The Omakase at Sushi Yasuda – Japanese – Midtown East
December 14th, 2011 by donuts4dinner

Earlier this year, I wrote about my only visit to Sushi Yasuda, widely regarded as one of the best sushi restaurants in NYC. I was still in my twenty-four-year phase of not liking fish then and had really gone out on a limb there by ordering a tuna roll.

Since then, my boyfriend has mentioned going back approximately four hundred times. Usually I’d have no problem accompanying him and ordering the very safest items on the menu, but the problem was that he wanted to try the chef’s omakase, where you have no say in what you’re served. Which, from the reviews I’d read, involved everything from scallop roe to giant clam to eel. My boyfriend promised he’d eat anything I couldn’t, though, knowing I’d try my best not to be squeamish, and we made a reservation to sit at the counter in front of the chef preparing our sushi. You know, so I’d be really embarrassed if I couldn’t eat something he gave to me.

Sushi Yasuda NYC

The chef would place one or two pieces of nigiri sushi for each of us on a wooden tray with a small pile of ginger to act as a palate cleanser. No soy sauce nor wasabi was offered, as the restaurant is known for adding exactly the right amount to its rice as each piece is formed. We used our fingers to pick them up, which was pretty exciting to a couple of Westerners who have been specifically taught not to eat with our hands, and aside from one minor (okay, humongous) slip up on my part, it was an easy, not-at-all scary first omakase experience.

Sushi Yasuda NYC
cucumber and seaweed salad

Smoky, fresh, and vinegary.

Sushi Yasuda NYC

Sushi Yasuda NYC
blue fin

Sushi Yasuda NYC

Sushi Yasuda NYC
shimaji: fleshy and firm

Sushi Yasuda NYC
triple tail: chewy

Sushi Yasuda NYC

Sushi Yasuda NYC
Spanish mackerel

Sushi Yasuda NYC
giant clam: coarse, crispy, salty, citrusy

I was going to say that I’d love to know how an uncooked sea creature become crispy, but I probably don’t actually want to know. It was definitely a shock and a bit of a delight to bite into something that looked soft and pliable and to find that it had a crunch.

Sushi Yasuda NYC
botan shrimp

Sushi Yasuda NYC
peace passage oyster: incredibly creamy

This is where the major slip-up occurred, but I’ll have to write about it in a separate post to save your appetite.

Sushi Yasuda NYC
orange clam

Sushi Yasuda NYC
salmon roe, coarse salt

Sushi Yasuda NYC
king salmon

Sushi Yasuda NYC
white king salmon

Sushi Yasuda NYC
sockeye salmon

Sushi Yasuda NYC
coho salmon

Sushi Yasuda NYC
sea eel

Ironically, the eel had been one of the items I was most hesitant about before dining at Yasuda, and it’s the thing I walked away craving the most. Partly because it felt like a novelty next to all of the uncooked fish and partly because it’s just a really meaty, sweet bite. The charred flavor contrasted the sugary sauce so nicely in a contest between richness and brightness.

Sushi Yasuda NYC
freshwater eel

Sushi Yasuda NYC
toro scallion roll

Sushi Yasuda NYC

Sushi Yasuda NYC
sea urchin hand roll

Sushi Yasuda NYC
sea eel

We weren’t quite satisfied yet and requested another round of eel; our chef informed us he had five different kinds!

Sushi Yasuda NYC
freshwater eel

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

Compared to other restaurants as a whole, Yasuda could never be 5-donut material for me. Inherently, the dishes are less interesting than those at a new American or French restaurant, and the flavors are so mild that it was hard for me to talk about them much beyond their differing textures. I really loved the simplicity of the meal but desperately needed that eel to break up the monotony of raw fish after raw fish. Because each dish was so similar, the meal just flew by, and it’s hard for me to believe I had 20-odd pieces of sushi.

But in terms of sushi-eating, Sushi Yasuda was an unmatched experience for me: the freshest fish, prepared perfectly, and eaten the moment it left the “kitchen”. The decor was simple and elegant and the service quietly excellent, with our tea being replaced at regular intervals to ensure it was always warm. I loved having access to the chef, and even with all of my fish-related wimpiness, I enjoyed everything he chose for us. I think the omakase was a novelty for me, but with Yasuda’s extensive menu and non-inhibitive cost, I can imagine many more nights there in our future.

Sushi Yasuda
204 East 43rd Street
New York, NY 10017 (map)

7 Responses  
  • The Pretender writes:
    December 14th, 20115:31 pmat

    You probably also don’t want to know that the object of your query, about how an uncooked sea creature becomes crispy, looks like a giant uncircumcised penis in real life.

    Eel is a Yasuda specialty. He (when he was still there) used to tell me about going to Chinatown to get fresh, still-swimming eels.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      December 14th, 20115:36 pmat

      Oh, I’m glad you’re here. I was actually confused while writing this about whether I was eating geoduck or actual giant clam after reading this.

      If it was geoduck, I’m going to LOSE MY SHIT out of excitement. And then vomit for weeks until I’m sure it’s out of me.

  • Rodzilla writes:
    December 15th, 20114:42 pmat

    Glad to see you went out of your comfort zone and went ahead with the omakase. Also great description for those who aren’t familiar with the set up.

    I always see yasuda touted as the best in NYC and definitely a place I hope to visit. Peace-passage oyster would be a new one for me.

  • Jessica R. writes:
    December 15th, 20115:20 pmat

    I would be all over this. It sounds amazing.

    And this: “No soy sauce nor wasabi was offered, as the restaurant is known for adding exactly the right amount to its rice as each piece is formed. We used our fingers to pick them up”

    is exactly how it was when I had sushi in Japan!

  • Cheeryvisage writes:
    December 15th, 20118:29 pmat

    Your photos are beautiful, the sushi pieces look beautiful.

    How much was your meal, by the way? I need to make my way to Yasuda eventually now that I’ve tried 15 East.

  • Mrs. Bachelor Girl writes:
    January 6th, 20123:24 pmat

    I’ve always picked up sushi with my hands ever since the time I accidentally flipped a piece into my hair with chopsticks. But it turns out I’m authentic!

  • NYC Restaurant Reviews –» Blog Archive » The Time I Threw Up in a Restaurant and Everyone Saw writes:
    January 24th, 201211:31 amat

    […] mentioned in my review of the chef’s omakase at Yasuda that despite my overall excellent showing in an all-seafood meal, there was one slip-up that night. […]

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