Welcome to Ask Eater, a column from Eater New York where the site’s editors, reporters, and critics answer specific or baffling restaurant requests from readers and friends. A new question and answer will run every Thursday. Have a question for us? Submit your question in this form.
I’m a senior at NYU, and two of my friends and I want to do a counter omakase for a “treat-yourself-because-we’re-graduating” meal. We’re aiming for the around $200 range. One friend really wants to go to Ichimura, but it could only seat two people at the bar, so no go. We want it to be fun and celebratory, so nothing too stuffy, either. We want to relax, so we'd also prefer if the restaurant won't freak out if we share a good laugh. (AKA, we don’t want to be shamed for chatting.) Where should we go?
Celebrating Class of 2017!
I’m glad you couldn’t get into Ichimura. Sorry! I don’t say that to disrespect chef Eiji, whose touted fish aging techniques and triple decker nigiri could very well make it the second sushi spot in the country to earn three Michelin stars.
I’m sure it’s a great meal. I suppose I’ll go at one point or another; it’s my job. But even as a professional critic whose meals are paid for by my employer, I don’t feel great about paying the sky-high prices heralded sushi places are charging lately.
You asked for something in the $200 range. I’m going to give you something cheaper, at least for the omakase itself. Yes, yes, I know you’ve got a little extra cash to spend. But I’m not downgrading you here. Because sushi is so similar across the spectrum — a chef isn’t doing a whole lot more to scallop nigiri at one venue versus the other — it’s tempting to think that if you’re paying an extra $100, you’re paying for an insanely better scallop. You’re not.
Finding the right sushi spot should be about finding the right experience, not the better experience. So since you say you’re want something fun and not too stuffy, I’m going to send you to Shuko. Hip-hop plays in the background. The Masa alum chefs — Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau — are super cool, and they’ll serve you personally if you sit at the bar. It’s made from a Hinoki wood so soft you could literally sleep on it. (Related: Always sit at the sushi bar, at any sushi spot.)
And the fish is stunning. One of the things that makes Shuko great is that the chefs aren’t afraid to use heat — sometimes wicked heat — to jolt the palate and take the edge off something rich. For example! Kim tosses in a few Thai bird chiles to slice through the unctuous fats of torched tuna sinew.
You’ll pay $135 for sushi-only, or $175 for a tasting of composed dishes plus nigiri. The chef will ask if you’re hungry for a few extra pieces after your allotment is up. If you go ahead with that supplement (i.e. an extra $25-$50 per person), let him know your budget.
You’ll have sushi. You’ll have great cocktails. You’ll listen to great music. And you’ll end up spending under $300 per person after tax and tip, if you play your cards right. Still pretty expensive, alas. But hey, it’s still less than a class at NYU, so you might as well celebrate.