I woke up this morning craving my sushi meal at Yasuda-san's last week. It was so good that I immediately made another reservation to have dinner there again before I left New York.
Sushi is one of my favorite meals. Here in London we suffer from sushi famine. I don't know what the problem is, contrary to popular and intuitive thinking fish is not taken very seriously here. I went on a hunt when we first moved here four years ago hitting every Japanese restaurant that was recommended and came up very empty handed. Only one tiny sushi bar out in Ealing had anything worth going back for... Then recently, a friend and sushi sleuth pointed the way to Sushi Ikeda which deserves a review all of its own and I promise to give you one in the near future. For now, lets just say that this is the only place to have decent sushi in London.
But Sushi Yasuda is in a completely different league. This is in New York's top tier of sushi restaurants along with Masa's and Kuruma Zushi. However, at the end of your meal at Yasuda you'll be presented with a bill that is at most a third of the price at Masa's and half the price of Kuruma's.
But the price isn't the point. The quality of the fish, rice, and nori (the latter, Yasuda-san will tell you isn't the best that exists- that nori is reserved for the Japanese Emperor, but it is the best next to that) and the technique is.
If you happen to be in New York you'll want to reserve a place at the sushi counter and ask to be seated in front of Yasuda-san. Once seated ask for omakase and then sit back and prepare to be delighted.
On both occasions I had stunning pieces of fish on warm perfect textured rice but the highlights of the season right now are Uni (Sea Urchin), Peace Passage Oyster, and incredible Anago (Sea eel).
Yasuda san gets his Uni from Santa Barbara and at this time of year the Uni is meltingly creamy.
Peace Passage Oysters are from Washington State and they are big, creamy, and absolutely gorgeous. These are Yasuda-san's favorite oysters and you can see why. Fresh and not briny, they are topped with just a bit of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Like Uni, Peace Passage Oysters are at their creamiest now. You'll ask for seconds.
And the Anago is just beautiful in every way. Yasuda-san has Unagi (freshwater eel) from Florida that he pairs the Anago with for comparison. This just serves to highlight the tender savoriness of the Anago that is at the moment far superior to the Unagi.
All of this is served to you with no pretentiousness. After being served his first pieces, the gentleman seated next to me said that he didn't want to eat the pieces of sushi in one bite as Yasuda-san had recommended and could he have a knife to cut the pieces in half. I'll be honest and tell you I was horrified to hear this request. For someone who is a master like Yasuda-san, each piece is a work of art and I've been in sushi restaurants in Japan where you would be thrown out for making a blasphemous request like this. Would you cut your Picasso in half because you liked to look at one side before you looked at the other?
But Yasuda-san simply said, "No problem". He took the pieces back and expertly cut them perfectly in half with his razor sharp knife. And as our meals progressed, Yasuda-san continued to cut each piece in half before he served it to the gentleman. "A customer should not have to dip in soy sauce or cut anything when seated at the sushi bar. That's my job. You come for pleasure, not to work, you should just eat." Customer is King when sat in front of Yasuda-san.
Sushi Yasuda - 204 East 43rd Street New York City 10017, 212.972.1001