Thanks to a recommendation from Don, we headed to Sushi Yasuda for lunch one day. Reviews online seem to indicate that it’s quite difficult to get a reservation there but I managed to book a place for two at the counter for lunch on a Thursday only a week beforehand. I chose for us to sit at the sushi counter – and I highly recommend the same for you if you visit! We were the second group there for lunch and were seated in front of the first sushi chef of a row of them.
We chose to go with the sushi pre fixe menu ($22.50), which came with a soup or salad to start. This would give us five pieces of nigiri sushi and two maki sushi rolls all from a particular list. Each menu item had its own list. There is also the option to order by the piece or even to have an omakase meal, but we wished to walk out of there with our wallets intact. When we had made our selections (ticking off boxes on a little piece of paper), our counter space was set as such:
That leaf is a Hawaiian ti leaf and is where our sushi would be placed by the chef in front of us.
My lunch came with either a soup or salad and I chose the latter. What arrived was this small bowl of greens, beans and tomatoes with crispy, dried baby jako sardine. If you’re familiar with Malaysian food, you’ll know what I mean when I say they’re like smaller fried ikan bilis!
My five pieces of nigiri were the following: Spanish mackerel, freshwater eel, striped bass, egg custard, egg. I was very curious about the egg versus egg custard and the chef brought both out for me to see, explaining that while the egg custard is common in Japan, it’s less common outside it, and that Japanese people above a certain age tend to be very very picky about their egg sushi and then he suggested that I try both. So I ticked them both off on my sheet.
I was trying not to take photos and instead just sit back and enjoy but I couldn’t help it when such beautiful pieces were placed before me! This was my egg nigiri (huge and so the chef sliced it into two for me) and the freshwater eel. No other photos of the nigiri but a little soy sauce is already painted onto each perfectly sized piece and so it’s all ready to pop into your mouth.
This was the best sushi I’ve ever had (ok, so I haven’t travelled to Japan yet). Honestly, the rice was the best part, still warm and so well seasoned. The fish was extremely fresh and the eel soft and flavourful. And the two eggs? The egg custard had been cooked with fish stock and other various ingredients and was smooth and almost creamy and utterly delicious and the egg was, apart from being a massive slab, slightly sweet omelette and was delightful upon the rice.
For my maki rolls, I chose tuna and salmon skin. When these were being made, the chef’s knife slicing them into pieces made wonderful crunching sounds thanks to the amazingly crisp nori.
The nori did turn out to be incredibly crisp and a wonderful contrast to the rice inside. The tuna was a white tuna and again was soft and fresh and the salmon skin was freshly fried and also quite crisp and salty. Delicious with a little dab of their homemade soy sauce.
While we were eating our sushi, our chef would chat with us and give us information about the sushi we were eating as well as about other pieces that were being made for the people around us. This was in stark contrast to the other sushi chefs who seemed to be the strong silent types made sushi for their customers at the counter but also for those seated at the tables. After his talking about it, we were seduced by a large box of sea urchin roe that was brought out for uni nigiri for a woman next to us. And so, to end our lunch, we each chose a piece of uni nigiri ($5) from the a la carte menu. It was topped with large flakes of sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Again, fresh and salty and its texture was silky and sigh… it was a good ending.
Oh, and our sushi chef? He turned out to be Chef Yasuda himself.
204 E. 43rd Street
New York, NY