56 3rd Ave
(between 10th st & 11th st)
New York, NY 10003
Kotobuki just opened a few months ago in the East Village, replacing Lan Japanese Restaurant. I had never been to Lan but it was apparently quite pricey and quite tasty. Kotobuki is also quite tasty but is pretty cheap – probably a better combination for success in the East Village area. Kotobuki is actually a chain that was first established in 1987 and has 3 locations in Long Island. I guess it was smart of the owner to establish a track record of success before venturing into the harsh and unforgiving restaurant world of Manhattan.
I ordered the Sushi Deluxe ($23), which was supposed to include 10 pieces of nigiri and a California Roll (they actually gave me 11 pieces of nigiri – woo!). Having recently gone to Sushi Yasuda, I tried to keep my expectations low, especially after seeing that the decor of the place kind of reminded me of a Chipotle… but I was definitely very, very happily surprised. The fish was suuuuuuuuuuuuper fresh and smooth. Not a single piece had any stringy bits or parts that would not just melt in your mouth. Tuna is usually the most obvious indicator of freshness for me because bad tuna is just really bad. The tuna here was delicious – sweet and slightly creamy.
Salmon was deeeelicious and a good thickness (not too overwhelmingly thick nor paper thin). Eel was unfortunately not great though I appreciated that they didn’t douse the whole thing in eel sauce. It was a nice large piece of cooked eel that was just way too overcooked. Nothing like the eel at Yasuda… nonetheless, I was impressed. Rice was just okay but definitely not bad. This is definitely multiple steps up from those “half-priced” or “all-you-can-eat” sushi joints in the city, and it’s only slightly more expensive, if at all.
The meals also came with Salmon Carpaccio, which looked hard and overcooked. However, after biting into it you realize that it is merely seared on the outside with lots of cajun-style seasonings. The center was deliciously fresh and raw. The meal had also come with miso soup and salad but I didn’t bother photographing.
At the end of the meal, they brought us large mugs of green tea. The tea was very strong and deliciously matcha-tasting. My stomach welcomed the warm tea after a meal of mostly cold fish. It was a great way to end the meal. The waitress also happily split the check between 12 people with zero signs of disdain or annoyance. I was impressed. Next time I come, which will be soon, I will order their crazy specialty rolls along with the sashimi dishes. My friends who had the specialty rolls said they were very high quality and comparable to Hatsune in Beijing!