Sushi Yasuda (NY) – Lower Top Tier US Sushi

And so i began my week of eating through New York City w/ Sushi Yasuda. When i last ate there, I felt it was a notch below Kuruma & Sawa – his fish couldn’t live up to the excellent rice. I rated it an 8.5/10. I wanted to give it another shot: This year seems to be spectacular for fish quality; can Yasuda measure up? Could i penetrate the philosophical differences between his rice first vs my fish first preference? Would the overall experience raise my score to a 9?

Landed, got dressed, and went solo. I sat at Yasuda’s station and told him “whatever you wants” He didn’t seem to like this – “Sushi?” – “Whatever you want” – “Ummm, ok, sushi.” Not sure what that was about but the only thing he served me was sushi; nothing cooked and no sashimi. He served others sashimi but it appeared to be the ‘leftover’ cuts of fish- kinda odd.

1. Rice is still king
It’s warm w/ a slight vinegar taste – it is perfect rice for sushi – great temperature & great taste. However, there’s still way too much. i wanted to stuff a few pieces in my pocket & later count if each piece contained the magical “264″ number (or whatever it is.) Needless to say, i’m skeptical; but i’d suggest losing 52 grains. There is just too much rice on each piece – it’s hard to taste the fish. This reminded me of Sushi Nozawa in LA who also uses tons of rice.

In fact, i found myself, in a complex maneuver, separating the rice & fish in my mouth and mixing it to my own satisfactory proportions! If only he knew this…

2. He sauced everything for me
I don’t know if he took “you decide” as the words of a newbie or if this is the royal treatment, but he sauced every piece of sushi for me. He didn’t do this for others. Strange.

3. Fish of note
a. Sardine
This was a delicious piece of fish w/ a slightly smoky flavor – wonderful.

b. Gensaba (Mackeral)
This was very delicate w/ a slightly fuller taste than the sardine – excellent.

c. Blanched shrimp w/ sea salt & lemon
This could have been a Manresa dish – the taste defined shrimp and the sea salt made it sing – best of the night.

d. “Fattiest Toro you’ve got”
Sick of the toro I had to that point, I offered my challenge: “give me the fattiest toro you’ve got”. Do i really need to challenge him to get his best? The fish had great potential but philosophical differences got in the way. The toro was light pink and it melted in my mouth. I did the separation routine for each of my 2 pieces; but still, not enough fish to get a complete taste. It was very good but you would taste the juices biting down if it were a thicker piece.

e. Uni w/ Sea Salt & Lemon
A derivative of the shrimp dish; the uni was ok – it was missing that briny essence of the sea – but the salt gave it a tiny little kick that made it good.

4. Complete Menu (all sushi)
The remaining dishes were good but not outstanding. Grading sushi seems to take place on an exponential scale; it quickly goes south when you taste outside of the top tier. All of the below sushi were solid 8′s – better than you’d find anywhere save for Sawa, Kuruma, Masa, and probably Ursawa.

a. Toro (not as fatty)
b. White King Salmon
c. Bonito (7, not that good)
d. Uni
e. Sardine
f. Gensaba (Mackeral)
g. Jack Makeral
h. Some kind of salmon
i. Sockeye Salmon
j. Bluefin Toro (7, not very good)
k. Grilled Freshwater Unagi w/ lemon
l. Grilled Dark Sea Unagi w/ some sort of black sauce
m. Blanched Shrimp w/ sea salt& lemon
n. Toro (an average ‘good’ piece)
o. Spanish Mackeral
p. “Fattiest Toro you’ve got”
q. Uni w/ quail egg
r. Uni w/ sea salt & lemon

5. Overall
I give it an 8.5 b/c some of the bits were stellar. It could be a 9 if I agreed rice was more important than fish, but I think fish is king.

Yasuda is your place if you:
- Want a quick, fairly informal bite to eat
- Value rice
- Want to partake in the ‘vertical tasting’ michelle mentions above
- Care to listen to an obnoxious gordon gecko-wannabe talking about how he wants to be the “shit king of the world” (renewable energy through methane ‘farming’) :)
- Value fish (this is still better than your favorite neighborhood joint.)
Lots more to come all week…

- chuck