Toshio Suzuki and his son Yuta began offering the spendy seasonal Japanese delicacy around six years ago at the now defunct Sushi Zen, where they presented detoxified parts of the dangerous pufferfish via several preparations. Now, they’re continuing the tradition as one of New York’s very few restaurants — Masa has been known to serve fugu in the past, too — to plate the animal, both raw and cooked.
Suzuki will serve eight pieces of fugu tessa, a style of cut in which the raw fish is sliced so thinly that it’s transparent, for $75, or 16 slices for $145. The other option is three pieces of deep-fried fugu karaage for $66. Over at Satsuki’s sushi bar, diners can order a piece of fugu nigiri for $15, while the full $250 omakase will swap out a white fish for three pieces of fugu tessa and skin. Those who order the $130 sushi-only omakase will have the option to add on fugu tessa as well.
Beginning January or February, the restaurants will also serve a fugu beverage, hirezake, that will include the fish’s fin — the only part of the animal that’s not toxic. It will be torched then steeped and served in warm sake. In keeping with fugu season, the fish will be available through March.
Because of its potential toxins, fugu is highly controlled in both Japan and the U.S. In Japan fugu must be cleaned and de-poisoned by a licensed chef before it’s served. The same idea holds true in the U.S.; the little fugu that makes its way here has already had its toxic organs removed. Before the fish jumps the pond, it’s evaluated in Japan to ensure it’s poison-free, then it’s further inspected domestically by the FDA.
Restaurants who serve fugu in the U.S. must obtain a license “to prove [they] are certified to sell non-toxic or toxin-removed fugu,” explains Yuta, who buys his fish through the Torafugu buyers association, the only FDA-certified distributor. That means there’s no danger in eating it here, making the mildly sweet fish more of a novelty food than anything else.