I live around the corner from Ushi Wakamaru but haven't noticed it in the year it's been open. It's in a space on Houston, between Sullivan and MacDougal, that has a perpetual string of failed restaurants. It has received almost no attention, and that's a shame.
I tried Ushi tonight and had a very positive experience. It is an authentic sushi bar that offers sushi for purists. The focus is on nigiri and sashimi, they have a very limited selection of maki rolls. The results are excellent.
I started with miso soup that had a great seafood flavor imparted by two shrimp heads and garnished with thin slices of scallion. Then I had the 10 piece omakase. The chef served a great assortment of pieces. The sushi pieces are small; in the fashion of traditional Japanese sushi. I thought the chef's selection was very well thought out and almost all of the pieces had a special quality that I'd expect from a sushi chef who is really choosing the best available fish. Among my favorites were pieces of white shrimp, oyster, salmon roe, and hamachi.
There were only two pieces that disappointed me. The first was a piece of fluke that I thought was a little uneventful. The second was a piece of abalone that I ordered after the omakase. I haven't ever really enjoyed abalone but I wanted to give it another shot. Still didn't take to it and this particular piece was made with a batch of rice that was too warm.
Along with the abalone the chef then also prepared two complimentary pieces of sashimi. He gave me an abalone liver that is really interesting. It has three distinct textures to it and aggressive but pleasant seafood flavor. He also gave me a piece of the scallop muscle that attaches the main meat to the shell. It was kind of rubbery with a gentle flavor. Pretty good but not that interesting. He said they don't usually serve those pieces, the chefs just keep them to eat themselves or for the few customers that request them. I was grateful for the opportunity to try them.
Ushi is flying way under the radar and its too bad. Really well thought out sushi and very good selection. While it's not the deal that Tomoe is, I think it's serves superior sushi. It certainly deserves some of the crowd that lines up for Tomoe only two short blocks away. I liked it better than Ebisu and Esashi. I'd say it approaches Yasuda at a more reasonable price point. If youre into serious sushi, I highly recommend it.