My last write up of 15 East was back in June 2016, yes, a looong time ago. Remember, I’m doing this “new” thing where so long as I feel like my last write up was still indicative of the meal, the experience, then there’s no point in another. If I did, it would just be me rambling about my thoughts and feelings of the night, the other patrons, my own random other thoughts, blah blah blah. No one wants to hear it, I get it. I wrote like a million on BLUE RIBBON IZAKAYA, and KANOYAMA, and KYO YA, but they all say pretty much the same thing… BUT that reminds me, I need to write a new one about Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya. While I have never had a bad experience having the omakase at the sushi counter, having omakase at the tables with large groups… Night and day! That said, back to 15 East.
Our last visit to 15 East, was with chef Noriyuki Takahashi for the first time. And it was a far cry from the Masato Shimizu days. Today, the meal and experience was MUCH better. Unfortunately, over the last two years, my ratings have gotten stricter. You have to! When this many sushi-yas popping up, you NEED a way to differentiate. So… While the meal is now much better, the rating has actually gone down. But please remember, this is just me making the rating harder (unlike SAT scores!), the meal tonight was very, very respectable.
The biggest difference between Masa-san days to Taka-san days? The TAKO. No joke, I used to LOOOOOOVE this TAKO, and I’m not even a cooked octopush (at sushi-ya) fan! But Masa-san served the most amazing poached Octopus. I write about it in many of my posts. 15 East’ TAKO and Hideo-san’s NIDAKO (USHIWAKAMARU). The two best Octopus in NYC. Now, it’s just USHI… Sorry 15 East…
Gosh, it must SUCK to follow after a legend like Masa-san… Everyone compares everything! I gotta say, that’s how it was when I was growing up, living behind my big sister’s footsteps. She was the smart one, the pretty one, goodness I hated her! Hahaha – it’s all good now, I’m grown!
Ok – back to 15 East…
Our omakase tonight:
- AKAMUTSU (Rosy Sea Perch) – Very good cut of AKAMUTSU, firm but not tough, and no chew. Only regret is that it wasn’t served with any of the skin, and that skin wasn’t ABURIed (torched), which would have rendered the fish to be more tender, drawn out the oils. Still very good though
- BURI (Adult/King Yellowtail)I thought this was a HIRAMASA, but was wrong. Then again, it’s really hard to tell by looking after the fish is cut between a BURI and a HIRAMASA, they look very very similar! Very nice buttery cut. I never like it when I see spots of blood, I can’t ever taste it, but just seeing it bothers me.
- KATSUO (Bonito) – A while back, I used to really not be a fan of KATSUOs. It’s a stronger tasting fish, and strong in a different way than the silvers (the likes of IWASHIs, SANMAs, KOHADAs, etc). But the taste has been growing on me through the years. This one, not good. Fish alone, there was a stronger kick of fishiness and tinge of wonkiness. The grated yuzu pepper really helped though.
- SHIMA AJI (Striped Jack) – Very nice! Nice clean balanced flavors, and a big crunch!
- AKAMI (Lean Tuna) – A nice thick cut of AKAMI, no weird trailing tinge, but a little bland. I think in my mind, I saw it, and had hoped it was an AKAMI ZUKE (marinated in soy).
- MADAI (Seabream) – from Kyushu. Topped with a little bit of yuzu zest. This was delish! Super big flavors, very vibrant. Miles better than the AKAMUTSU served. Best cut of the night so far! I have never been to Kyushu, but lately, it seems that’s where a lot of chefs are getting their primo fish! Fun fact, Kumamoto is Kyushu’s capital. The original home of the Kumamoto oyster! Not so fun fact, it’s also the island where Nagasaki resides… moment of silence….
- AJI (Horse Mackerel) – Very, very good. But I’ve said this every time I receive this on my omakase, like Salmon, or plain HAMACHI, AJIs are served in every single NYC sushi-ya. Despite it being perfectly good (still a good for both freshness and preparation), served with grated shishito-pepper topping, I’m not going to be “impressed” by it. I’m not ever going to remember an omakase because of a great AJI.
- CHUTORO (Medium fatty tuna) – Very deep, robust flavors, no tinge of funkiness, but big fat veins. Chew chew chew, and chew some more. Not a good cut.
- KINMEDAI (Golden eye snapper) – I’m guessing Takahashi-san pulled a Tomita-san (CAGEN), and took the fish to the back and put the skin on the grill? It came out a little torched-like, but definitely not with actual fire (like the Burger King ads – do you prefer your burger over open flame? YES!), and missing the citrus… This was pretty darn good, but still a hair shy from being “great” though… Sorry, I’m super stingy with my Greats.
- SAYORI (Needle fish) – SAYORIs are always so gorgeous, they have the presentation wow factor. Very pretty, but didn’t have that signature crunch that SAYORIs did, not at all fishy though. Solidly in the good category
- BOTAN EBI (Spotted Sweet Shrimp) – We are huge BOTAN EBI fans, and lately there’s been a shortage of high quality BOTANS. The kind with the big bold sweet flavors, and the magnificent crunch. This one had it! 3 years ago, when fantastic BOTANs were everywhere (like Santa Barabara UNIs), I wouldn’t have been so generous, but these days, yes, it gets a great!
- YARI IKA (Spear squid) – Hands down, Takahashi-san gets a 10 on presentation. Taste wise? Bland city. Served with sea salt and nothing else, this was one tastely YARI IKA. And this is coming from an IKA lover!
- MURAGAI (Giant Clam) – This was NICE. Dense, crunchy (not chewy), hint of sea, MIRUGAI. YUM!
- OTORO (Super fatty tuna) – What’s the deal? Just the CHUTORO, the flavors here were great. But oh so veiny! He’s really putting my jaw muscles to work! I want the OTORO to melt, this isn’t melting!
- SANMA (Pacific saury) – Wow! I would say this is the fourth truly impressive piece of the night. Yes, I DO keep score. How could I possibly write this post without keeping score? SANMAs have been on a bad train lately, the butt of the silvers lately. This one was such a nice, thick cut of SANMA. The perfect aging, the beautiful oils. Really great. I gotta say, the only tiny draw back? While the shishito pepper thing worked for the AJI, the stronger tasting SANMA would have benefited from the traditional grated ginger… Tiny drawback, yes, not enough to deduct for!
- SHIRO EBI (Sweet white shrimp) – Oooooofffffff! I was so reveling in my beautiful cut of SANMA, and the earlier spectacular BOTAN EBI, I had such high hopes for the SHIRO EBI, which is one of my fave EBIs btw… This fell flat… SHIRO EBIs aren’t like the other EBIs, they’re tiny, tiny little shrimps that don’t typically have much crunch. BUT they are outrageously sweet, and still very flavorful. This one wasn’t. Not bad like it was mushy or fishy or gooey, but just not good either! Booo!
- IKURA (Salmon roe) – So sad. The flavors of this was great, nicely seasoned. But so many crushed eggs! The best thing abt IKURA is popping each one of those lovely pearls in your mouth, but if it’s already crushed? Took the joy out of eating it. AGAIN – good flavors though…
- California UNI – Looks a little blah, and kinda weird, but I was a wuss and tapping out early, had to order sashimi instead… While not the prettiest of servings, this was actually very good. Beautiful sweet nutty flavors. Very yum.
- Hokkaido UNI – California won today. This looked prettier, but was a little shallow, watery, and even a bit of a bite. No big beautiful signature Hokkaido nut… Boo!
- AWABI (Abalone) – Boyfriend feels like a sucker now!!! I chose no boring ANAGO, so while he toughed trough that, I’m sitting here chuckling with my AWABI. Gotta say, not a fan of the braised AWABI served with the eel sauce, but still… miles better than actual eel itself. As I sat there chuckling over my “win”, he went and took half my serving. Not chuckling anymore…
- TAKO (Octopus) – Another huge reminder that it’s Masa-san (original chef Masato Shimuzi) no more… I used to order at least 2 servings of this, AND sit there pining for more. I had my one order and was like, eh… I could have done without… Next time I visit Bangkok, I am visiting Masa-san FOR SURE!