For those of you just joining us, the Pants eat a lot of sushi. People who eat a lot of sushi like to talk a lot about sushi, so we wanted to give you a breakdown of our thoughts on some of our favorite spots as well as some of the most talked about places in town. There are many more places that are part of the sushi discussion, both upscale (Nakazawaya, O-ya, Soto) and otherwise (Kura, Seki) and we are always happy to provide recommendations and shoot the fish…
We recently tried both of these new, downtown, omakase only sushi bars, and were impressed with both. In all honestly we prefer Sushi Zo, but you will pay dearly for the experience. Our omakase was $200 each ( and the sakes are ridiculsouly expensive), but every bite of fish was superb. The chef is very knowledgable and we were most impressed with his warm monkfish liver piece, the heat softening and intensifying the flavors in this item that usually does not excite us. When reserving Sushi Zo via their online reservation system, make sure you are reserving the NYC location, it is easy to get confused. Kosaka also offers melt in your mouth sushi, and friendly service, but the pacing can get worn down on busy nights.
The Gold standard: Sushi Yasuda
For the purest, simplest example of the power of high-quality sushi, Sushi Yasuda is the answer. Yes, it is expensive, but for what you are receiving, it is worth every penny. Sushi Yasuda is bigger than some of the places on this list but also masters the clean, Japanese minimalist look with blonde wood and bright lights. We love Chef Mitsu, who is now in the back area, so you can lob in a request for him, but honestly any chef will blow your mind. It is worth saving your sheckles to experience the benchmark for what proper sushi is supposed to taste like; lunch offers some less expensive specials.
The splurge: Shuko
Shuko offers omakase with a side of hip hop music playing, but it is still a special occasion spot. The full omakase of sushi and cooked food is a lot of food, but Shuko now offers some of their seasonal hot specials as an a la care addition to either menu you choose. Shuko is still very hard to reserve, but is a fun, elevated experience for both you and your mouth- hole. Not to be missed: The Drop the Mic piece, featuring toro, uni, caviar and gold leaf.
Weekday sushi: Kanoyama
Kanoyama is perfect for solid nigiri, rolls and plates without any pretense. They now take reservations during the week, and they deliver (via Seamless as well as their own website). The chef’s special combination is filling and reliable, and the sashimi also holds up well for delivery. Kanoyama costs more than the joint you order from and never want to see in person, but you are getting higher quality food and a great looking dine-in option. Sushi that is too cheap makes me nervous, just saying.
Sushi with your girls: Momoya
Momoya in Chelsea is still our go-to place for raw fish and raw dish. The no reservations policy is a bit of a pain, and the absent service does it no favors, but the menu and vibe can’t be beat. The large garage doors give Momoya a lot of light, and although the space is nothing special, there is a very Sex and The City-era NYC vibe about the place, probably why we subconsciously pick this place for dinner with the girls. The raw fish is good to excellent, and also not to be missed are the fantastic dumplings. The spicy tuna with crispy rice is a perfect starter, meant to for sharing, and if that makes us basic bitches then so be it; we will pair with rose.
The divisive favorite: Sushi of Gari
We love Sushi of Gari, and we are not afraid to say it. We recognize that it may be “white person sushi,” but we don’t understand how one can dismiss the sheer tastiness of their signature pieces. Once you eat the food, worries about authenticity fall to the wayside and your mouth just does a happy little dance. Each constructed piece is topped with sauces, vegetables, etc, that enhance the flavor of the fish and make each piece more special than you realized it could be. The fish is always fresh, which is particularly obvious when ordering sashimi as well as sushi in the omakase. Gari serves rolls, etc, if you sit at one of the tables, but the omakase is truly something different. To be noted, the locations vary in decor and some times attitude, with the Upper West Side outpost being the least accommodating.
The non-sushi: Nobu
Nobu is like an old friend to us; we grew up going to the OG NYC location in Tribeca, and were eating yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño before we even realized it was raw fish. Nobu should be credited for a lot of the dishes that have become commonplace at some sushi restaurants, and they execute these dishes perfectly (almost all of the time.) Some of our crave- worthy favorites include: new style salmon sashimi, which is a raw/cooked hybrid of melty fat unlike anything else you will eat; Salmon/tuna/scallop miso chips; rock shrimp tempura or crab tempura with ponzu sauce; and the black cod with miso sauce wrapped in lettuce, the old-school way.
The place that disappointed us the most: Sasabune
GRRRRR…The photo should say enough about why we were so disappointed in Sasabune. At these prices, and with this reputation, there is no excuse for the poor product that we received. We were served a tuna appetizer that was obviously straight from the refrigerator, with a cold plate and enough sauce on the fish to cover any real flavors or texture. From there things were not much better, with the overabundance of rice proving to be an obstacle to eating the nigiri, and a blue crab hand roll that was down right unappealing. It is possible that we had caught them on an off day, but the decor is tired and borderline not as clean as we would like, so with all things considered we don’t see ourselves returning any time soon.
1 or 8 gets a lot of press for their omakase; we were honestly underwhelmed but are willing to try it again. To us it seemed more like a neighborhood place than a destination. Katseui is ostensibly a neighborhood place, but serves a fantastic omakase at a neighborhood price and is worth traveling for.
The lunch deal: Hatsuhana
Hatsuhana is a bit of a mob scene at lunch, and for good reason; this midtown stand-by is a the go-to spot for business men and midtown shoppers craving straight-forward sushi and rolls. The lunch special, 10 pieces of nigiri and a roll can not be beat. Our favorite item is the Box of Dreams, nine mini boxes of rice topped with fresh fish, filling, fresh and fantastic.
Sushi and a show: NY Sushi Ko
NY Sushi Ko has reinvented itself with a more affordable lunch special omakase, but you still get some serious blow torch action. We love Chef John Daley, he of the tattoos and rap music, and his fish is always ” more fresher than a virgin in a refrigerator.” * Song was playing last time we were in. The space is small, and Chef has a large personality, but the sushi is just the right size. I don’t know why this spot is not busier, but it should be.
Our secret: Sushi You
As you descend the stairs in midtown east, you are welcomed into a small oasis of food and fun. A one man show, Chef engages with everyone at the sushi bar as two tv’s play 80’s wrestling or Japanese music videos. The sushi is fresh and Chef is a trip, wagging his finger to tell you yes or no for adding soy sauce. This is a hidden gem for sushi without the pretense, but can be quite slow when Chef is busy ( or drinking beer.)