I’m an avid Redditor. If you don’t know what that means… Well, I’m a reader and contributor to a social-oriented website called “Reddit” where people rarely hold back their opinions.
My last omakase post took on a life of it’s own thanks to a link to it being posted to Reddit, and in the conversation, a fellow Redditor, LokiSnake, offered the following insight for those in the US who would like to share a similar experience. The following copy is a direct quote from him, and I thank him for his depth of knowledge. I’m also in complete agreement that Sushi Yasuda is still an extremely well run restaurant even after its sale by Yasuda-san. He will be missed, but the restaurant that bears his name is still worthy of it, and the omakase is still great.
There are a few places. First of all, you’re pretty much stuck with NYC and LA. There may be something in DC, but I personally have no knowledge. Bay area, Seattle, and other big (even coastal) cities are surprisingly disappointing in this department. In fact, Daisuke Nakazawa (the chef you mentioned) was in Seattle working at Shiro’s, and the sushi there was disappointing and subpar when compared to options in NYC/LA. Most cities just can’t support really top notch sushi. I am hearing good things about Sushi Nakazawa, so that’s an option. Here are two I’ve experienced:
- Urasawa (Beverley Hills/LA): Amazing, serene, zen-like experience. Half of the meal is various composed dishes (kind of Kaiseki), and second half is sushi. It’s a tiny place, with no signs outside other than Urasawa plainly written on a few small signs outside and very easy to miss the elevator. It’s on the second floor, and very unassuming. The place is pretty much just a sushi bar (10 seats), with a small overflow table on the side for 4. It’s a ~4 hour (and $375 last I checked) experience, and worth every penny. It is probably the best experience you’d get in LA.
- Sushi Yasuda (NYC): Yasuda has left and opened shop in Tokyo, but the NYC joint is still very good. Definitely sit at the bar (call for reservation), and ask for omakase. Yasuda is known for its wide array of fish available. Comes out to about $120 per 20 pieces. Bar seating has a time limit of 1.5 hrs. The hand rolls are straight and not cone-shaped, and absolutely amazing. No more last bite of just rice and nori. Everything (we had 38 pieces each) was phenomenal.
- Masa (NYC, one of the more expensive restaurants, and commonly agreed to be the best in the US).
- 15 East, Sushi Zo, and their peers in NYC/LA (probably around Yasuda level and price).
Sushi is one of the few foods where there’s no such thing as “amazing” mid-range options. There are good value options, but anything but the best makes huge compromises to hit lower prices. It’s pretty much impossible to find really great sushi for less than $100 per person, and I’ve heard this holds true even in Japan. I’m still trying to figure out why myself, but I have some theories.
He later added some additional comments:
- Most of the above places (especially when served directly by the itamae at the bar) don’t provide any soy sauce (or a plate for it). All garnishes/sauces/seasoning is applied by the itamae.
- Everyone does things differently! Some places are known to have more vinegary rice, some serve rice at different temps (some arguably way too warm). This is part of why there’s no consensus on what’s the best sushi place in Japan. All the very top places do something different.
Here’s a video of Peter Frankl at Sushi Nakamura: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKy_aVFgqDQ Skipping around, this video definitely brings back memories of Urasawa. In fact, starting at the 22:30 min mark he makes a “broiled tuna.” I had something very similar at Urasawa (kama toro, from around the collar of the fish, which is extremely well marbled with fat, and therefore flavor, and seared quickly yet to perfection), and it was definitely one of the highlights of the evening. Frankl’s reaction (starting 24:40) precisely matches what mine.
I have always been fascinated by the creation and culture of different foods, particularly sushi and sashimi in the modern era of Japanese cuisine. I am a classically trained chef and sushi connoisseur, also having operated a food service company and enjoy investigating and experimenting with food around the world.