Sushi at Sasabune comes with two conditions that hounds tend to either love or hate. At this L.A. transplant, open since November, meals are omakase only; “trust me,” implores a sign on the wall. And the sushi rice is warmed, in order to bring out maximum flavor and aroma in the fish.
Offerings are mostly traditional–no California rolls or spicy tuna here–though some are embellished with garnishes or house-made sauces. Well-conceived pairings invite comparison eating: e.g. bluefin with yellowfin, fluke with snapper, or two varieties of Japanese yellowtail side by side. Memorable bites include albacore in citrus soy, salmon with toasted sesame, and a sweet, dense hand roll filled with baked crab.
When diners buy in to the setup, it can be a wondrous experience. “I fell in love with sushi all over again,” marvels masterofceremonies after a beautifully harmonious dinner of supremely fresh fish. girlcritic says the warm rice adds depth and the seasonings are “just right, creative without being overwrought.”
But it doesn’t work for everyone. Echoing complaints from California hounds, some say the warm rice tends to fall apart (some opt for sashimi omakase instead of nigirizushi, to avoid the warm rice). Others say the sauces are applied with a heavy hand. And repeat visitors are sometimes disappointed at how little the omakase changes from day to day. “The sushi did not float my boat,” vinominer concludes. gutsofsteel says the pacing is much too fast and the seafood, while very good, is a notch below the best in town. But so are prices, he notes, starting at $60 a head–relatively gentle for omakase in Manhattan.
Sushi Sasabune [Upper East Side]
401 E. 73rd St., near 1st Ave., Manhattan