- scene: Large, light wood counter and brick walls that allow a view of some of the chef action; elegant, clean space but not stuffy or over the top; there is a small private room downstairs
- sip: Sake, wine, beer, prices are not terrible
- savor: Omakase or Kaiseki, decisions, decisions
- sit: With your friend who is an adventurous eater; someone in from out of town that you want to impress
- spend: $$$$
- address: 47 East 12th Street
- phone number: (212) 228-6088
- website: www.shukonyc.com
Sushi in NYC has an element of six degrees of separation, with all of the top chefs at some point working for or with each other. Jimmy Lau and Nick Kim both trained under Masayoshi Takayama at Masa (still the standard bearer for expensive sushi situations , if anyone wants to take me), went on to open Neta together, (where we first met them) and have now moved on to open their new shiny joint, Shuko. Just a disclaimer that I don’t really count “pop-ups out East” as far indicators of success in NYC, but that is my own prejudice and I heard that Shuko’s Hamptons incarnation this past summer was amazing. Anyway, Shuko only offers two options – a sushi only omakase for $135 and a kaiseki option for $175. This really gave us pause- we kind of only really wanted the sushi, but did not want to miss out on the toro/caviar dish we read so much about. We were also not sure if we could properly appreciate the sushi part of the kaiseki after downing a plate of short ribs, so we asked our waiter what our options were. He said we could pay to add the toro/caviar to the sushi omakase, but that would equal the amount of the kaiseki; we weren’t into trying to save money, we were trying to save stomach real estate. Our waiter told us he was going to see what substitutions the chef could make- either something lighter than short ribs, or perhaps a smaller portion, and report back to us. Next thing we know we are getting the first course of the kaiseki, the decision made for us, without any further insight into how our short rib dilemma resolved itself. I don’t want to dwell on this service hiccup, but we found it a little weird that the waiter never gave us our options, and also that he decided lamb belly was a lighter substation for short ribs, but whatever.
Shuko offers a high-quality experience for the price ; we were at our seats for about two hours, and we were sufficiently stuffed. The atmosphere is fairly typical of sushi restaurants, although very well done, and the music is hip hop, which keeps it from being a precious, quiet den of sushi. Although we rack up big tabs for sushi more than we would like to admit, the whole Shuko experience is definitely a special occasion, not a place you can pop into every few weeks. However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am already thinking of my next visit…
On to the food…
Mochi pistachio bite- very dense, chewy mochi texture that took a lot of work to get through, but the flavor was a nice way to ease into the meal.
Crab salad- This was a beautiful dish to look at, with chrysanthemum sprinkled on top, and just as beautiful on the palate with light, bright flavors.
Tasmanina trout with trout roe and yuzu- glorious, soft, fresh, with a punchy yuzu that I drank down.
Toro caviar- As if this combination needed any improvement, the flavors became electric when spread on the homemade milk bread. A salty, sea of decadence spread on dense chewy amazingness; aka, we likey.
Lobster- This was a step toward the richer dishes, with bacon and mushrooms giving earthy weight; oh, and there are thinly shaved truffles on top
Veggie fritter- enjoyable- a pretty crosshatch of different colored root vegetables tempura fried.
Lamb belly- Yes, we were served three large chunks of gamey, rich lamb belly as a substitute for the short ribs that we worried would be too filling. This dish was delicious, but at this level of intensity we would would have preferred to try the short ribs, even if we didn’t finish them. Anyway, weird choice, but tasty.
Broth- rich yet delicate mushroom broth as a palate cleanser to transition into the sushi segment.
Sushi- Started off with a toro bang and the hits kept coming. I was ridiculously full, and could have skipped some of the vegetable pieces, but the sushi was truly perfect. The tuna sinew piece is something we learned to love at Neta, and it is even better and dressed up at Shuko. This is sushi on par with some of the best in the city; not to take away from the rest of the kaiseki, but I just wish I wasn’t quite so stuffed when it was sushi time.
Granita- we passed on this, all my buttons were beyond bursting
Apple pie- warm, crumbly delicious apple pie to finish off the meal and start my roll towards home…