, but I don't think it's in the same league as the others, and it's a royal pain in the ass to make a reservation or walk in to.
You do realize that Kurumazushi omakase ends up being almost as much as Masa if you want to be full? The last time I ate omakase there was dinner about 5 years ago and the (just) food bill for two people was $900. They do have some reasonably priced lunch specials now though.
My guess is your info is quite dated. 15 East has had its fame for quite a while now, and chef Shimizu used to work at JB which would explain the divergence of the two places.
I only find Gari to be very good in the original UES location, and meh at the other branches. I actually prefer Sushi Seki over Gari for the same kind of sushi.
The most recent full discussion on the best sushi in NYC should be this one:
Responding to OP, it depends what you are looking for (just fish/rice or overall experience), how much $($$$) you're willing to spend, and your personal experience in eating sushi. Without all that information to go on, for lunch I would recommend Yasuda and I don't think it's close in terms of quality/value vs other sushi spots in the city when it comes to lunch.
I second Sushi Yasaka on the UWS. At one point in time my parents spoiled me with a meal at Kurumazushi (which was incredible as everyone else says) but I will say that Sushi Yasaka has really great quality of fish. I'm super picky when it comes to sushi and I'm thrilled I found a moderately priced sushi place with great fish.
I just had lunch at Sushi Yasaka and will add to the raves on the price/value of their sushi. For $45 I had the omakase. 12 good size piece of sushi plus a yellowtail scallion roll. All of it was excellent.
Is it as good as the super-high-end places like KurumaZushi? Well, no. But I'm full and I enjoyed every bite, and it's about 1/5 the price.
Glad you enjoyed it. I've never tried Yasaka, but sometimes you just need a sushi fix and if the sushi is good it serves the purpose. As far as Karumazushi goes, I think the place is a rip off and I was not very impressed with the sushi last time i was there. I will stick with 15 East and Ichimura.