217 Eldridge Street
New York, NY 10002
It’s very peculiar that in the same week, I went to Senya and Uchu. They are COMPLETE opposites of each other. In my latest Senya post, I wrote about how sad of a venue Senya is, but still a solid neighborhood restaurant given the variety, freshness, and cost (averages at $5.5/piece). Today, I write about Uchu, an incredibly sexy little sushi ya, with an even sexier bar that serves their own tastings as well as à la carte. With Chef Eiji Ichimura holding down the fort, comes Ichimura pricing of $300 per person (averaging at a super pricey $15/piece). The silver lining to Ichimura pricing is the traditional Japanese way of, “gratuities are not accepted”, which really helps.
We’ve visited Ichimura-san a couple of times at the Brushstroke location as well as the Ichimura location in Tribeca (now renamed Shoji with rotating guest chefs). Uchu is by far the sexiest venue of the three, the dim lights, the quiet humming of light music (why, why, WHY do so many sushi-yas play techno music?), the minimal but uber elegant décor, the magnificent and flawless wood counters, all just so beautiful. And where for the first time, Chef really beamed. After just having kidney surgery, he was incredibly happy, vibrant and chatty, he seems to have really settled.
True to SushiGirl form, a post is not complete without random tangents. Today, I want to share a conversation we had with the neighboring counter patrons.
The debate: Could NYC sushi be better than Tokyo sushi?
SushiGirl Verdict: Fancy sushi – YES, Everyday sushi – Not by a long shot
Fancy sushi: When you compare our best of the best sushi-yas in NYC, Ichimura-san (wherever he is), Kuruma, Ginza Onodera, Yasuda, Kyo Ya, Sushi Zo, Kanoyama, Cagen, the list goes on… to Tokyo’s top of the top, Saito, Jiro, Yoshitake, Umi, Kanesaka, Masuda, Mizutani… The quality of NYC sushi definitely is on par with that of Tokyo. What puts us (NYC) on top? Our sushi-yas stock much more variety than just the 15 top fishes of the day. Our sushi-yas don’t insist on serving you a bunch of cooked dishes. Our sushi-yas will allow for reservations so long as you have a credit card.
Everyday sushi: This is the deal with Japan. You can stop by just about any outside counter and have very good quality fish. You really can’t do that in NYC. The only acceptable everyday sushi ya is maybe Tomoe, Senya, Domo Domo, and Takahachi. And of those, we’ve never left with a bill less than 250, then throw on the 20-25% tip, and it’s not all that “everyday” after all, is it? In Tokyo, we can easily skip off on a great everyday sushi meal for 120 bucks, which includes our sake, AND they won’t accept tip! That’s the difference! And another tangent on top of this tangent. LA and San Fran follows suit with Japan on the everyday sushi, but Fancy Sushi – we have them beat hands down!
Our Neighbors thoughts: The nice lady from Japan 100% agrees with me, her partner believes NYC has better sushi all around. Funny, my boyfriend, the love of my life agrees with him. More proof that women have keener taste buds, and clearly, are just smarter.
- EZO AWABI (Abalone) from Hokkaido – Served with a spicy liver sauce and matsutaki mushroom (prime season), this dish was absolutely fantastic. The flavors were amazing, and the AWABI was incredibly tender!
- UNI from Maine AND Santa Barbara and KEGANI (Hair crab) from Hokkaido – Served in a sweet rice cracker, to be eaten as a sandwich. It was great to have all those goodies in a handy vehicle to transport to drooling mouth, but HATED the rice cracker. What a funky combo! Maine UNI had a hint of funk, and the Santa Barbara UNI was very sweet, but a bit too watery. When you combine 2 kinds of UNI, and a good quality KEGANI you can’t really go wrong, I would have just prefer plain old, boring but super tasty seaweed!
- Sashimi plate:
- BURI (adult yellowtail) from Hokkaido – This lovely, sweet, buttery fish was seasoned for several days. I’m not even a fan of BURIs, but this was delicious!
- NAMADAKO (live octopus) – Still live and squirming, just the way I like it! One of my favorite shell fishes!
- Chawan Mushi with Fresh Truffles – Very good, but it’s chawan mushi… nothing to write home about.
- AKAMUTSU (Rosy sea perch) – Does not taste like an AKAMUTSU, much more lean, and LOOKS more like a sea bass not a rosy sea perch… Really very good, but I LOVE my AKAMUTSUs, and this ain’t it.
- NANAGATSU (Pompano) – So rare to be served this in NYC! This was very similar to butter fish.
- KINMEDAI (Golden eye snapper) – The best of the three whites served thus far. So rich, so buttery, so delicious!
- KOHADA (Gizzard shad) – Chef first dipped the rice in the egg yolk, which I liked, but I think I prefer the KOHADA dipped in the egg yolk. It cuts the fishiness that always comes with a KOHADA…
- SURUME IKA (Pacific flying squid) – Such a small IKA, but still thick enough to make a great sushi serving. Beautiful crunch, and just delicious.
- BOTAN EBI (Spotted sweet shrimp) – Love the gumminess of the shrimp, and LOVE the spectacular crunch. So, so, so good!
- SHIMA AJI (Striped Jack) – This marinated SHIMA AJI was so rich in flavors. With the natural gumminess of the fish, this was just perfect.
- IWASHI (Japanese sardine) – My new favorite silver! This position used to be held by SANMA, followed by the KOHADA, but lately, the IWASHI has been out of this world. This cut was so incredible and so thick too!!!
- MIRUGAI (Geoduck clam) – Slightest hint of the ocean, followed by a beautiful crunch. So delicious!
- HAMACHI SUNAZURI (Yellowtail belly) – Very fatty, very yummy. Just wish I had a more exciting fish from Japan though!
- HOTATE (Scallop)with sea salt – Very good, but another yet another serving that is so commonly available…
- CHUTORO (Medium fatty tuna) – Ichimura san’s famous multi-layered TOROs. This is why we keep coming back!
- ANAGO (Sea eel) with a healthy topping of Hackleback caviar – I ALWAYS ask for no ANAGO, but I so immersed in the décor, and taking photos that I forgot to make the request! ANAGO was fine, but eh, not my thing. Thank goodness for the caviar, else this serving would have been a complete flop for me!
- HOKKAIDO UNI – SO MUCH better than the earlier Maine and Santa Barbara UNIs. So much better!
- OTORO (Super fatty tuna) – Ichimura san’s grand finale, the three tiered OTORO. SCRUMPTIOUS!
- Raspberry sorbet – I was really hoping for something more exciting than sorbet, but I guess not. This one was even overly tart.
Thrilled to see Ichimura san happy and healthy, and in such a lovely setting. Overall experience was great, but a bit overpriced. Sorry chef!