Well, that was weird.
I needed to grab a bite with my friend Barry within walking range of Lincoln Center. Always a tough eating zone. I'd heard Sushi Yasaka (251 W 72nd; http://www.sushiyaska.com ) was pretty good, and suggested it, forgetting that Barry's seriously into sushi (he's been to all the best places in LA and Manhattan, including, recently, Sushi Nakazawa). He suggested we get omakase. I tried to explain that it's not that kind of place, that it's a good-for-the-nabe, good-value-for-the-money place to order rolls off a menu, not a serious bastion of formal sushi scholarship. But he insisted.
So we headed into this very Upper West Side-ish space, and back to the sushi bar where everything looked fine but pedestrian, and ordered the $45/person 12 piece omakase. And damned if it wasn't excellent.
No exotica at all, it's a pretty conservative line-up, though there's some interesting sourcing, e.g. cho toro from the Mediterranean. The latter was among the best I've ever had. Rather than fatty/unctuous, it could best be described as unfurling into viscous luxury. The uni was cloud-like and pure, though California-sourced so not as rich-flavored as I'm used to. He sauced it, which isn't something I've seen with uni before, but it worked. And salmon, which normally bores me, here was insanely light and tender - so much so that I at first suspected it was decaying before I noticed the flavor was immaculately fresh. I'm way too jaded to perk up at salmon, but I'm wondering where the hell they got that stuff from. I've never had salmon of that consistency before.
Rice is eyebrow-raisingly good (warm and low vinegar).
While the average was excellent, and the above-mentioned items really wailed, not everything was terrific. The shrimp were just ok (compared - quite unfairly, I know - to ones I've had in Japan), and the chef clobbered all their flavor with over-saucing, a problem which cropped up a couple of other times. His saucing, when it works, works like heaven. Citrusy notes, jalapeño notes, subtle application of course salt more often than not resulted in well-staged fireworks, but sometimes clobbered delicate fish. On the other hand, there are four chefs, and all seem to turn out radically different stuff. So your mileage may vary.
I can't say it was a night of sushi I'll never forget, but for $45, Jesus Christ, I don't know why we're not all living here. Barry enjoyed it better than Sushi Nakazawa at 3x the price.
They seem to take their tempura (including pumpkin!) seriously, and it looked good on plates going by. They offer a tempura "omakase" with a selection of tempura vegetables.
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