After our annual visit to Kuruma, I am absolutely swooning, in cloud nine, in euphoria. It will be all I can think about for weeks to come! If you’ve been reading my posts, if you’re familiar with my rating system, you’ll know that I have an extremely strict rating process. It’s not because I want to be an a-hole, and it’s not because I want to have something negative to say. I don’t. And btw, I hate those kind of people… It’s so we can distinguish between the “Goods” and the “Greats”. Variety, cost of fish, cost of alcohol, that is simple math. But freshness (which accounts for the fact that most fish have to be treated and aged), and preparation (how the chef serves the fish, the cut, the toppings, etc) that is where you need to know what you’re talking about and be very objective in rating each serving.
Based on my very objective rating, I stick by my last Kuruma post. Hands down, Kuruma Zushi is the ABSOLUTE BEST sushi in NYC. Hands down.
I have a five-point scale for each individual serving, goes from 1 Great, 2 Good. 3 Eh, 4 Bad, to 5 Gross. I take the weighted average (minus repeats) of all servings. Fact is, majority of NYC sushi-yas are perfectly good, they’re somewhere around the 2 mark for a weighted average, where most of every serving is “2 Good” with a few exceptional, “1 Great”, and a couple of “3 Eh”, or even a couple of “4 Bad.” In the occasion when I’m served a “1 Gross”, it’s not a straight-line average. It’s averaged AND an additional fraction of a point knock-down after the average, yes, double whammy.
Here’s how Kuruma is different:
Kuruma’s average piece is a “1 Great”, with a few occasional “2 Good”, but NEVER a “4 Bad”, or even an “3 Eh”. That is the difference. We go to omakases, and there’s usually a couple of stand-out, stellar pieces that we NEED to do a repeat of. At Kuruma, there are too many stand-out pieces. You have an omakase there, you’re full, but yet you want a whole second round. You walk out saying “Can you believe that GANI?… What about that AWABI?… OMG, and the NODOGURO BELLY?… And what about the HAGASHI-TORO???..” And it goes on and on, and you are thinking and talking about it for WEEKS. Yes, it truly is that great.
Kuruma – A cut above the rest:
- Toshi-san takes EXTREME care in picking out his fish. He’s not a fan of run-of-the-mill servings, the inexpensive cuts, he doesn’t try to “balance out” an affordable menu. he’s all about providing you the best high-end experience.
- Toshi-san is CRAZY about his TOROs. In a given omakase, expect a good 4-5 servings of TORO. He loves his “red meat”.
- Toshi-san is also all about the belly. The unfortunate truth is, FAT IS DELICIOUS. We all know that, and Toshi-san, more than anyone else. Oher than the shells and roes (which he’ll have tons of), your omakase will be nothing but the belly. Not just the Tuna Belly, but the KINMEDAI belly, the SHIMA AJI belly, the KAMPACHI belly, yes, all about the belly.
- And finally, the cut… Sit at the sushi-bar and watch Toshi-san as he cuts into the fish. Notice what he starts with, what he cuts out, and then ultimately serves you. He leaves you with only the BEST part of the fish, and the perfect distribution of skin vs fat vs meat. He actually ends up discarding a lot of fish, so it can be viewed as somewhat wasteful (but then again, if you’re not a wasteful person like I am, you’re not going to spend all this money on omakase!).
Kuruma – When NOT to go:
- If you love your salmons, this is not the place to go. Toshi-san stocks none.
- If you love the likes of Sushi of Gari, Sushi Seki, and O Ya, this is not the place to go. Those places love to stockpile your fish with crap, not even other fish, just crap, sauces, tomato, mushroom, truffle, cream cheese, salad, etc! Toshi-san serves his fish CLEAN, PURE, it will be the sweetest cut of fish you have ever tasted, but you need to love the natural taste of the fish. If you need that other crap to enjoy your fish, then you don’t really like the fish, and this isn’t the right place for you. Ok, I’ve gone too far. I don’t dislike fish with mile high toppings, I enjoy it. I just know that when you have that, you don’t really taste the fish, so you can easily substitute any low-grade fish for the same serving, and as you substitute, don’t charge me 10+ bucks per piece.
- If you are on a budget, do not go. I complain abt paying 10+ bucks a serving at places like Sushi of Gari, Sushi Seki, and O Ya. Yet I’m strongly urging all sushi lovers to visit Kuruma, where you can’t get out paying less than $400 per person (before drinks, tax and tip). Tonight’s meal was $540 per person, which comes out to almost $21 per serving. With our sake, we spent right under $1,900, well, since we’re getting into specifics, we spent exactly $1,884.55. Truthfully, if we can get that under $1,200 we would go much more often. But fact is, we sushi 3 times a week. We would be broke!
Sorry I yapped so much. Believe it or not, I actually wrote A LOT more, but went back and deleted a ton. I get so excited thinking about Kuruma, it’s so hard for me to shut up, but I’ll stop now…
Our Omakase tonight:
- CHUTORO (Medium Fatty Tuna) – Toshi-san comes out swinging! Oh my goodness, my favorite of the TOROs, the CHUTORO. If you don’t have teeth, it’s ok. This will MELT in your mouth. The beautiful, full, robust flavors of this magnificent fish. Thank you Toshi-san!
- OTORO (Super Fatty Tuna) – Toshi-san explains this comes not from the belly, but the breast of the Tuna. For sure fattier, but all the same, fantastic, melt in your mouth deliciousness.
- KAMPACHI Belly (Amberjack) – What a crunch! 9 out of 10 times, you get served a KAMPACHI on your omakase, and it’s just a dull gumminess. Not with Toshi-san! Fantastic!
- HAMACHI Belly (Young Yellowtail) – Slightly disappointed that it’s a HAMACHI, but only because quality HAMACHI (even the belly) is pretty easily attainable in NYC… Still delicious though.
- SHIMA AJI Belly (Striped Jack) – You can’t see me right now, but I’m doing my little sushi dance. YUM!
- HIRAME Usuzukuri (Flounder) – Like the HAMACHI, again, a little disappointed, and again, only because quality HIRAME is so easily attainable… That said, again, still a delicious serving
- TAI (Snapper) – Toshi san shared that this was the underbelly. This means less movement, thus no muscle, thus mostly just fat. Why does fat taste so good???
- NODOGURO Belly (Black Throat) – One of my favorite whites, and the belly at that! They say that the key to a guy’s heart is through the stomach. How is that not the key of every living thing?
- KINMEDAI Belly (Golden Eye Snapper) – I’m not even mad that my KINMEDAI’s skin is not ABURIed. Not even the slightest bit. That’s how good this is!
- HOTATE (Scallop) – The absolute sweetest HOTATE I have had since SOTO closed. Yes, 2.5 years ago! And yes, I very distinctly remember my last HOTATE serving at Soto, and it was magnificent.
- MIRUGAI (Giant geoduck clam) – This was LIVE. When you hit it, it’s still moves and squirms. Wonderfully sweet and crunchy.
- AWABI from Hokkaido (Abalone) – This brings me nostalgia. Back to last year, when we were in Sapporo, when we had AWABI at least once a day… Same deal, Toshi-san’s awabi is THE BEST AWABI you will have in NYC. It’s whole, it’s in tact, he didn’t cook it, it’s raw, it’s SO SWEET, so crunchy, so delicate despite it being a super dense clam. It’s out of this world good.
- TARABA-GANI (King Crab) – Toshi-san goes on to explain that you can get King crab anywhere these days, but the one place that has the best King Crab? Hokkaido you might think? NOPE, here Toshi-san shares, almost everything else is best from Hokkaido, but King Crab is best from Norway. There’s honesty for you! Fantastic!
- IWASHI (Japanese sardine) – IWASHI, probably my favorite of the silvers. Toshi-san chopped this up and mixed it with scallion and a little bit of ginger, and shared today’s IWASHI came from Kyushu, the ones from Hokkaido was not good this time. He’s fantastic.
- ANKIMO (Monk Fish Liver) – I love all things liver. Chicken, duck, pig, cow, if it’s liver, I’ll have it! ANKIMO has become a standard staple in every sushi-ya’s menu. Even the run of the mill sushi-yas, where they only serve less than 10 different varietals of fish, they’ll still have ANKIMO. You think because it’s cooked, that it’s all the same? No ma’am! I can start listing all the places that have subpar ANKIMO, but i won’t go there. Well, let me just name one, En Japanese Brasserie. I do enjoy going there, but their ANKIMO – I won’t go near that with a ten-foot pole. Try Toshi-san’s ANKIMO, and you’ll understand, even the best sushi-yas need to take a step back and bow!
- SHIROEBI (Sweet white shrimp) – Fantastically sweet, really good. I almost feel like I’m being harsh here. In any other restaurant, I would probably rate this a great, BUT the super delicate SHIROEBI was following the ANKIMO, the IWASHI, the TARABA-GANI, the AWABI. Like you can’t have such a subtle fish follow the crazy rich flavors of the predecessors… I would have appreciated it more had the sequence been different. I kinda feel a little ripped off. (And now I sound ungrateful…)
- UNI from Hokkaido – I’m laughing at how good this is. Incredibly rich, sweet, nutty flavors of the Hokkaido UNI.
- OTORO (Super Fatty Tuna) – I suppose the only way to follow an incredible UNI, would be an even richer TORO. Toshi-san started to cut my sushi for me because I have a tiny mouth, and I like to let the fish swim on my tongue and taste very bit before consuming. He’s such a sweet man.
- HAGASHI-TORO (Super fatty tuna) – Earlier, I stated that CHUTORO is my favorite of the TOROs, well that’s wrong. HAGASHI-TORO is. It’s the forgotten TORO. It’s so rarely served because it requires so much work. HAGASHI TORO is the fatty tuna found at the top of the tail, so there isn’t much, AND it requires A LOT of work to cut in between the muscle and the sinew, to render a thin, incredibly delicate, never chewy cut of HIGASHI TORO. Impeccable!
- ENGAWA (Fluke Fin) – I would have never think to follow UNIs and TOROs with ENGAWA, that like the SHIROEBI, the crazy flavors of the predecessors would drown and mute this lighter tasting fish. BUT IT WORKED. I LOVE ENGAWA, it’s the only white that has any texture, and between the fat and the cartilage, DELICIOUS!
- OTORO (Super Fatty Tuna) – Toshi-san served this OTORO ABURIed. It was intended to be our last piece, so I suppose leaving us with an extra rich, extra fatty OTORO? Very good.
- AWABI from Hokkaido (Abalone) – We only come here once a year, so we can’t leave that quickly… Time for repeat, more repeat, and MORE repeat of the AWABI…
- MIRUGAI (Giant geoduck clam) – And more of the MIRUGAI…
- UNI from Hokkaido – And to wrap up this incredible evening of gluttony, more of the UNI…
- Fruit – We received some complimentary fruit. Honestly, if there was even the tiniest space left in my stomach, I would have ordered more of the TARABA-GANI. There ain’t room for FRUIT!