Visited in July 2016
204 E 43rd Street
New York, NY 10017
Wow Sushi Yasuda… This place really takes me back. I’ve had countless lunches and dinners at this popular sushi-ya back in the day, but never a “proper” one. This is probably why I never gave it its deserved appreciation.
My first job out of college landed me a block and half, two blocks away from Sushi Yasuda. Those were the days I was going down Zagat Top 50’s list, one at a time, restaurant, by restaurant, starting in midtown. That was when I first tried the likes of Kuruma Zushi, Hatsuhana, Sushi of Gari, La Bernadin, La Genouille, Daniel, Jean George, oh my, I’m getting hungry! Those were also the days where I had a crazy appetite, an eye for designer goods, and crap for pay. I was fresh out of college then!
Luckily, fresh out of college also meant I didn’t know how to order the fancy stuff, the omakase, or the sakes. The house sake, or the cheapest sake that they had was fine for me. It also didn’t take me and my dining partner, a minimum of two bottles to get through dinner. For those reasons, and it being practically next door, Sushi Yasuda just “made sense”. Get off work from my entry level job, in my semi-brand name garb, grab a friend or a coworker, order the very affordable set sushi or sashimi plate, the cheapest sake they had, then slum it on the train ride home for the next hour, half tipsy. That was back then.
Today, Midtown and north thereof, equals men in suits, women in head to toe luxury labels, and everyone’s noses up in the air, higher than their eyeballs. With its unfortunate location, its big, bright, airy feel, tons of “suits” in and out, and the fact that the chef serving you, is putting together 50 catering orders at the same time, Sushi Yasuda is the epitome of a sushi-ya I would not care to visit, much less frequent. So how did this fancy sushi-ya in Grand Central re-win me over when I’ve changed so much? They excel in what matters, all the areas/categories that I rate, insane variety, ridiculously fresh fish, simple and perfectly executed preparation, and affordable pricing! For all that, I’ll shelp myself to what my boo calls “Canada”, Midtown East. I’ll accept the bright lighting, the big, airy, cold, sterile space, I’ll deal. By the way, I’ve never actually referred to my man as “my boo”, I just saw it on TV, and thought it was funny. TV… Enriching lives everywhere!
So let’s get down to business. Let’s talk about the omakase at Sushi Yasuda. There are two very important things to remember when ordering the omakase at Sushi Yasuda. First, it’s not “set”, you don’t choose from a $100, $150, $200 version. You simply let the chef know sushi only, or sushi and sashimi, starting with sashimi. The chef will continue filling your plate until you say stop. Kind of like the red and green signals at a Brazilian Churrascuria! Second, and for me, more importantly, is that it’s a bit harder to piss off your chef here, than the smaller chef-owned restaurants. You can make ridiculous requests and not worry about making him mad. You can even double dip your sushi in soy! I attribute their mild/well behaved mannerisms to their primary clientele, suits that don’t know one fish from the next, that have crazy preferences, but won’t take no for an answer. Thank goodness for the suits! The chefs at this top notch sushi-ya has been conditioned to handling the “difficult customer”!
Complimentary Asparagus – Several 2 inch cuts of boiled Asparagus, that tasted smoked, topped with a little bit of sesame seeds. This was not a dish for me, I’m a huge fan of Asparagus, but need my greens crispy/crunchy, barely seared, so this was severely overcooked. It’s almost not worth discussing, but it made me realize, when I go for Omakase, I get very little, if any greens at all. I’ve always thought a Sushi dinners are so healthy, but is it really? How can a meal with all protein and carb be healthy? Well compared to my POPEYES dinners, this is VERY healthy.
- KAKI – Oyster from Washington. I did a bad job with my photography here. This was one BIG oyster, 3-4 inches in length, but cut up into 3 big chunks. It was very good, very fresh, very delicious. Do you know that oysters really do grow to be quite large in size? In the U.S. though, we tend to harvest them too early, before they are fully grown, yielding much smaller ones. On the topic of oyster, I HAVE TO drop a couple of names here, Upstate, Azabu and Sushi-Ta-Ke.
- UPSTATE is our absolute favorite oyster joint in the city. Yes, even higher than Grand Central, and Aquagrill! And no, Mermaid, Pearl Oyster, Oceana, Blue Water, aren’t even in the same league. Upstate does this fantastic Happy Hour deal of ½ dozen oysters and a beer for 12 bucks. Killer! Or if you’re not a beer drinker, they allow wine substitutions for a small upcharge. Problem is, our favorite west coast oysters are never part of that deal, thus we almost never benefit from the happy hour special. Poor us!
- Sushi Azabu wins for largest, plumpest, and best oyster offered as part of an omakase of all NYC sushi-yas.
- SUSHI TA-KE from Hong Kong wins for largest, plumpest, and best oyster offered as part of an omakase of all sushi-yas world wide! Our Oyster there was a solid 6-7 inches long, ¾ the length of our chopstick! And it was out of this world delish. By the way, for those that don’t visit Hong Kong. Tipping is not customary there. So even when they do receive tips, it’s more like a rounding up, or maybe 10%. My boo (yes, it’s still amusing me, so I’m continuing with the term), has a heavy hand when it comes to tipping. When he’s super happy, not only will he generously tip the overall bill, he will slip the chef extra cash on the side. I forgot how many US hundreds he gave him, but Chef was so appreciative that he came out, thanked us, and walked us all the way out of the restaurant. We’re really happy that he was so appreciative, but that was a little much for me to be honest.
All that said, I don’t want to take the spotlight away from Sushi Yasuda. This was easily the best oyster I’ve had in the last 6-8 months. EASILY.
- OCEAN TROUT – I’m not a huge fan of Salmons, but I actually like this! Super fatty!
- ARCTIC CHAR – Again, prefacing with me not being a fan of Salmons, this was not disgusting, but I made Boo eat it. Ok “Boo” is getting old now, I’m no longer amused.
- KANPACHI – This is a great season for KANPACHI, and was delightful! This was my second favorite fish on my plate!
- BIGEYE TUNA – My third favorite cut of fish! I love a good lean Tuna every so often! I really prefer the marinated version AKAMI ZUKE, but oh well, it’s still delicious.
- STRIPED BASS – This was the disappointment of the plate. Whitefishes are my favorite fish category. STRIPPED BASS is always a hit or miss for me. This particular one was so bland, not good.
- TACHUIO – Hair Tail Fish – I know this fish has been in season for the past month, but I have not had it served to me yet! It was very good!
- TAKO – This was fine for a TAKO, but nothing I would ever order. This is so unfair to Sushi Yasuda, but please do take a read at my USHIWAKAMARU or SUSHI TA-KE posts, and you’ll understand why I’m so particular with my TAKOs.
- BOTAN EBI – No joke, this was one of the sweetest BOTAN EBI I ever had, in my LIFE. It was simply dressed with soy AND a touch of salt. How can something so simple, be so delicious? It was better than SUSHI NAKAZAWA’s “Sayonara Shrimp”, better than TANOSHI’s BOTAN EBI with UNI on top (which is cheating by the way!), better than every other shrimp I have had for as long as I can remember. One very peculiar thing was, they charge you extra to fry the head. How dumb is that? They didn’t ask us if we were ok with the upcharge, not that the $5 would have deterred us, but it was just odd all around. See, this kind of stuff irritates the crap out of me… We are OK paying the over $400 bill for JUST food, but I absolutely abhor the nickle and diming!
- KINMEDAI – One of my top 3 fishes in my most favorite fish category. This was fantastically fresh, melted in my mouth like butter, no need for chewing what so ever. Honey Pie – if you’re reading, when I get old and gray, and lose all my teeth, please do not give me pureed foods, instead please feed me KINEMEDAIs! Especially from Sushi Yasuda. My only complaint was that KINMEDAIs are the one fish that I prefer heavy ABURI-ing (torching) on my skin. This was not at all torched. Honey Pie – When I lose all my teeth, STILL have him ABURI my KINMEDAI skin! My gums can handle it!
- AKAMI – I know chef said this was AKAMI, a lean cut tuna, but how is that possible? This was so fatty, I am convinced it was a CHUTORO. Not at all like the AKAMI I had during our sashimi round. Note, I love BOTH AKAMI and CHUTORO, so it’s not preference of one over the other, I really just thought this was CHUTORO. Whatever, it was delish!
- SABA (Mackerel) – SABA is one of my least favorite of the silverfishes. I find it too fishy for no good reason. Sushi Yasuda’s SABA was very fresh, not as fishy as normal, great for its kind, but not great enough to convert me.
- SHIMA AJI – SHIMA AJIs are typically my most favorite of the yellowtails, today, the sashimi round KANPACHI won. Not sure why, this was still really fresh, really delicious, would gladly have seconds, but for some reason just a little lower on the totem pole from the KANPACHI tonight.
- OTORO – Within the Tuna world, I have a three way tie for favorites, AKAMI ZUKE (lean marinated tuna), CHUTORO (medium fatty tuna), and HAGASHI TORO (a specific cut of fatty tuna that does not come from the belly). OTORO does not make it to my top three because it is typically just too much fat for me. So much that I feel the need to wash out my mouth after. A great chef once told me, it’s not the quality of the OTORO itself, but how the chef cuts it, that makes the difference. Again, I know nothing about how to cut fish, or what makes one fish greater than the next. I just know that this particular OTORO from Sushi Yasuda could easily convert me HERE, but if I was ordering a la carte at the OTHER 9 of 10 of the best sushi-yas in NYC, I will still only order my top three and pass on this one. Good job Sushi Yasuda!
- WHITE KING SALMON – More Salmon? Ugh! Again, not a salmon fan, so it’s really not fair for me to judge. I had half of this, it tasted fine. Poor boyfriend was forced the other half.
- KING SALMON from New Zealand – This was fattier than the white king salmon, but still nothing to write home about. Again, ate half, and force the other half on boyfriend.
- KING SALMON from Copper River – Ding ding ding! The second of the five salmons I actually enjoyed!
- RAINBOW TROUT – Pretty, right? Well looks are deceiving. We are back to being not at all interested. My boyfriend put his foot down though. He said “no-maas” to my half eaten fish. No-maas = no more in Spanish. I am clearly going through an identity crisis. I toughed through it and ate the second bite by myself. The next time I come back, I need to ask for no cooked eels, and no salmons. Heck! The lady next to me asked for no shrimp, no UNI, and no innards! And the chef was amenable to that. So why can’t I ask for no salmons? Why is that so strange?
- IKURA – How can someone be so uninterested in Salmons, but so obsessed in Salmon eggs? What can I say, my palate just likes to be controversial! Like the BOTAN EBI, the IKURA is another fish that many of the higher end NYC sushi yas does a great job of, so you almost lose your appreciation for it. And just like the BOTAN EBI, Sushi Yasuda’s IKURA really stood out. I can’t say this is the best IKURA I’ve ever had, but it’s up there. The eggs were huge, non-crushed kernels, beautiful and just heavenly.
- HAMAGURI (Cherrystone Clam) – You know how you go to a seafood restaurant and sometimes they not only offer you oysters on the half shells, but they also offer clams on the half shell? Well this was similar, but different. The way they prepare it, you get the crunchy part, but not the mushier stuff (heart, stomach, kidney, liver, you know “innards”). Cherrystone clams are one of the sweeter clams, and if you like that crunch, which I do, it is really quite a treat. There is definitively a small tinge of the sea, but it’s the kind that you wouldn’t NOT want with! Look how big this guy is! It must have been one LARGE clam! Such a spectacular crunch. Delish!
- MIRUGAI – I’ve never seen my MIRUGAI so choppy looking. Like it was scored it a million times before serving. I wonder why? This was fantastic, really fresh, really delicious, but I don’t really know what the point of the scoring was. It had a beautiful crunch, not at all “chewy”, but I don’t find my non-scored MIRUGAIs chewy either? Who knows, it was delicious, so who cares.
- HOTATE – I’m now recognizing that Sushi Yasuda does a kick a*s job on mollusks. Every single mollusk, the oyster, the shrimp, the clam, the scallop, every single one was delicious! It was a “live scallop”, demonstrated with a small tap, where we get to watch the scallop curl in response. This HOTATE was huge cut, served with a tad bit of salt and soy, delicious! I have to learn to use a thesaurus, find new words for delicious and disgusting. Ha! Good thing is Yasuda has a ton of “delicious”, but no “disgusting”. Good job Yasuda!
- KUCHIKO – KUCHIKO, this light colored KUCHIKO is the male organs of a HOTATE. This is the second time I’ve had it served to me in this manner, plain, with a little bit of soy, and a tiny bit of ginger. Unlike my last experience at SHUKO, where I swear, I almost threw up, Sushi Yasuda’s was scrumptious.
- KUCHIKO – KUCHIKO, this reddish colored KUCHIKO is the female organs of a HOTATE. Another hit!
- SAWANI (fresh water white sea eel) – Wow, I’m getting really full. My man once told me, he knew he loved me when I said to him during the tail end of our dinner “quick, order more food before I start to realize I’m full”. We were at a Japanese steak house then, ordering THICK cuts of waygu meats, and grilling them ourselves. Yes, I often eat until I am outrageously, uncomfortably full. At this point of the meal, I’m pretty much there. Luckily, I always tell chefs, “no cooked eels please”. So I saved a little more room for my upcoming RAW fish. Boyfriend thought this was delicious, but again agreed, he too would have preferred to save room for the raw stuff.
- NODOGURO – NOW we get to whitefishes? This late in the meal? This is my favorite fish category, the reason why I needed to save room! I love me some NODOGURO! It’s within my top three of the whitefishes! Served exactly the way I like it, lightly ABURIed with a tiny bit of sea salt, out of the world delish.
- MADAI – The last of my top three favorites in my most favored fish category, whitefishes. The MADAI is a TRUE seabream, and a highly regarded fish in the Japanese community. With a tiny piece of shiso between the fish and the rice, and lightly dressed with soy, this was my favorite piece of fish for the night. Yes, even better than “the best BOTAN EBI I ever had in my life”, even better than the IKURA, the oyster, the everything else. I am a happy, happy girl. It says a lot about the quality of the fish when a person is stuffed to the max, and still thinks the world of the fish.
- AJI – I love AJIs, but it’s not as high on the silverfish totem pole as the IWASHI, which is also in season. It was still delish, lightly scored, and simply dressed with nothing but soy. I would have preferred just tiny bit of grated ginger though.
- HOKKAIDO UNI – INSANELY fresh and sweet! Is it winter? It is so hard to find top notch UNI in the summer, yet they found it. The fullness is really kicking in though, and I am waving my white flag. Thank goodness for stretchy pants!
On paper, Sushi Yasuda is everything I dislike about a sushi-ya, midtown east, stuffy men and women in their suits, and a cold and sterile environment, yet they have won me over! And I cannot wait to go back! They had so many kinds of fish, that I didn’t even get to try every one. The fish was all outrageously fresh, and preparation/execution was impeccable. Our bill did not reflect it, because we both eat as though we are each eating for two, but if you look at my cost breakdown, and you eat like a normal human being, it is a very affordable meal.