Bless you, Sugarfish! This sushi establishment lately imported from California and opened this past Friday on East 20th in Flatiron offers sushi and sashimi of high quality at a comparative bargain, even more so since the tip is included in the price. A gray stairway confronts you in the front window, connecting the first and second floor spaces (only the ground floor is open at this time). The deep room is clad in dark woods and red bricks, with lighting provided by rows of hot spots, making the sushi seem even more clinical and precise.
Several of the sushi pieces are served in sets of two; others come individually, sometimes with a light soy-ponzu sauce already applied. One is admonished by the waiter not to apply further soy sauce. The wasabi is particularly fresh and pungent and tastes like it was made from fresh wasabi rather than green powdered mustard. Another feature of Sugarfish besides the unusual shape of the fish pieces is that the finger-shaped rice underneath, and the rice in the nori hand rolls, is served warm, which raises the temp of the fish slightly without actually cooking it.
What does it mean that Sugarfish is a California sushi joint? Well, the selection is a little different than we’re accustomed to on the East Coast. The lead-off piece of sushi, for example, is albacore, a sustainable fish that is rarely seen here except in deli tuna sandwiches. Surmounted by shreds of scallion, It’s pinkish gray and buttery. Other sushi highlights of a first meal there included sweet dimpled scallops, fresh river eel brushed with a thick brown sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds, and a toro hand roll in the shape of a cylinder rather than a cone. It must have been wrapped seconds before being presented at the table.
Service is excellent, and pieces of sushi usually arrive gradually one or two at a time, so the experience of sitting at a sushi bar is reproduced in the pacing of the meal, at least. However, you can’t really see the sushi chefs at work, and indeed it is the factory nature of the operation and limited selection of fish (though many pieces not available in assortments are offered individually) that presumably make the sushi so inexpensive.