Sushi Yasuda was New York’s favorite sushi restaurant without a Michelin Star. It went on for years without a Michelin star until recently.
When I first visited New York, my buddy asked what I wanted to do in New York while I was there. As a true fatty, opps I mean foodie, I sent him a list of restaurants I wanted to try and Sushi Yasuda was one of them. The others being Totto Ramen, Peter Lugar, Ippudo, Halal Guys, and any where with a good ole fashion New York pie. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get last minute reservations at Peter Lugar. However, I got to try all the rest.
Sushi Yasuda is New York’s favorite sushi restaurant without a Michelin star; however, it is highly regarded on Zagat. Chef Naomichi Yasuda was the executive chef and the restaurant dons his name. Chef Yasuda has left his New York staple and gone back to Japan to open another Sushi Yasuda in Tokyo. He has been featured in a few of David Chang and Anthony Bourdain’s episode discussing his technique. Sushi Yasuda is located in Midtown, which is a couple of blocks from Grand Central Terminal. Sushi Yasuda New York City
Sushi Yasuda decor is beautiful. The restaurant is composed bamboo planks covering the whole restaurant from its floors to its walls to its ceiling then to its tables. The bamboo gives off a very elegant and sophisticated atmosphere. The high ceiling absorbs the lively restaurant’s sounds and gives off a very reclusive dining experience; it feels like you’re dining in a different city and away from the busy terminal of Grand Central.
The service is similar to any Michelin rated one star restaurant in its class. We were approached with warm smiles in the dead of winter; the smiles continued through out the night as we dined. Our server made sure we were satisfied with our dinner every so often without being overbearing. When we left, the hostess remembered our coats without a second thought.
There’s a huge misconception about what makes a sushi restaurant good and the freshness of a fish is what people conclude as a determining factor especially on review sites like Yelp; these self-righteous critics will point to the freshness of the fish, but, in reality, freshness of the fish has nothing to do with what makes a piece of sushi good especially when you’re eating nigiri. I’ve eaten at a lot of high-end sushi restaurants in the world and I’ve spoken to a lot of the chefs at these establishments. They all told me the same thing. The majority of their fishes are aged and preserve to bring out the flavors of the fish. They all go to the fish market to get the best fish every morning but it doesn’t mean they serve it the same day. Sushi Yasuda is no different and they even state it on their website here.
These critically acclaimed chefs all point to rice as the determining factor that takes a piece of nigiri from good to great. The rice takes years to perfect (i.e., Jiro Ono of Jiro Dreams of Sushi) in some cases due to the complexity of it. There are so many determining factors to making rice great like the grain of the rice, type of vinegar use, cooking temperature, water, salt and sugar. It’s the rice that gives the nigiri a buttery texture and melts in your mouth. The perfect example of great rice in the United States would be Sushi Zo. Sushi Yasuda is no different and they discuss the rice on their website here.
Now, the food. I don’t believe in going to a highly rated sushi restaurant and ordering a la carte; the approach will come down to the luck of the draw, which could undermine your dining experience. I always suggest going omakase cause you get to experience the chef’s vision for the meal. To be honest, a lot of a la carte items are usually filler items for the menu and there is a reason why critically acclaim restaurants only offer tasting menus. Omakase is the only way. Trust me.
We decided to go with Omakase. Unfortunately, I can understand why Sushi Yasuda wasn’t awarded a Michelin star. The sushi was lackluster and lacked all the qualities of great sushi. The rice was too cold and the fish was rubbery. There’s always a dish that stands out for me at every restaurant I’ve dined at; however, Sushi Yasuda’s omakase didn’t have anything that stood out for me. It was decently good sushi but it really lacked depth in flavors and textures.
Overall, Sushi Yasuda was a good dining experience, but the sushi was a bit lackluster and nothing impressive. In addition, a lot of times the restaurant doesn’t live up to the hype and it’s no different with Michelin starred restaurants. It was a bit disappointing on my palate that Sushi Yasuda didn’t live up to the hype. To be honest, the best sushi outside of Japan would be in Los Angeles, California. It definitely beats out New York in this category without a doubt.
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- Service - 8/108/10
- Presentation - 5/105/10
- Flavors - 5/105/10
- Decor - 9/109/10
- Ambiance - 9/109/10
Sushi Yasuda has always been at the top of New Yorker’s list when it comes to sushi; however, I found Yasuda to be lackluster and their decor to be more impressive than their cuisine. The sushi was uninspiring and lacked any depth. It could have been an off night but Sushi Yasuda wouldn’t come to mine if somebody requested a sushi recommendation for New York.