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Jan 21, 2014 08:44 AM

Takesushi Sunnyside: The Best Value for High Quality Seafood at a Cheap Price

As usual, full review with all the photos on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

It's always hard for a neighborhood restaurant to find the right balance between affordability and ambition. While there are many great places to eat in Queens, most of them tend to be cheap ethnic eateries. A recent meal at Takesushi in Sunnyside offered the best of both worlds, with cheap starting prices and food that went beyond "this is great for being in Queens". In fact, I think Takesushi may offer the best value for cheap, high quality seafood in NYC.

Simple and tasty, I find that eggplant also works well to stimulate the appetite.

)I absolutely adore monkfish liver, so I usually order it whenever I see it on a menu. While the portion was very sizeable and the flavors were fine, I found the texture a bit too cold and firm for my taste. It could be because they were sliced pretty thick.

I don't know if it comes across in the photo, but this piece of tuna belly was huge. This was quite something for $10, as I would imagine the same slab of tuna belly served with a couple of sides could easily go for over $30 in Manhattan. The flesh tasted great and was very fatty, keeping it soft and moist even though the piece of fish was cooked through. The fish was perfectly grilled with a simple soy-based sauce, while the skin was very crunchy. The fish seemed very fresh, as the crunchy skin had a fairly restrained fishy flavor. To me that says a lot, as I find that no matter how fresh the fish is, skin from a very fatty, oily fish tends to have a very pronounced fishy flavor when cooked.

Another $10 dish, this whole fish was expertly fried in fresh oil, with a delicate crunch that worked well with the soft flesh. The special dipping sauce served with this had a nice little spicy kick to it which was great.

I don't know how much of a difference it makes, but most of the fugu served in NYC is the farm-raised, non-toxic version. I've never been particularly impressed by it, even when I had it at Masa, the most expensive restaurant in NYC. For $15, the fugu set here consists of a sizeable plate of sashimi and three nice pieces of fugu tempura. The fugu sashimi had a texture similar to that of fluke sashimi, while the tempura was again expertly fried, highlighting the meaty flesh.

Much of chef/proprietor Robin Kawada's expertise lies in the sourcing of the fish, so we decided to go with the sashimi instead of the sushi. In the end, this is a neighborhood restaurant and not a destination sushi-ya like 15 East where I would eat sushi one piece at a time and admire the chef's intricate knife skills and rice.

Takesushi offers two versions of omakase sashimi, with the regular priced at $38 each and one featuring specialty items priced at $59. The premium omakase sashimi that night had Santa Barbara uni (sea urchin), Kumamoto oysters, ika (squid), kanpachi (amberjack), mirugai (geoduck/giant clam), aoyagi (round clam), tai (sea bream), and bluefin chutoro (medium-fatty tuna). Everything was great although the squid was rather plain. The uni was really sweet and creamy, and the clams had great texture.

Even though we didn't have sushi, I highly recommend sitting at the sushi bar. Chef Robin is very friendly, and with over 40 years of experience in seafood wholesaling, he has plenty of great stories. One other special that I saw the chef making but that we didn't order was the Maine lobster special. For $25, there was a whole tail sliced and served raw for sashimi as well as two pieces of sushi featuring one cooked claw each and two pieces of tomalley gunkan maki. I don't think he was making money on this special, especially since lobster prices go up as the weather gets colder. However, he told me that he was just happy people were ordering the lobster special. He said that when he first opened in the neighborhood, people were only ordering maki rolls for the first few weeks. To me, that raising of food culture and appreciation in the area is the hallmark of a truly great neighborhood restaurant.

There are now more and more places in NYC with affordable quality omakase sushi, but it is hard to get full at the base price. At Takesushi, there is both quality and quantity, and the presence of excellent cooked seafood differentiates it from many of those sushi restaurants. While prices will change due to market availability, I think Takesushi will continue to be the best value for quality seafood in New York with a cheap entry price.

43-46 42nd St
Sunnyside, Queens

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  1. I am a huge fan of Takesushi and Robin is such a nice guy. I agree that it is one of the best deals in NYC for quality fish, prepared well at a great price.

    The weekend lunch specials are extraordinary deals. His uni don bowl is a massive amount of uni for $16. It is good uni too.

    One other great thing about the place is that he will sell you fish to go. I once bought a beautiful slab of chutoro from him for a great price.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Yaxpac

      anyone been to TJ Asian Bistro on 51st and Skillman? How would you compare the two?

      1. re: rhydewithdis

        Takesushi has a lot more integrity

        1. re: AubWah

          and a much more interesting approach to food. TJ does everything adequately, nothing terribly well, and nothing you'll remember the next morning. takesushi isn't "amazing" or revelatory, but the flavors are vivid and the preparations (particularly cooked fish) often unique.

    2. I strongly disagree. I don't think it's anything more than a respectable neighborhood option.

      1. Great review, I've had consistently good experiences at Takesushi. They've had some of the best sushi I've eaten in the boroughs and provide an excellent value.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Pookipichu

          Well I didn't actually have any sushi there. It's why I specifically wrote "seafood" in the title. I wanted to point out the excellent cooked fish options (especially great frying) as well as the sashimi.

          How was the sushi rice? It didn't look particularly great from my vantage point.

          1. re: fooder

            Sorry I meant to say write sashimi. I've had the tuna, yellowtail, fluke. The tuna has been standout. Much better than the places I've tried in Brooklyn (Geido, Taro, Jpan, Ten, Kiku(s), etc.) other than the old Blue Ribbon Sushi and better than Linn and Sushi Yasu and Mickey's. The rice is nothing spectacular, it's the quality of the fish that surprised me, especially for the price.

            1. re: Pookipichu

              sashimi is definitely the way to go here. He gets good quality fish, surprising quality at times. They almost always have a very nice chu-toro and they are very generous with portions.

              We ordered 2 sashimi omakase last week and watched as he scooped out half a tray of SB uni for the two plates. It made for quite a nice portion as you could imagine. He had some nice spanish sardines too.

              while the rice is not terrible...this place is more about the fish so i usually go with sashimi over sushi.

        2. I've experienced such comically bad service there

          1 Reply
          1. re: AubWah

            I don't know how comically bad your experience was, but it was certainly difficult flagging down servers even though the place wasn't packed.

          2. After proclaiming Takesushi to be "the best value for quality seafood in New York with a cheap entry price," it was clear a revisit was in order to confirm that it wasn't a fluke. After last night's meal, I definitely stand by my previous claim.

            As usual, full review with all the photos on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

            ANKIMO (MONKFISH LIVER) $7
            The meal began as it did last time with some simple and delicious eggplant and an order of monkfish liver. I thought the texture was better this time around, and the condiments were noticeably spicier which worked well.

            Yellowtail collar was also listed on the menu, but they ran out, so we ordered two of these so that we each got one. Similar to the tuna belly last time, this was a sizeable piece of moist, fatty flesh, cooked through but still juicy and tender. The bottom had a thin layer of complete char, which may have been necessary to achieve the excellent crunch on the top. As long as you take note of it when digging in with chopsticks, it won't have an adverse effect on the rest of the deliciousness.

            I ordered the set both because it was great value and because my friend had never had fugu before. While it was all delicious and done well, I much prefer the meatier tempura and will probably order only that next time instead of the set.

            The set consisted of a lobster soup made with the inside of the head and legs, sashimi of the tail meat, and the claw meat cooked and made into an 8 piece sushi roll topped with scallions and tobiko. The soup was on the mild side, but still had some nice sweet umami. The sashimi, while not the sweetest lobster I've ever had, was cut very well, retaining the meatiness and the crunch of the flesh. The cooked lobster roll was simple but good.

            At this point in the evening, we'd already eaten a good amount of food, so we opted to get one omakase to split between the two of us. The chef was nice enough to give us exactly duplicate plates of the diverse selection. Kumamoto oyster, hotate (scallop), aji (horse mackerel), bluefin toro (fatty tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), mirugai (geoduck giant clam), iwashi (sardine), Santa Barbara uni (sea urchin), and tai (sea bream). Everything was excellent, but the pieces that stood out to me were the scallop (very sweet), aji (fresh and not too strong), iwashi (the sardine wrapped around shiso and cucumber created an interesting and pleasant flavor), and toro (see below). The uni was nice and creamy but not as crazy sweet as some others I've had.

            TORO SUSHI $9 EACH
            The toro was so buttery that we decided to order a piece of sushi each, which used up all their remaining toro (sorry to whoever ate after us). Even though it was a whole slice of fish, it melted in my mouth as if it was chopped up toro.

            If we did not splurge for the extra toro sushi, the total damage for 2 would have come in under $200 including tax and tip, with 2 bowls of rice, and 2 large Kirin beers. I'm not saying that the fish here rivals that at 15 East , but the overall quality was still very good and tremendous value given the sheer variety and amount of food we ate.