Kura: Sushi-palooza 2016

Sushi in NYC

As a part of my job, I was browsing the internet for telegenic chefs.  Time and time again I came across beautifully shot, mouthwatering videos on sushi and the chefs who create it.  The chefs themselves didn’t fit the bill for what I needed, but my understanding and appreciation for sushi grew exponentially.  Then Netflix’s I’ll Have What Phil’s Having‘s Tokyo episode pushed me over the edge.  I needed lovingly crafted, top notch sushi, and I needed it NOW.  Luckily, I’m friends with the amazing writer/food blogger of The Uni Diaries.  A quick text put into motion my Sushi-palooza weekend.  The goal: Have real omakase experiences – one well-known place (even if the price tag reflected it) and one lesser known, reasonably priced restaurant.

Sushi chef

Omakase: Term equivalent to “Chef’s Choice.”   You choose the number of pieces you want to pay for and the chef presents them to you from lightest to heaviest dish.

Kura Restaurant

130 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

This restaurant was chosen by my lovely guide.  This small, true hole-in-the-wall, 12(ish)-seater restaurant is famous because of the jolly, experienced Norihiro Ishizuka.  Just read the beginning of this review from the NY Times:

Norihiro Ishizuka“At the sushi counter at Kura, there is no sentinel in white; no silent, coolly appraising overlord. Norihiro Ishizuka, 70, stands alone, wearing not a crisp chef’s coat but a samue, traditionally a monk’s work robe, that slouches at his waist like a dressing gown.  He has a benevolent and slightly rakish air, with his faint pencil mustache and white-gray hair peeking out of the bottom of his cap. He nods and grins, already halfway to a laugh, and the meal has not yet begun.”

 

We sat for a 9:45 pm Friday res (the only time available when we looked a week before).  After ordering a carafe of sake, I was ready to go… Clueless and excited, I just waited for the experience to happen.

Salmon Roe, Yam & TunA, squid

I love roe, and it was great safe start.

The grated yam over marinated tuna was sooo delicious.  So much flavor – smoky and rustic.

Plowed through the squid, but not terribly memorable.

Scallops, Fatty Tuna & Snapper

The sea scallops were a silky delight.

This fatty tuna was the first proof that I was at a new level of sushi.  The average sushi eater is used to tuna, but fatty tuna is a whole new thing… a very melt-in-your-mouth bite.

King Salmon, Amberjack & Mackerel

These were all smooth and delicious.  I was thanking the ocean for its bounty with every bite.  The seared mackerel had a crunch and salt that I appreciated after the more subtle salmon and amberjack.

Ark Shell Clam, Shrimp, Live Octopus

The baby shrimp was a visual thrill.  This was certainly something I wouldn’t be able to get just anywhere.

After slicing the octopus, the Chef tapped each piece to prove it was still alive; the white pieces seized up at his touch.

Mentis Shrimp, Tuna & Eel

These three gave a nice range of texture, the ocean eel being a favorite.

Uni!

The uni courses had arrived!  My fellow eater knew exactly what was coming, calling out the Santa Barbara uni vs the Japanese Hokkaido Uni.  Uni is from sea urchin, and many sushi fans have a love/hate reaction to uni’s distinct taste.  If you lose the taste of the ocean, you’ll love uni.  A fan of oysters’ salty-flavor, I’m now a fan of uni’s concentrated burst of ocean.

Fattiest Torched Tuna

The fattiest torched tuna was the crown jewel.  I literally woke thinking about it.  We ordered an additional bite after it was all over, and my friend was in chock that it was even better than the first time around.  What a treat!  This may be what spoils other sushi for me for good.  Mushroom soup finished out the meal.

The overall take way is that omakase is a unique, elevated experience, but with the price coming in at $135 for 18 pieces, it’s a treat.  A bucket list item, every penny was worth it.  Thanks to my friend’s dedication to sushi photography, I won’t forget a single course.  The plan for tonight is Sushi Yasaka, a cheaper omakase experience.  The goal is to compare the two to get an idea of the spectrum.    Looking forward to it!

3 thoughts on “Kura: Sushi-palooza 2016

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