204 E 43rd St
(between 3rd Ave & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10017
I recently watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi again because LAW had not seen it yet. It was, again, inspiring and humbling. For LAW’s birthday, I decided to take him out to what I have synthesized to be the closest thing to Jiro we could find in NYC.
We ordered the omakase, which translates to, “I’ll leave it to you” in Japanese. Ordering the omakase means you are entrusting your entire meal to the sushi chef. It is a form of respect at these nice sushi places and also the way to go because you end up getting the freshest fish and potentially trying some new fish you did not know about. The omakase at Sushi Yasuda ranges in price (averages at $125 per person), depending on how much you can eat and what kind of fish you are served. The sushi chef serves about 20-30 pieces of nigiri sushi, one by one, ensuring that every piece you get is served at the proper fish temperature and rice temperature. After the last nigiri of the set, usually an egg custard one, he asks if you would like anything else. Our meal, including tip, was $350. You are supposed to eat using your hands. There is a pinched piece of cloth drenched in lemon water for you to wipe your fingers after each bite.
Toro Scallion Roll – Toro was scooped up from a bowl of mushy fatty tuna… at any other restaurant, this tuna would’ve been the old leftover scraps. But here, it was delicate, sweet, slightly marinated toro. Scallions gave it a nice kick. Seaweed, again, was amazing.
Unagi Kuro (dark freshwater eel), Sawani (fresh white sea eel) – eel is one that we always order at typical sushi places because it is cooked and therefore does not rely on freshness as much. Tasting the eel here change my opinion completely. Eel needs to be fresh. They were both roasted for us right after the toro roll and were not drenched in that terrible sweet eel sauce. Flavor relied on freshness of eel and marinade. So… sweet. The sawani literally melted in my mouth.
Egg Custard – Just like at Jiro’s place, the omakase ends with the egg sushi. In the documentary, you learn that Jiro does not let you crack an egg until 10 years of apprenticeship. Even then, it took one of the guys almost a year to master the custard and be allowed to serve it at the table. I didn’t understand this until trying the custard at Sushi Yasuda. Egg is egg, how difficult could it be? This was the fluffiest egg I have ever had. It tasted like air with essence of deliciously sweet egg… with a hint of a bit of fried egg at the end… serious umami. Oddly enough, it went really well with the rice.
Surprise Birthday Fruit Plate – When I made my reservations a week in advance, I had asked if they could do something special because it was a birthday. They asked if the birthday was for “the male or the female.” I was confused by this question but realized they noted “male” to remember to bring the fruit out for LAW and not me. I never brought up the fruit plate again a week later at dinner but after our last course, they diligently brought out the plate.
Everything was very well paced, like a symphony as Jiro described it. The rice is incredible. If I could, I would just order a bowl of rice with a few sheets of their seaweed and be more than content. The fish was truly the freshest and most well prepared that I’ve had. The restaurant itself is small though very spacious (few seats for the amount of space). I made sure to make reservations for the bar because only then can your omakase be served one by one. The bar is brightly lit to a warm homey hue. There is no music to distract your tasting adventure. They say its best to come solo because it is a place to really taste, though I thoroughly enjoyed having my very best tasting partner with me. Just leave the chatters at home.