Six years back, I wrote a run-down of NYC sushi that inexplicably made the rounds of New York blogs, food blogs, etc., and for years floated atop Google’s results for ‘new york sushi’ and ‘sushi nyc’.
By now, that post is far out of date, but more than a handful of friends and colleagues still ask where to find excellent sushi.
So, to help them and you out, allow me to share the complete list:
1. Sushi Yasuda
That’s it. Seriously. I admit to a bit of paternal pride, having pronounced Sushi Yasuda as the future king of New York a few weeks after it first opened eight years ago. But, really, by now, everything else is varying degrees of crap.
I’m not sure what accounts for the decline, exactly. Perhaps fewer diners in a poor economy yields less fish turnover, and therefore older fish. Perhaps restaurants are just scrimping on quality to save. Or, perhaps, as my father (whose foundation focuses on island healthcare) contends, the problem is at the supply, rather than demand, end of the chain: small island countries have been hit particularly hard by the economic downtown, leading to fewer people working fishing boats, less frequent flights to ship fish back to the mainland, etc.
Whatever the reason, despite the reputation, despite the price point, by now, most of the city’s high-end sushi just isn’t that good. Sushi Yasuda’s is.
And, of course, there’s the great story behind the place:
Chef Yasuda was a young hot-shot chef in Japan in the ’80′s, inventing a style of eel preparation that spread nationally in the same way as Nobu’s miso black cod has here in the US. (As an aside, there is no such thing as black cod – it’s really just sable. Nobu took a cheap and widely available cut of fish, covered it with an equally cheap glaze, then re-branded it to sound exotic, and has been rolling in the dollars ever since).
Anyway, Yasuda comes to New York, and takes a job at Hatsuhana, the priciest, most venerable sushi stop at that time. Quickly, he rises up to star status.
And then, one day, like many days before, somebody comes in and orders a spicy tuna roll.
This time, however, Yasuda refuses. He can’t take it. Never again, he says, will he serve spicy mayo sauce.
He and the owners fight it out. The Hatsuhana side contends that, while spicy mayo is indeed a completely inauthentic way to destroy excellent fish, we Americans are too stupid, too unsophisticated to appreciate the real deal.
Yasuda, instead, argues that we’ve simply never been given the chance.
Hence Sushi Yasuda. Exceedingly good, exceedingly traditional sushi.
Try it out. Or better yet, don’t. Because, honestly, after you do, you’re going to have a hell of a time appreciating the sushi that’s served these days anywhere else.