130 St Marks Place
New York, NY 10003
Kura does not have a website, but here’s Yelp
I read about KURA through some blog or another several years back when it first opened up, and made my first visit. It’s a tiny little sushi-ya, maybe 10-12 counter seats, and one table for four. KURA IS tiny in size, but tremendous in character and charm. The head sushi chef, Chef Norihiro Ishizuka is an older gentlemen, with huge personality, and an award winning smile. He speaks very little English, but definitely enough to explain what you are having, and even crack a joke or two. It’s fun sitting at his counter. Upon my first visit, I instantly fell in love, and for a short while, was a regular. Why wouldn’t I? The service is great, atmosphere is light and unpretentious, fish is fresh, and price point is decent. What more could I want?
Admittedly, I have “quirky” preferences. If you walk around NYC, and ask folks what their favorite piece of sushi is, 9 of 10 will tell you Tuna, or some cut of TORO. I’m that last one, Tunas are not my favorite. My boyfriend HATES when I play the “ranking game”, but ask yourself, if you can only have one TYPE of fish for the rest of your life, what would that be? Tunas? Salmons? Whites? Silvers? Shell? Shell is always unfair, as it’s so darn broad. What if you can have two? Three? Well, Tunas don’t make it into my top three. I know! Craziness! So while KURA would otherwise scream as an obvious choice to become a regular at, for all the qualities already mentioned, my struggle is Chef Ishizuka’s LOVE for Tunas. Back when KURA first opened, they had three options for omakase, sushi, kaiseki, or mix of both. Today, they have five. The biggest, non cooked goods one, was sashimi starters followed by 20 pieces of sushi for a total cost of $180. That was the obvious choice. In our “mega” omakase, I would say, roughly 30% was all Tuna. In my omakase, I NEED/MUST HAVE 2 pieces of Tuna, one AKAMI ZUKE, and one CHUTORO OR HAGASHI TORO. Beyond that, it’s all just a hogging up my stomach space. So for this quirky non-Tuna obsessed New Yorker, KURA will unfortunately not be a regular, but for the rest of you “normal” sushi-ers, go! Enjoy! Tuna it up!
- AKAMI ZUKE with Mountain Yam – I’ve once watched the head chef of a very decent Pennsylvania sushi-ya grind mountain yam for what seemed like a solid 10 minutes just to get enough for 2 appetizer portion plates. Having witnessed it with my own two eyes, I ate every last bite that day. Thereafter, I never had that same appreciation, or better yet, guilt. This gooey, sticky yam is simply not my cup of tea. The AKAMI ZUKE was so tasty, so fresh, but so tainted with that mountain yam goo. I tried so hard to de-yam my AKAMI, but it’s STICKY! That persistent little booger was everywhere, clinging even onto my chopsticks!
- IKURA over rice – Each kernel was large, round (not squished), super fresh, super light, and super delicious.
- Squid with sticky rice – If you get the kaiseki omakase, you would have a whole stuffed squid. In our sushi/sashimi version, you only get 2 cuts each. Two cuts was enough. I remember this having more squid and shiso inside. Today, it was almost all just sticky rice as the stuffing. Boyfriend loved it though. I made him eat one of mine too. Poor boy, I stick him with all my leftovers.
Sashimi plate (Counter Clockwise from bottom left)
- AOYAGI Muscle – (Bottom left) I really enjoy the AOYAGI clam, and this one was super fresh. BUT I prefer the crunchy parts, not the muscle, which is the meatier, more tender portion of the clam.
- KANPACHI – (Bottom right) The only yellowtail I prefer over a KANPACHI is the SHIMAAJI, but this was fantastic, and my favorite of the plate.
- CHUTORO – (Top) I double checked, and Chef DEFINITELY said CHUTORO and not AKAMI. Although not nearly as fatty as the CHUTORO, it was still very good.
- CHUTORO – This was super confusing to me. I just finished my sashimi plate, where I supposedly had a CHUTORO, so does this mean we’re already doing repeats? This “CHUTORO” was a proper CHUTORO though, it was significantly fattier than the Tuna on my sashimi plate.
- HIRAME – Now this makes more sense, starting with whitefishes! This was DELISH. HIRAME served with a tiny bit of soy. Looks almost clean doesn’t it? Trust me, there was soy.
- HOTATE – HOTATE is one of the mildest of the shellfishes, this was super light, super delish, super refreshing. Followed up nicely after the HIRAME. Notice how my sushi got super flat? I HATE asking for less rice, but Chef noticed I wasn’t eating all my rice. I had another 18 more pieces coming, I wasn’t going to get full on rice! He says, “little rice”. I love how chefs say things like that, “little rice”, it’s so funny! And he was not the tiniest bit annoyed! Another reason why I would love to make KURA my regular… Oh well…
- KING SALMON – KING SALMON from I don’t know where, served ABURIED. I’m really just not a fan of salmon, but this was SUPER YUMMY! Best way to have salmon? ABURIED!
- KANPACHI – Another repeat from my sashimi plate? As good as my sashimi KANPACHI tasted, this one tasted MUCH better again. I don’t understand it at all. Are the sushi round cuts just better? Maybe we should have just had the sushi only omakase…
- MURUGAI – I would not have recognized this as a MURUGAI from a mile away! It was so flat looking. My sushi bar neighbors had a much more regular looking MURUGAI though. Despite appearances, it tasted so fresh, so crunchy, so delicious!
- AKAMI ZUKE – This was ALMOST the same as the AKAMI ZUKE as the appetizer one, but it wasn’t as good. Perhaps because I’m not a fan of the curing on the outside. Either way, this was a FANTASTIC AKAMI ZUKE. FANTASTIC!
- SABA – This SABA was 100% cooked through. I am NOT a fan of SABA, but it was an OK tasting. I ate most of it.
- NAMADAKO – NAMADAKO is one of my favorite shellfishes. This is what I normally get a whole PLATE of at Blue Ribbon Izakaya. I love it most when served with a sprinkle of lemon juice, and a touch of sea salt. My NAMADAKO tonight was served with a tiny dollop of YUZU chili paste. Although super fresh and delicious, the YUZU Chili paste was outrageously spicy, numbing my tongue. Temporary loss of taste…
- KOHADA – KOHADA is probably my most favorite silver fish. This was super fresh, super delicious, just not as prettily prepared as I’d like. It doesn’t have its normal appeal, the extra care that was placed in preparing this fish. Oddly enough, boyfriend had a different preparation than I did. I didn’t get to photograph it though, he devoured a second after it arrived on his plate.
- BOTAN EBI – As always, chef showed us the raw struggling shrimp first before ripping its head off. This was a very large, sweet and scrumptious BOTAN EBI. They fried the EBI head, chopped off the tentacles, which was unfortunate, as we both enjoy snacking on those tentacles, then served us just the head itself. It was super delish!
- OTORO ABURI – I’m not a huge OTORO fan. Too fatty for me, makes me want to scrub out my mouth after in attempt to take the layer of grease left over. There are occasionally, an OTORO that I am in awe of, where it melts, just crumbles right in your mouth, but not leave that layer of grease. The safe way to have OTORO is to have it ABURIed! Renders the fat, but curbs the grease explosion in your mouth. This was super yummy.
- ANAGO/MADAI – As usual, I made my request for no cooked EELs. No UNAGI, ANAGO, but if you have raw NORESORE, serve on up. Poor boyfriend did not make the same request. His response upon hearing me make the request is always, “everything is good for me, she’s just a pain in the a*s.” Today, I think he finally saw the light. Chef mistakenly served me ANAGO anyway. I looked at it, didn’t say anything, but then he remembered. Once he did, he took my ANAGO, handed it over to the boyfriend, and served me a… (in the voice of Barney Simpson from How I Met Your Mother…) “wait for it…” A MADAI!!!! A TRUE Seabream! A MADAI served with soy. SCORE!!! I realized how selfish I was after I saw my man’s face, and realized I made him eat my extra ANAGO, but didn’t even save him a half of my MADAI. I’m a terrible, terrible girlfriend…
- HOKKAIDO UNI – This was SO GOOD, but can I have the other half? This is a tiny portion of really fantastic UNI. I thought I asked for little rice, not little fish!
- AWABI – This was 100% cooked through, but I LOVE AWABI both cooked and raw. This particular one is tender but still with just a slight chew, topped with a dab of EEL sauce. This was fantastic!
- KINMEDAI – Whitefishes are my favorite type of fish. KINMEDAI is one of my top three whitefishes. My favorite for KINMEDAI is to have it heavily ABURIed on just the skin, and a tiny bit of salt to top. This was close, fairly ABURIed on the skin, and topped with some soy. I still prefer salt over soy, but this was still fantastic nonetheless.
- SHAKO – I learned something today. SHAKO is pronounced “shah-ko,” not “shay-ko!” My real picture is second one. I forgot to take the picture before I tried it. I HATE SHAKO. Not KURA’s fault, but I just hate this fish! It’s sweet, and cold, and just bad all around. I took a tiny bite so that I can be objective and still write about it, but I almost spat it back up. I ended up hiding the fish under some left over rice on my plate. How attractive! Boyfriend thought it was funny, so HA! The top picture was taken from YELP…
- OTORO – Another repeat… With certain OTORO, you really need to cut the fat by scoring, and ABURI-ing it. This one need no such preparation. Wasn’t veiny, wasn’t so fatty that it left a layer of grease. It was highly enjoyable.
- SANTA BARBARA UNI – This was a normal portion size, and it was great!
- TORO Hand Roll – Toro, toro, and MORE toro. This was good, and a very respectable hand roll. I just wanted a different fish.
- TAMAGO – I don’t have much to say. I wasn’t going to waste my stomach space with the ANAGO, think I’d waste it for Egg? For all those TAMAGO fanatics out there, don’t be all offended, I’ve already said I have quirky tastes. You have to admit though, very few sushi lovers in this world would prefer steamed egg over raw fish!
- Jasmine tea cream puff – This was fantabulous. It’s hard to make sweets for an American Asian. We like sweets that are 300% sweeter than Asian sweets, and 100% less sweet than French sweets. It’s tough, and we are fickle. Despite executing the exact formula, one day, it’s just right, next, it’s too sweet. This for me, today, despite having a very full stomach, it was fantastic. It was just right. Super light, fluffy puff pastry, the cream was green-tea-ish, sweet, but not too sweet. It was very, very good. I could have had a second round!
Overall, if you love Tuna, KURA can be YOUR new found love. Even if you don’t love Tuna, KURA is a quaint little restaurant, with fantastic service, ambiance, and super decent pricing, so very much worth the try. KURA gets a super great rating of 30 out of 35 points.