Happy Sushi!

Holiday travel sucks, but it’s always nice knowing there will be a new Sushi Yasuda origami waiting for me when I get home. They send them out every year to people who are on their mailing list. (It’s free.) Usually, it’s some kind of fish (eel, blowfish, etc) but this year they sent out a Fishing Boat. It kind of looks like a doobie in this picture but, don’t worry mom, it’s not. It’s a boat.

Sushi Yasuda is probably the best sushi place in NYC that won’t cost you a month’s rent. It will still cost you your cable bill, but it is worth it.

Still, it’s a splurge. But once you have had the good stuff, neighborhood sushi just doesn’t cut it. The rice is cold and hard. The fish isn’t cut with much skill. And the pieces are too big to eat in one bite. (A serious no no.) Finding affordable sushi that is worth eating in NYC is difficult. But I’ve found somewhere that fits the bill.

Nori opened about a three weeks ago on 2nd Avenue, just below St. Marks. It’s a little place with nine seats at the sushi bar and about seven or eight tables. They don’t have the variety of fish you’ll find at Yasuda or 15 East but everything they have is very good. And if you sit at the bar and show the sushi-ya that you’re a serious sushi eater, and let him choose your meal, he will show you how serious he is.

On a recent meal I got fluke that had been marinated between sheets of kombu, giant clam,
kanpachi, hamachi belly, King salmon, real Japanese wagyu beef sushi, briefly blowtorched, very good
o-toro, uni, house-made sea eel, ikura, and half a roll filled with toro and japanese pickles. And the finale was something I’ve never had before: king crab topped with uni, and then blowtorched. Awesome. And the rice is not an afterthought — warm and soft, you need to dip your fish flesh-side down in the soy sauce (the way you’re supposed to) or risk it falling apart on you. As it should be.

Nori doesn’t have a liquor license yet, so it’s BYOB and they’re currently enticing customers with an trio of amuse bouche  (last night we got eggplant in miso, asparagus with sesame sauce, and a salmon and roasted tomato thing) and desert (chocolate cake and green tea ice cream), both of which were gratis. The bill for all that? $60 not counting tip — pretty amazing if you consider we got toro (twice), wagyu beef, uni (twice) and more. They also have your typical $20 sushi assortments that I have to imagine are good too, but I recommend sitting at the bar and getting the good stuff, served one piece at a time.

Nori | 129 Second Ave.|212-677-4825


In other sushi news, Ushiwakamaru just reopened after a nearly six-month renovation. It the closest thing NYC has to the great neighborhood sushi joints you find in LA and San Diego (though more expensive), filled with Japanese speakers and in-the-know round-eyes. The sushi chef and owner, Hideo, is well-loved and gets all sorts of fish you normally don’t see outside of Japan. It’s not as affordable as it once was, but it’s still cheaper than the Midtown shrines. Reports on Egullet say the funky vibe and green walls have been somewhat replaced by lots of pretty blonde wood but as long as Hideo-san is still in charge it will be worth checking out soon.   

Fugu Me!

Happysushi_2006_webWhat was supposed to be a relaxing week visiting my folks in West Virginia turned into one of the most annoying air travel experiences of my life (down and back!) but when I finally got back to my apartment last night, I was happy to find a package from Sushi Yasuda waiting for me. It was this year’s sushi origami kit, sent as a holiday gift to everyone on their mailing list. (A $10 value, yours free! Sign up here.)

This year… delicious but potentially deadly blowfish! (As if the poisonous element wasn’t enough, it also twitches. Unsettling even for the adventurous palate.) This origami is much better than last year’s eel, if you ask me.

Fugu season runs from October to March, so we are in the prime of it right now. However, it’s hard to come by in New York — you have to be licensed to serve it — and Yasuda doesn’t have it on the menu as far as I know. Morimoto and kaiseki oasis Sugiyama have been known to do fugu, or you could try Masa if you don’t have to pay rent this month. From what I’m told, it’s not the fish’s flavor that is the draw as much as tingly, numbing sensation you get when you eat it. I think that’s called "mild poisoning." I’m game. As Homer Simpson once said, Fugu me!

Happy Sushi!

HappysushiAbout five years ago, I became obsessed with sushi. At the time, my rent was a lot less and my income was a little higher, allowing me to try out most of NYC’s major players — the best of which is arguably Sushi Yasuda. (I am also a huge Jewel Bako fan, though recent expansions has made it not quite the magical experience it once was.) But the best ain’t cheap. Sitting at the sushi bar in front of Yasuda, you can blow $150 dollars in about 45 minutes, easy. (You can also spend a lot less, but it’s not as fun… and not quite as delicious.) But it’s insanely good. Especially his eel. You haven’t had eel to you’ve had eel at Sushi Yasuda. You also learn going to a place like that, that the rice is every bit as important as the fish. And then you get spoiled because you realize that everything else is crap.

But I digress. During the height of my obsession, I did a lot of research: etiquette, tradition, what to look for in a sushi restaurant, etc. Sushi Yasuda’s website is actually very informative, and their page on Traditions is a must-read before going there (or to any high-end sushi place).

Happysushi_envelopeYou can also sign up for Sushi Yasuda’s mailing list which I highly recommend you do. Every year around the holidays they send me Sushi Origami. In past years, I’ve gotten scallop, shrimp and crab. This year they sent me Origami Eel. It’s about time. They actually sell these for $10 a pop, but why not get them free? If you want to make the Origami Eel yourself, I’ve got a hi-res version of the instructions on my Flickr page.