LAW and I have recently discovered a whole slew of great authentic Japanese restaurants around 41st to 44th street on 2nd to 3rd Ave (more on the blog to come!). I always knew about Sushi Yasuda, but didn’t realize that its neighbors were all super legit Japanese restaurants as well. Sushi Tsushima is one of them.
LAW and I were craving sushi one night and didn’t want any of the cheap sushi places Murray Hill is saturated with. Literally walk down any block in the area and you’ll basically hear chants and sake glasses falling into beer. Fratty, cheap, sushi places defines Murray Hill. Walk up north a bit and interestingly enough, you’ll find a little Japan. Part of why I love Manhattan is even though it’s pretty tiny, turn a corner and you can be in a completely different world.
We first ordered the Moriwase C set ($31 with soup and salad), which included nigiris (tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and eel) and one roll of your choosing. We picked the Blue Fin Tuna roll, mostly for its value (you get to pick any roll!). The fish was fresh. Rice was great, though I prefer a little more vinegar in my sushi rice. The set certainly whet my appetite and reminded me to never eat $5 rolls again.
We then deviated from the sets and ordered nigiris one by one. Clockwise, we had the Seared Salmon with Lemon and Salt ($4.50 each), Yellowtail with Yuzu Pepper ($4.75 each), Sea Eel with sauce ($6.00 each), Seared Mackerel ($6.00 each), and Uni ($8.00 each). These nigiris are much more expensive than the set, and for good reason… All of them were great, but here are the specific reviews in the order from least favorite to favorite:
Seared salmon with lemon and salt was actually not as amazing as I thought it would be, mostly because I LOVE the way Kura sears their salmon (the entire top part is scorched). The salmon was also a bit too thinly sliced for my liking. Nonetheless, great flavor.
Seared Mackerel was also just what I wanted. H.K. recently told me about her obsession with salty, fishy fish (like mackerel and herring), and every since I’ve just craved that flavor. This mackerel was on the lighter side, more suitable to people like me who have not yet developed the taste for super fishy fish. It had just enough fishiness and smokiness.
Sea Eel with sauce. The first time I had this was at Sushi Yasuda, pretty much my first time experiencing high end sushi. Ever since then I haven’t forgotten it and have been on the hunt for an equivalent. I hadn’t found it… until now. Kura’s version isn’t even quite right, though they have a great eel too. But let me tell you boys and girls, the Sea Eel at Sushi Tsushima is effing delicious. It melts in your mouth and tastes like the essence of that nasty brown eel sauce cheap sushi places douse their sushi with. It’s literally what the sauce is trying to imitate, except with very little sauce and 100000000000 times better. The eel itself is packed with flavor, pairing perfectly with the delicate sushi rice. Writing this is making me want to go straight there after my post to get some.
Finally, my ultimate favorite. We ordered a second round of the eel and this because we just needed more of them in our mouths. This beautiful translucent pink-to-white and white-to-pink fish is the Yellowtail with Yuzu Pepper. As you can see, the yellowtail is of a much higher quality than the one we got in our initial set. Color and grain are totally different. This yellowtail was sweet, tender, and smooth. The itty bitty bit of yuzu pepper (aka. yuzukosho) added a surprising and delightful kick to the nigiri. Yuzukosho is a paste made from chili peppers, yuzu peel, and salt. Totto Ramen puts it in their vegetable ramen (which I also love). It’s peppery, slightly citrusy (more like a grapefruit than an orange or lemon), and a little bitter. It’s a flavor I love and haven’t really found anywhere else other than in Japanese cuisine.
To wash it all down, LAW and I shared a bowl of soba ($12 ish, can’t remember). I’m so used to the soba at Soba-Ya (because I go almost every week…), I expected this to taste the same. The base for soba is typically made with sake, mirin, soy sauce, kombu (a kind of seaweed), and dried bonito flakes. The Soba-Ya one tastes more strongly of soy sauce than any other ingredient. It’s light and basic. The Sushi Tsushima version is also very light, but seems to highlight the other ingredients (particularly mirin and bonito flakes) more. It’s a little sweeter and more umami. Both are really really great.