Sushi Yasuda: Great Sushi, But The Best?
Can someone please explain to me what the big deal is about Sushi Yasuda? I understand the fish is fresh; I understand the selection of fish is unique; I understand that very serious sushi-making takes place; however, I do not understand why this upscale and admittedly very good sushi spot garners rave reviews as one of the best in the city. To me, it seems like another expensive and focused sushi restaurant that produces quality fare – not exactly a novelty in Manhattan.
If you didn’t know the address, it’s easy enough to traipse right by the unmarked modern storefront smushed between corporate office towers and the back delivery areas of 3rd Avenue’s chain stores. Through sliding doors is a simple, dim, and spacious dining room, dominated by smooth and textural bamboo wood ceilings, floors, and paneling. The look is strictly minimalist, with no artwork and perhaps a plant, standing lonely in the corner.
The table service mimics the scene, sparse. Our waitress barked at us, coolly and robotically, never bothered to explain the rather complicated menu, and responded sharply when I asked her clarifying questions, or really, anything at all. She could barely hide her irritation when I tried to order a prix-fixe meal from the wrong menu, god forbid.
While the service is frosty, the sushi is good enough to land itself in the upper echelon of New York’s sushi dens. The focus is on simplicity. Each plate is served without garnishes and adornments in a plain bamboo box. If a fish is to be complemented by lightly seasoned rice, woven through with wasabi, it is served as sushi (though it can be offered in sashimi form). If it stands best on its own, it will be presented sashimi style. Maki rolls let the fish shine – there are no funky ‘special rolls’, just cuts of pure fresh fish wrapped in Sushi Yasuda’s unique rice blend and seaweed.
There is no question that the fish is beautiful – rich, luxurious, soft, flavorful. At it’s core, Sushi Yasuda is an homage to fresh market-driven fish, with astonishing variety and simplistic clean presentations. Yet, is Sushi Yasuda the best sushi you’ll find in Manhattan? No. It doesn’t sparkle or shine; it doesn’t take risks; there’s no innovation or surprise. For what it offers, it is lovely, but I had hoped for something more.
Sushi Yasuda has a league of rabid fans, including many a famous restaurant critic; it has pedigree; it has a recognizable name in a city with a sushi spot on every street corner; yet, it seems to lack soul. The space, the service, and, ultimately, the food is sterile. Sushi Yasuda is saved by its impeccable product, beautiful and diverse fish.
Perfect For: client lunches, sushi freaks, a quick meal alone, a subdued splurge