Bad sushi is sort of like pornography: You know it when you see it, no rubric or definition necessary. The consumption of raw fish is an unwritten social contract between diner and restaurant, an act of trust and goodwill. To break it is to tear at the fabric of dining out, and to break it at a restaurant of Jellyfish’s intended caliber is hard to swallow.
Yet once you’ve gotten the piece of fish from plate to chopsticks to mouth, you have no choice but to do just that, even if it’s chewy, off-putting shrimp or a blunt cut of watery-tasting tuna. Even if it’s a pretty but sorrowful eel-omelette-tuna roll that lacks the textural contrasts—crunchy, smooth—that make maki so delightful. The balance of power shifts slightly to the diner when it comes to non-sushi dishes, but the restaurant has even less of a grip on these: The Signature Sour cocktail lacks necessary body, instead tasting like soupy egg whites; a tuna appetizer is dominated by punishing jalapeño heat; for dessert, there’s a dense, disastrous flan.
True, there is something eminently rad about Jellyfish as a space—its wild decor and posh address and designer uniforms. But gazing at my dining companion in its eerie, unflattering blue light, shivering from the restaurant’s icy temperature, it dawned on me that apparently no one had spent much time considering what it would be like to actually eat in it.