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.


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!


MASTER OF NONEMaster of None

Where can you find it?  NETFLIX (10 episodes)

Created By: Aziz Ansari & Alan Yang

Prod Co: 3 Art Entertainment, Universal Television

Recommendation: WATCH IT!


Master of None is a scripted comedy in which Dev (played by Aziz Ansari) tries to make it as an actor in NYC.  Doesn’t sound too ground breaking right?  Critics, audiences and I disagree.  The genius of the series comes from Aziz’s portrayal of Dev, as well as the humor and themes that revolve around racism, sexism and the experience of a 1st generation American.

While sometimes the situations and dialogue are frustratingly on-the-nose (aka unsubtle & direct), it ultimately always ends up charming.  One episode that encapsulates that dynamic perfectly is Episode 2 “Parents.”  The episode clunkily jumps right into: “Gee, I don’t know much about or appreciate what my parents went through to get me where I am today.  I should spend more time with them.”  But it moves past being a sentimental PSA to feel raw and authentic because Aziz chose to cast his own parents Fatima and Shoukath Ansari as Dev’s aziz-ansari-parents-netflixparents.  It’s best to watch it to see what I mean.  As more and more people have watched the episode, Shoukath has gathered quite a following.  He stole the show from Aziz when they appeared on Colbert together.  And hearts melted when Aziz announced on Instagram that he burst into tears after his father said he appreciated being on the show because it helped him spend more time with his son.

Perhaps I’m being unfair to the show.  What I call stiff and on-the-nose, other reviewers call “candid” and “journalistic.”  It’s possible that my bar is a bit high because of my familiarity with these topics.  Whether it is fiction (like The Namesake) or non-fiction writing, blogs, movies or even my own observations among friends and family, the identity struggles and experiences of first generation Indians is something I’ve explored.  What Aziz is saying simply sounds too familiar to feel ground-breaking to me.  Note: I’m not saying I’ve experienced these things, but observed/read/watched quite a bit at this point.

Despite all of this, I watched all 10 episodes in a weekend and you should too.

masters_of_none2One thing that rang so true – it struck right to my core- was the relationship between Dev and Rachel, a Caucasian music promoter who Dev has a year-long relationship with (in the course of a few episodes).  I was so appreciative that there was no glaring scene of racism or a goofy scene where Rachel eats something too spicy – oh no!!!  The only difference besides their relationship and a non-multi-cultural relationship was a few subtle jokes.  Even the main twist familiar to most narratives about Immigrant/White relationships – the “You haven’t told my parents about me!” twist – wasn’t too over-dramatic.  It barely lasted an episode, and I was happy for it.  I was a “secret girlfriend” TWICE.  In one case, it ended before we told his parents.  The second time, the reveal turned out well.  (Honestly, I’ve found that parents’ universal desire to see their children married and producing grand-babies overrides a lot of cultural issues…)  Also, check out Ravi Patel’s Documentary Meet The Patels for another example of media tackling this topic.

MAster of None RachelTo top it off, the relationship dynamics spoke much more to our generation’s feelings about love and dating than intercultural dating.  When they have a stand-off in a later episode about how “sure” they feel about each other, and how “sure” you’re supposed to be to stay with them, I felt the writers had reached directly into my brain and put it on the screen.  I won’t spoil anything, but the last episode was literally cathartic as I related it to my own experiences.

All this led me to wonder how a first generation Indian American might feel about it.  So I asked a close friend (a bridesmaid in fact), who is also single, dating and in the entertainment industry, how she felt about the series… and there’s not much to report.  She stopped after the first episode, because she didn’t quite get the humor and didn’t know where the story was going.  She promises to watch a few more episodes and get back to me.  But the conversation did bring up an interesting point.  While it’s great that there are tv shows breaking tired Indian stereotypes, she thinks you can also go too far.  She said something similar to: “If they seem too white-washed, it’s just not real.  If you have Indian immigrant parents, then it’s in your DNA.  Sure, you don’t walk around wearing salwar suits, but you still do cultural things.”  Specifically, she pointed out The Mindy Project, which frustrated her and and some of her friends.  It’s not until Season 3 that you even know or see that she has Indian parents. She thinks Mindy’s character is just too whitewashed for her to buy it.  I have a feeling that if she watches a few more episodes of Master of None, she won’t have the same complaint.

Hmmm… all very interesting.  I’ve got a few more reviews on their way that aren’t so on-the-nose for the blog: Chennai Express & Bajrangi Bhaijaan.

If you have any suggestions for tv & movies email me at samosasandsunshine@gmail.com