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Hidden Japanese restaurant in East Village

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Kura Japanese restaurant, has no sign, no menu. I love secret places. Kyo Ya used to be like that when they opened and still has secret hidden toilets. Anyway,Kura is a fantastic restaurant. The vibe is very relaxed and Japanese. They have 2 omakase choices. One is an all sushi, the other is Kappo omakase which includes 5 cooked dishes and sushi.
Some of the dishes were tuna tataki which was delicious.
Tile fish with mountain yam very tasty. A summer style cold chawanmushi, A sliced duck dish also very good.
The sushi quality was top tier. The sushi chef is very skilled.The toro from Kyushu was incredible.
The restaurant is 6 months old. The service excellent. The place is small, so I hope it doesn't get too popular. I didn't see any tables , just a sushi bar. I was still hungry after the kappa omakase so opted to order more sushi. They have a good selection of sake.
I love this place and will be a frequent visitor.
It is on St Marks and Ave A.

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  1. I didnt find it to be a top tier place, but the sushi is decent for the price, the cooked food is great, and its a good replacement for Cotan. I found the rice to be good for a few pieces, the overly compressed ,then fine again.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Shirang

      I ate here once, and it was exceptional. I will see if it has inconsistency as I return a few times. As far as "for the price" it cost me around $150 for the food, same as top tier. However, I eat more than most.

      1. re: foodwhisperer

        LOL that was my cost for 2 ppl after drinks. You do eat alot.

        1. re: Shirang

          My bad! but yeah I eat too much.

    2. Secret hidden toilets at Kyo Ya??? I still haven't been but that might have nudged it up a couple spots on my list.

      So what kind of food is the Kappo omakase? Is it a specific progression like a kaiseki?

      The only hidden Japanese restaurant I've ever been to was Tsukushi. The food was more "homey", and it was actually written up in NYT. Does anyone know if that place is still around and doing well?

      13 Replies
      1. re: fooder

        I went relatively recently to Tsukushi for some late-night shoyu ramen. I think it's a sleeper hit for that particular dish (though I also enjoyed their regular multicourse-but-homey menu about a year and a half ago). I'd be hard-pressed to name a definitively better shoyu ramen in NYC proper, actually.

        1. re: fooder

          Don't go to Kyo Ya for the secret toilets; go for the great kaiseki and civilized atmosphere.

          1. re: Pan

            And STAY for the toilets.

            1. re: Sneakeater

              When I went there for a second time, I forgot where the toilets were, couldn't see the door, and had to be helped by the staff. The bathrooms' secretiveness is probably my least-favorite part of the restaurant. :-)

              1. re: Pan

                well Kura is secret in that there is no sign or menu outside and scaffolding further hides the place. The dishes are Kaiseki-like but more home style and there isn't as many dishes as in a traditional kaiseki restaurant. At the moment all i remember is the duck dish, similar in a way to Soba Koh, and the tile fish dish was similar to something Kyo Ya might make or perhaps Bugs. The sushi I particularly enjoyed , also they had good Shiokara. The staff is exceptional, in all regards.

              2. re: Sneakeater

                It was rather hillarious to see an elderly Asian lady who was a bit tipsy trying to find the bathroom one eve. Waitress pointed to "hidden" door (door blends right in w wall) and she thought the flower vase hanging on the wall was the doorknob! She grabbed whole vased and turned!!! You just had to be there!!!

            2. re: fooder

              Kappo is a little bit more fancier than izakya, but way more casual than Kaiseki.

              1. re: fooder

                I actually prefer Saka Gura (2.5 blocks away) to Tsukushi, and the former is even more 'hidden' than the latter.

                Tsukushi is still around and doing well -I go about twice a month and it's always full.
                Saka Gura -even though more camouflaged- has been discovered by the masses, and is thus more difficult to walk into without a rez.

                1. re: Phil Ogelos

                  Sakagura was discovered by the masses at least six years ago. Even then it was almost impossible to walk in without a reservation. Nothing is really camouflaged when the internet exists.

                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                    But it doesn't have an awning, which Tsukushi does.
                    (Love your patronising tone, Pete; so tasteful!)

                    1. re: Phil Ogelos

                      No patronizing tone was intended. It's easy to read any text as anything if you want to take it that way. I was just adding to the discussion. For instance there is a supposedly hidden cocktail bar called The Room Down Below (or something like that) in the East Village, and one day I was near there and saw it in Foursquare, so even though it has no public face, anyone can know about it.

                    2. re: Peter Cuce

                      Never thought of Sakagura as really "hidden". It's just that their location is underground, which is kind of a novelty for New Yorkers. But they've been around 15 years or so, have a website, a fixed menu, serve lunch, hold sake and shochu events, advertise in the Japan free papers, etc. Not to mention turn over of kitchen staff. It's part of the Bon Yagi group. It's basically an upscale corporate izakaya...Tsukushi reminds me of the style of local, slightly downmarket, one or two-man kappo/ koryouri places you find in residential neighborhoods throughout Japan. It was written up a few years ago in the Times. I suspect if it wasn't for that, internet and all, it would be off the radar considerably more than it actually is now.

                      1. re: Peter Cuce

                        Internet aside. If a restaurant doesn't have a sign, or like Sakagura is in the basement of an office building , or like Sushi Azabu which is downstairs from Greenwich Grill. Or Kyo Ya when they first opened had one sign "Open" that's all it said.
                        Kura you can walk right by it with no sign no window. That Korean Fried chicken place on 32nd St, no English sign and its on the 2nd or 4th floor, J&S Seafood on East Bway ( now has new name) had an entrance inside of a clothing store and you took an elevator up, All Good Things restaurant is in the basement of the market place,etc. Of course the internet makes places known, but I think when we refer to "hidden" here it just means not an obvious street level place with a window and a sign.

                  2. Thanks for recommending this place! I tried it tonight and it was amazing. I had the kappa omakase and for $65 pp I think it is a great deal. I was comfortably full by the end of the meal.

                    The dishes I remember were soup, monkfish liver, tuna? in an egg sauce, tofu egg custard, cold sliced duck, and sushi (if I remember correctly, tuna, scallops, red snapper, bonito, and a hand roll).

                    There is actually one table in the restaurant, but it's better to sit at the bar and be served by the chef directly.
                    I'd definitely come here again.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pravit

                      I went tonite mostly for sushi with a few side dishes. It was excellent.
                      I'm glad you enjoyed the food there.

                    2. Thank you for the heads up about this place. I enjoy your reviews in general and this place was exactly as you described.

                      We went last saturday, early around 6 and were the only people in the place. Both of us went for the sushi omakase and it was great.

                      If i recall correctly...it started with a healthy portion of monkfish liver, followed by the sushi. I thought that his rice was very good and the quality of the fish was very good. My only complaint was that they served miso soup (very good i might add) in the middle of the sushi.

                      It started with lean tuna, then as follows, chutoro, Kohada, Fluke, Salmon, Sardine, Anago, Squid, Bonito (marinated), Octopus, Chutoro handroll.

                      I will be back soon. I found the chef very friendly and he made it a point to say that he would remember that I liked the sardine for next time. I like that and it will get me back sooner.

                      1. I ate here recently. Had the sushi omakase. I wasn't impressed. The sushi was average at best.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: silencespeak

                          Not too often one gets tuna from Kyushu,
                          Not too often one gets to eat Shako ( Mantis shrimp)
                          I've never seen Aka uni from IkI island in the US, only here.
                          It is more expensive than Hokkaido uni and more delicious.
                          I was very impressed with the sushi.

                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                            they had mantis shrimp? you almost never see that in the US, ive only seen it in some chinese restaurants a handful of times

                            1. re: Lau

                              ur dull ... like silver.

                              1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                                ?

                              2. re: Lau

                                I don't recall having mantis shrimp(shako) before at any other place. It was a nice treat. This place, Kura, seems to get fish from different markets than other sushi places. i.e. tuna from Kyushu, mantis shrimp

                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                  I've had shako at the usual spots (Ushiwakamaru, 15 East, Kanoyama)

                                  1. re: Ricky

                                    Wow, I've had live shrimp at Kanoyama, I wonder if those were shako. I don't think I've had shako at 15 east, just shire ebi, botan ebi and amaebi. But now i'm wondering if I actually had it or not.

                                    1. re: Ricky

                                      Had the shako tonite at Kura, right out of the plastic container, from Japan. It was just Ok, nothing fantastic. No aka uni due to typhoon in Kyushu. Shima aji and toro were highlights of tonite plus tuna kama cooked. Oh also ika stuffed with rice mushrooms and anago was delicious. Rice was good, perhaps a bit too dried out. Cohada sushi had a bone in it. I hate when that happens.
                                      Service amazing as usual.

                                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                                        'right out of the plastic container' ...
                                        no, look, you can get these 'live'

                                        1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                                          I bet the live shrimp i had at Kanoyama were those. These were grey and dead in a plastic container from Japan

                                    2. re: foodwhisperer

                                      very cool...look forward to trying this place

                              3. Just another data point here... I went for the kappo omakase, with similar prepared dishes to what's been already mentioned -- ankimo, marinated tuna with grated mountain yam, cold sliced duck, tamago dofu (that looked *exactly* like lecheflan), stewed tilefish. All quite good, and certainly genuinely Japanese.

                                Really, though, I was there for a taste of the sushi. I will agree that the fish was near top-notch. Flounder was mild but impeccably fresh, as was red snapper. Scallop was wonderfully sweet. Chu-toro (both nigiri and a hand roll) was the precise level of fattiness I love.

                                On the other hand, the rice was a little overseasoned, with a sweet note emphatic enough to be distracting at first, though I got used it. As Shirang did, I thought it seemed overly compressed.

                                So, a good deal for the price. With the rice issues, I could never call it top-tier, but the neta was so lovely that I think I'll be drawn back. The staff is unfailingly amiable, including the chef -- he said he used to work at Umeda in the Gramercy Park area about 25 years ago but has spent the past few years in Michigan. Whether you think the food is great or merely pretty good, I'd say that NYC is lucky to have him back.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: sappidus

                                  Which chef worked at Umeda. The sushi chef owned a sushi restaurant in Michigan, he never mentioned any NY restaurant to me. Was it the cooked food chef who was at Umeda?
                                  I was at Kura again, the rice was fine. The chef is an older guy and the older sushi chefs tend to put more vinegar in the rice. If anything the rice was slightly too warm, but not compared to Sasabune. The tuna from Kyushu is fantastic. The selection of fish is best on Tuesday for some reason.
                                  I've been ordering lots of sushi. Basically until i've had enough. Starting out with an appetizer of ankimo, which is delicious. The dish you describe as much like lecheflan, is pretty much a cold chawanmushi. Anyway, I had a squid wrapped around rice and eel, was delicious. ( photo attached) also had some old style( box pressed) mackerel , similar to Kyo Ya ( but only 1 piece) Kyo Ya does it head to tail.
                                  Also had delicious baby abalone. Top tier place for sure. And no better atmosphere in any sushi restaurant . Similar to Ichimura or Azabu atmosphere.

                                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                                    Sorry, I did mean the sushi chef. Ask him next time you go...

                                    I'd certainly be willing to give Kura another go for the sushi: a visiting DOH inspector may have messed with their rhythm a bit while I was there. Actually, I wouldn't mind going with you one of these days -- I've always appreciated your passion for food on CH, and among other places, you turned me onto Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya. Drop me a line if you feel like you need another eater sometime!

                                    1. re: sappidus

                                      These DOH inspector really do throw places off. I went to Ichimura and every piece of sashimi and the fish on the sushi was ice cold.

                                      1. re: Ricky

                                        There was this hilarious moment at Kura when the inspector looked dubiously at the raw fish on ice on the counter and said something to the effect of "That'll never comply with code." But then he stuck a thermometer into a couple of pieces and was surprised to find that everything was, indeed, up to regs.

                                        I almost wanted to cheer.

                                        1. re: sappidus

                                          I would've definitely cheered loudly. I do find many places are keeping their sushi rather cold these days. Perhaps due to DOH inspections.

                                      2. re: sappidus

                                        Thanks for the compliment. One of these days it would be fun to dine with you. It would actually be nice to dine with many Ch'ers.

                                    2. re: sappidus

                                      I forgot to attach the photo of the squid and eel at Kura. Delicious dish.

                                       
                                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                                        That looks amazing.

                                    3. I'm intrigued.
                                      How did the shako stack up against other preps you've enjoyed?
                                      Your mention of aka uni and awabi are a definite draw.
                                      I'd recommend the hiramasa sashimi, yariika tempura and anago currently offered at Kanoyama.
                                      Have you ever come across shinko during spring/early summer in nyc?

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                                        The shako was good, perhaps different than usual shrimp.
                                        I prefer amaebi in winter over shako.
                                        You will hard pressed to find aka uni anywhere here and even in japan it is expensive and not that readily available.
                                        The chef's prep of a wabi is sliced very thin, and it is really good.
                                        I've gone to Kanoyama since before it was Kanoyama ( ISO),,, Nobu-san is a very artistic guy. His preparations look beautiful. I however, prefer the anago at 15 East over all places. I do like the Hamo ( conger pike eel) at Kanoyama .

                                        1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                                          "Santa Barbara uni" is "aka uni" and is widely available in the U.S. and Japan......Had a horrible service issue at Kanoyama recently. Fuck those assholes.

                                          1. re: Silverjay

                                            Aka uni meaning red uni, the one I am talking about is from iki island ( Nagasaki Prefecture,,, near Kyushu), much smaller than Santa Barbara, even smaller than Hokkaido. It is very seasonal and very very very expensive. I have a friend who lives there and says of course that it is the best uni in the world ( maybe prejudiced). Also, Kura doesn't use the very most expensive variety of it. It would be $50 a piece probably.
                                            I haven't been to Kanoyama in maybe 9 months. The prices got ou t of control. Omakase is ala cart and they try to suck you into $35 dishes. I got fed up when my bills were over $400 for 2 people, for not as good quality as other places. They do have a very large assortment of Japanese fish though.

                                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                                              Is this aka uni the same as the Saga prefecture Uni that 15 East gets? I am done with Kanoyama too, they're charging Kuruma prices these days, and you have to be specific about which counter you want to sit at. I heard Iso(but he is not making the sushi) has a new place in the west village, have you been?

                                              1. re: Shirang

                                                15 East has not had the aka sushi i am talking about but Massa knows of it. He does get the uni from Chile that is good though. I didn't know that Iso has a WV spot. I'll look for it.
                                                Kura and Dojo are both sushi restaurants offering cooked food as well. But two totally different places. With different techniques and different vibes. Both are worth trying.

                                        2. I ate here last week.

                                          The space and the staff were great. The sushi chef is the happiest sushi chef I've ever met.

                                          Unfortunately, I didn't find the food to be on par with the service.

                                          The pieces were too big - very difficult to eat in one bite. The rice was ok, but not amazing (a bit grainy, almost a brown rice texture). My anago, while it tasted pretty good, was falling apart when he set the piece down.

                                          The chef seems like a nice guy, and I wish them well, but nothing about the place wowed me.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: lexismore

                                            Try Sushi Dojo- Bite sized pieces- phenomenal quality!

                                            1. re: sockster

                                              I did, on Saturday. It was fantastic. One of my new favorites.

                                          2. I'm curious.
                                            Your abalone was served as sashimi.
                                            Was the raw liver offered w/ yuzu as a side?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                                              Yes it was very thin sliced sashimi. It was not served with the liver. 15 East serves the liver and so does Ichimura.

                                            2. I dined here recently and had a really good time.

                                              This is definitely not a top tier type of establishment though. Everything was good, nothing was amazing or over the top. The neta was all in one pile that he pulled from. I'd never seen that before. Might be an Osaka thing as he has a Kansai accent (according to my dining partner). He also does a few other things prep and cutting board related that I won't get into. I'm by no means a stickler for that sort of stuff but I always notice it. On to the food...

                                              I was fine with the shari, but it comes apart a bit on some of his pieces. Shouldn't be like that. We ordered the highest costing nigiri omakase. How much was that? I think $105. We upgraded from the $85 standard I think. I can't recall precisely.

                                              It started with "yamakake", which is grated, slimy yam and some chunks of "tsuke" or "zukke"- shoyu marinated akami tuna. This is a Japanese standard. It was good! Next came what is called "ika meshi" which is the squid stuffed with seasoned rice. Another standard, although usually not at sushi places so much. Anyway, also good. Well, not nigiri, but anyway...

                                              ..umm, so I'm not into the itemized sushi roll-call reviews anymore. I can recall the tuna was good. It was from "Boston", aka-uni from Santa Barbara which later was overwhelmingly subjugated by delicious murasaki uni from Hokkaido...The eel was fine. Hotate. Some other stuff. Hikari mono decent...Nice fat tekka maki at the end...Tasty akamiso soup as well, which as noted elsewhere here, does arrive prior to end of nigiri set.

                                              Chef is a fun, colorful character. He's happy to replace items that you aren't into. Obliged my dining partner with generous triples of chu-toro as she couldn't eat a couple of items. At some point, the chef whipped out custom business cards with his cell number and passed them around to the female patrons. So I can't be sure a dude will get chu-toro treatment like that. But even though there's a cap on the number of nigiri you are supposed to get with the set (i can't recall now) I got the feeling if you weren't full up he might kick you another item as part of the deal.

                                              We liked the place. Exposed brick and simple counter. Staff was really nice. No shochu though..... At the end, we were both full. Two omakase, two beers, with tax and tip came to about $280. I'd probably dial down next time to next level of omakase or just simply do okonomi style. A little more than I was looking to spend.

                                              After one visit I say it's above a neighborhood place for sure, but not up in the top tier.

                                              21 Replies
                                              1. re: Silverjay

                                                good stuff but the neta was all in one pile? really? that sounds so weird

                                                1. re: Silverjay

                                                  Interesting review. I had stopped going to Kura, after getting pieces of sushi that were not up to par. On some the rice fell apart, as you state. On others there was either a bone, or sinew making it not enjoyable to eat. Even had a piece of fish that was "off". I usually get sashimi first, and always he gives that ika with rice and eel.. It usually costs me around $150, but I do get a lot of sushi. I guess I was cute enough for him to give me his cell# card, and lots of chu toro.
                                                  You mentioned something that really got me thinking. You say the aka uni was from Santa Barbara. That made me shake my head. I have a friend who lived on Iki island ( near Kyushu), she told me the best and most expensive of all uni was the Aka uni from Iki. So when Kura had aka uni, the chef said it was from iki. Unless he didn't understand me right.
                                                  But I found that hard to believe. Now I hear the aka uni was from Santa Barbara really makes me wonder, if what I had was from there also. It was good, but I'd love to taste top level iki aka uni.
                                                  I haven't been to Kura since June I think. I guess I should go back and try again. The chef is funny and really nice. So is the staff. The cooked food I recall as being good too.
                                                  Btw 15 East, changed from keeping his fish in wood boxes, too the refrigerated glass. Not sure if it was for a change or for Health Dept reasons.
                                                  I'm still trying to get to Sushi Nakazawa.

                                                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                    go to nakazawa, its very good

                                                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                      In Japan, aka uni is not considered the choicest species compared to the others. I had never heard of Iki uni as being a premium item and when I looked it up in Japanese when you posted this originally, it only came up as an Iki Island "meibutsu" which just means a local specialty item to be enjoyed if you go there. I suspect there is not going to be a dramatic difference between uni from there and from Santa Barbara. I mean, Santa Barbara has kelp forests and exposure to the open ocean. Not sure how you can get much better a habitat for those things...

                                                      The chef at Kura, can't remember his name, is a bit sloppy and also forgetful. He's not the owner nor proprietor so I suppose he is just going with the flow. Not a big deal but not good to hear that bones and sinew and such are in the sushi. Things like that make you appreciate the higher level chefs.

                                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                                        santa barbara uni is awesome, i like it better than the stuff from japan

                                                        1. re: Lau

                                                          speaking of SB uni, anyone ever order from Maruhide online?

                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                            On any given day, Uni from many places can be fantastic. I have had many different ones at this point.

                                                            Santa Barbara, San Diego, Malibu, Maine, Russia, British Columbia, Alaska, Chile, Kyushu, Hokkaido, Aomori, Saga and probably a few others.

                                                            Depending on the time of the year and water temps, it is a crap shoot.

                                                            Of the American uni, Santa Barbara is the most common and consistent. NOTE: the consistency itself of Santa Barbara uni appeals to many people. Saga uni, for example is black and does not look like it tastes, which is super sweet.

                                                            1. re: sushiman

                                                              i generally just like the creaminess and sweet & briny flavor of the uni from santa barbara the best. That said the uni i had the good spots in tokyo was pretty out of this world, but Santa Barbara still remains my fav

                                                          2. re: Silverjay

                                                            The aka uni from iki island(s) Nagasaki Prefecture,,,,I was told is the best. Now the person who told me, is Japanese and from there. So, there may be some prejudice there. However, that uni is only in season for a short time. The waters there are very cold. The price was crazy high. I forget but I'm thinking $2000 a kilo. I speak to my friend often. Although she is now in Nagoya, she goes to Iki often. I can get more details to clarify, perhaps the "special" aka uni has a different name. The uni is small pieces like Hokkaido, not like Santa Barbara. I will find out more.
                                                            I had some good white uni in Barbados and St. Marten, but just from uni gatherers who sell it. No restaurant serves it in either of those places.
                                                            In Sicily, I've had baby or tiny uni, quite interesting.
                                                            Maine uni is hit and miss,Santa Barbara is nice and creamy, but there are different grades there, I forget, but I think the best is golden in color.
                                                            I will find out more about the Aka uni from iki.
                                                            Btw on a different topic. On Silverjay's recommendation I had the tonsoku at Hakata ton ton, it is fantastic and better than Rockmeisha's.

                                                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                              Those are warm waters comparatively, not cold. And uni is usually considered a summer delicacy, so that's when the season might be on Iki as well......That is of course a ridiculous price to pay. Even though or perhaps because Japan is a small country geographically, they are really into the hyper-local-premium branding/ pricing of local foodstuffs. Last year I was presented with a card identifying some tuna I was eating as being officially single-line caught Oma hon-maguro. The Himi buri was presented similarly. It makes for a great internet bragging story, but it's starting to feel silly. And things may be getting out of control. There's been a recent scandal in Japan lately about false labeling so-called premium local items.

                                                              Nice to hear Hakata TonTon satisfied your tonsoku lust!....BTW, I read that Andy Ricker really likes the khao kha moo at Ayada in Woodside.

                                                              1. re: Silverjay

                                                                I have hopes of being in Japan in December , for buri season and Torafugu season. Branding is a phenomenon that seems to be in full force here too. Every local farm's name before your pork, asparagus, tomatoes, chicken etc. So I guess Japan takes it to a high level. In Sicily, where I was recently, they too branded different cheeses to be from specific towns, and same with the meats. As far as the fish goes with the local branding, if it tastes really good then I ask where it is from. But to charge more for that local touch is kind of silly
                                                                Wow, water is like 10 degrees cooler in Hokkaido then in waters kind of near iki. http://www.seatemperature.org/asia/ja...
                                                                I'll try the khao kha moo at Ayada. Btw, In reference to the spicy pad thai conversation. 90% of the times I had it in Thailand either was when my Issan gf made it, or when she ordered it for me on the street. I think either they knew she liked it spicy, or she asked for it spicy while they made it. The times I had it alone, either in hotel or in street, I had to add my own heat. But I guess in my mind, I thought "real" Thai was already spicy. But anyway, I was recently with friends from Bangkok, and they agreed with you in that it's not spicy usually. But sometimes its slightly spicy before you add. But I did have it real spicy so many times, at least I figured out what actually happened.

                                                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                  There's a conventional wisdom to everything and that's what I'm usually trying to learn and share. I have no dog in the fight other than what that cultural culinary conventional wisdom may be...I'll be in Japan in late December. Have a pretty busy docket, but feel free to ping me if you plan to be there at that time.

                                                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                                                    Cool. Thanks

                                                              2. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                I just read up some more on uni from Iki Island. On the eastern part of the island, there is a group of women that dive for them. They wear leotards, not wetsuits. They say that wearing leotards gets cold and therefore they cannot stay under a long time and potentially overfish the sites. It's sort of the rule there. They also fish for awabi. They just called this "leotard fishing" in Japanese. Kinda interesting.

                                                                1. re: Silverjay

                                                                  That is very interesting. Actually inviting. I will have to check that out in the summer. ( I assume it is only in the summer)

                                                              3. re: Silverjay

                                                                You didn't search carefully enough.

                                                                Aka uni (赤海胆) is indeed considered a special delicacy and fetches very high prices at auction. It's served in many of Tokyo's high-end sushi bars when its at its best (last I had it was in September at Sho in Yotsuya) and while it's often not quite as unctuous as what you might get from near Rishiri, the flavor is very good.

                                                                I agree about the chef at Kura, it's a fun place and best used for a less expensive moderate omakase rather than a full blown sushi feast. Not somewhere I'd go if I were particularly offended by pieces not being well packed or a bit of sinew in the tuna. There's no way he was serving aka uni from kyushu, unless he plans to bankrupt the place :)

                                                                1. re: Gargle

                                                                  You misunderstand. We are talking specifically about aka uni from Iki Island. Thats what I was looking up...And comparatively, murasaki and bafun uni- specifically Ezo bafun uni- are both more expensive and more highly regarded than aka uni. This is common knowledge in Japanese dining culture.

                                                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                                                    I'll bow to your superior knowledge.

                                                                    1. re: Gargle

                                                                      It's not knowledge. It's science.

                                                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                                                        I'm not even sure what that means.

                                                                        1. re: Gargle

                                                                          Poor attempt inserting Ron Burgundy-esque joke. Disregard.