Best sushi restaurants
The city's temples to Japanese cuisine.
Wed Jun 3 2009
The only menu you'll find here is for drinks. The fish prepared at this tiny outpost of a popular L.A. sushi spot is governed entirely by chef Kenji Takahashi's whim. There's nothing to fear (except maybe the wasabi—they use the much spicier real stuff): Sasabune's omakase is culled from Takahashi's daily New Fulton Fish Market finds. He and his team dole out raw numbers, from favorites like salmon and yellowtail to more exotic sea creatures, including bonito in a spicy-sweet homemade soy sauce and a black cod in an eel sauce you'll want mop up with your fingers. 401 E 73rd St at First Ave (212-249-8583). Average omakase: $65.
Blue Ribbon Sushi
The most erratic eatery in the Blue Ribbon stable interprets the restaurant group's greatest hits through a Japanese prism. The epic menu has its strong points. Sushi czar Toshi Ueki offers a half-dozen sunomono (like a Japanese ceviche), including such delicacies as blue crab, jellyfish and octopus; fans of Soho's Blue Ribbon sushi will also approve of the premium raw fish. Other dishes, like the fried chicken and the "Chocolate Bruno" (a green tea-enhanced mousse cake), redeem the iffy ones (just say no to the electric-pink shumai). 6 Columbus Hotel, 6 Columbus Circle at 58th St (212-397-0404). Average main course: $27.
This stealthy sushi shrine—tucked away in the basement of Greenwich Grill—attracts solo diners who happily hobnob with the talkative chefs while popping exceptional nigiri morsels into their mouths. You can order la carte, but the $58 prix fixe is a generous bargain: First-rate sashimi and grilled salmon starters are followed by half a roll and seven plump pieces (among them luscious chutoro and sweet, silky raw shrimp). For dessert: Try the classic Mont Blanc chestnut parfait. Unorthodox in this setting, but delicious. 428 Greenwich St between Laight and Vestry Sts (212-274-0428). Prix fixe: $58.
Toqueville co-owner Marco Moreira has returned to his aquatic roots—he was trained as a sushi chef—in the restaurant's former space. Architect Richard Bloch (Masa) has muted the colors and created a distinct sushi bar and dining room, turning what felt like a country inn into a solemn temple of Japanese cuisine. Sushi is very expensive (ten pieces of nigiri for $55; la carte still more punitive), but consistently luscious: The scallop is as smooth as chocolate mousse, and almost as sweet. For tuna aficionados, a $75 sampler with six different cuts includes an otoro on par with the city's best. Choose the raw offerings over the cooked (they still haven't found their sea legs). 15 E 15th St between Fifth Ave and Union Sq West (212-647-0015). Ten-piece sushi dinner: $55.
The city's most ambitious Japanese speakeasy is marked only by an open sign, but in-the-know eaters still find their way inside. The food, presented on beautiful handmade plates, is gorgeous: Maitake mushrooms are fried in the lightest tempura batter and delivered on a polished stone bed. Sushi (we tried the salmon) is pressed with a hot iron onto sticky vinegared rice. The fish is topped like a still life with its own microgreen forest. The few desserts—including an extra silky crme caramel—are just as ethereal as the savory food. Hurry in soon; word's getting out. 94 E 7th St between First Ave and Ave A (212-982-4140). Subway: 6 to Astor Pl. Average main course: $20.
The East Village's first real destination sushi bar remains one of the top spots in the neighborhood for pristine raw fish—and, with tables lined up under a blonde wood cocoon, among the coziest. Over the years portions have grown, but the food remains as gorgeous as ever. A trio of tartares comes topped with three different caviars, a flaky wild salmon filet steamed in paper in sea urchin sauce is unveiled at the table. The budget-minded will gravitate towards the oversized maki filled with intriguing combinations like seared red snapper, cucumber and shiso. The best deal on a sushi splurge is still the chef's choice omakase, an ultra generous platter of whatever's freshest that day. 239 E 5th St between Second and Third Aves (212-979-1012). Omakase: $50, $85.
This serene sushi sanctuary changed it's name from Koi to avoid confusion with the restaurant by the same name inside the Bryant Park Hotel. Kanoyama continues the tradition of meltingly fresh sushi and sashimi served at decent prices. A word of wisdom: order anything with toro on the menu: and the bluefin toro, sashimi melted away like butter on the tongue, and a delicately seared toro appetizer arrives with a sharply delicious ponzu sauce. Cooked entres included a flaky and tender miso cod in a sweet-soy glaze. Ice cream, served in heaping scoops, is the only dessert; the candied-ginger flavor is so good, you wouldn't dream of complaining that the portion is too large. 175 Second Ave at 11th St (212-777-5266). Average sushi meal (1 roll, 4 pieces sashimi): $20.
Seeing the sushi master practice in this bamboo-embellished space is the culinary equivalent of observing Buddhist monks at prayer. Counter seating, where you can witness—and chat up—the chefs, is the only way to go. Prime your palate with a miso soup and segue into the raw stuff: petals of buttery fluke; rich eel; dessert-sweet egg custard; nearly translucent discs of sliced scallop over neat cubes of milky sushi rice. Still craving a California roll? Move along. 204 E 43rd St between Second and Third Aves (212-972-1001). Average sushi meal (eight pieces, half roll): $23.
Sushi Zen's menu goes well beyond the conventional, including whole abalone and seasonal catches such as tilefish, saury, halfbeak and bonito. Except for a few misses (the summer roll was more like a salad, the bits of tuna and crab outnumbered by vegetables), the sushi is tender and smooth. Sit at the bar and put yourself in the sushi chefs' well-trained hands; they'll create a meal for you with picks of the day. 108 W 44th St between Sixth Ave and Broadway (212-302-0707). Average sushi meal (7 pieces, 1 roll): $19.
It's no surprise that Japan-philes flock to this austere sliver of a restaurant: Those new to the cuisine might not know what to make of the tiny cube of green-tea tofu that's served as an amuse-bouche, or might blanch at the shrimp heads in the miso soup. Entres feature classic maki (no Elvis roll here), sushi and sashimi, and little else. Put yourself in the hands of chef-owner Hideo Kuribara and you'll be richly rewarded. A special might include sushi pieces topped with burstingly fresh salmon roe, the choicest slice of fatty tuna or a generous mound of shredded, fresh crab. Kuribara's attention to quality and detail is ferocious: The wasabi is real (a rare luxury), and the intensely flavored, almost bitter, green-tea ice cream is house-made. 136 W Houston St between MacDougal and Sullivan Sts (212-228-4181). Average main course: $15.