It’s been roughly 1.5 years since my last write up on Yuba… Other than the price having gone up a tiny bit, all else remains constant. By constant, I mean Yuba is still that “local neighborhood restaurant”, where things are pretty much just thrown together, but somehow, it works.
Truthfully, we live just a few avenues away, so I really, really want to, love Yuba. But I don’t. I don’t need my sushi-yas to be uber traditional for me to love them. Don’t need them to be fancy either. When they are, I get mildly anxious. I mean, we drink, we talk, we laugh. And boy do I laugh. Mother insists that I actually do not laugh, but instead, cackle. And truth be told, my laugh is loud. Super traditional or fancy places don’t really encourage my kind of behavior. I don’t need everyone to be Japanese, don’t care about that at all. But if I’m going for an omakase experience, there needs to be some Japanese influence. The feel at Yuba is MUCH more casual Chinese eatery than Japanese anything. This reminds me of SUSHI INASE in the upper east side. Very respectable fish, super affordable pricing, but a dingy cafeteria feel. Also reminds me of BOND ST, main dining room aside, the sushi bar area is the pits! Actually, can’t compare BOND ST, that wouldn’t be fair. All three have less than stellar sushi bar experience, but Yuba and INASE actually have good sushi. BOND ST sucks, in every aspect! Because we drink, it’s pretty hard for us to spend below 500 bucks for our omakase, which is for 2 people, and is before tip. You don’t pay 500 bucks to go to a casual Chinese eatery, and you don’t pay 500 bucks for a dingy cafeteria. I wish the atmosphere, the vibe meant nothing, but for me, it means I am happy to order delivery, but will go elsewhere for the “experience”.
That said, we do need to keep things in perspective. The phrase “You get what you paid for” is quite appropriate here. Yuba have increased(ish) their omakase prices. For 12/16/20 piece omakase, it used to be $60/$80/$100 respectively, now, it is $55/$90/$125. Please remember, it’s not a straight line, the types of fish changes in each of the tiers, you not only get more, but you get more Japanese/expensive varietals and cuts. $125 for 20 pieces comes out to $6.25 per piece. THAT IS A STEAL. So, for very decent sushi, and very decent pricing, can you really demand for atmosphere too? You still have a friendly, attentive, and accommodating staff, so do YOU NEED atmosphere too? That’s for you to judge…
Our Omakase tonight:
- DAIKON radish sprouts, wrapped in MADAI (Seabream), and topped with summer truffles. Same exact feeling I had the last time chef Jack served us this same dish (but with SUZUKI rather than MADAI). I love everything about fresh truffles, but you can’t go throwing that on everything. MADAIs and SUZUKIs alike are such delicate fishes. And perhaps it wasn’t the truffle itself, but the addition of the truffle oil. Completely overpowered the fish, couldn’t taste it at all.
- HOTATE (Scallop) with UNI Sauce – Now these two go together! The HOTATE was slightly ABURIed (torched), and of great quality. That along with the UNI sauce and a piece of SHISO – fantastic!
- HOTARU IKA (Firefly squid) – TREMENDOUS fan of the HOTARU IKA. Love those little suckers (although these were real, REAL little)! Loved the sweet miso sauce topping. Not a fan of the black and white sesame seed topping. The nuttiness of the sesame seeds FOUGHT with the miso, and the black sesame is pungent! We need to learn to stop while we’re ahead…
- OTORO (Super fatty Tuna) – Chef Jack served the OTORO slightly torched, wrapping a slice of avocado, and topped with summer truffle, and a pepper sauce. I am beyond confused. Why would anyone throw black pepper sauce on truffle? They don’t go! I’m getting frustrated…
- TAI (Snapper) – Welcome back! Back to nice, traditional, EDOMAE style. Just a good piece of fish, served with a touch of soy. YUM
- KINMEDAI (Golden Eye Snapper) – Slightly disappointed that Chef Jack didn’t ABURI (torch) the skin. KINMEDAI is best served with their skin ABURIed. But fish itself was very, very good.
- Ocean Trout – Very nice! I have a two orange maximum preference for my omakases. This one is a good Ocean Trout, nice and simple, and really very refreshing.
- HAMACHI SUNAZURI (Hamachi Belly) – BOOOORRRINGGGGG! The fish was plenty good, and I liked that he kept it simple, just not a fan of HAMACHI’s in my omakase…
- MADAI (Seabream) – I really thought this was an ISAKI, but chef insisted it’s a MADAI. Served with a brush of soy and topped YUZU zest, very nice.
- SAYORI (Needle fish) – Served with a generous helping of grated ginger, this was good. I have to say, when chefs put an abundance of strong flavors like ginger or citrus, my cynicism takes over, and I wonder if we’re trying to mask something. That said, this tasted very good to me…
- SHINKO (Baby KOHADA / Baby Gizzard Shad) – Chef INSISTED this was a SHINKO. No F-ing way is this a SHINKO. A SHINKO is a baby KOHADA (Gizzard Shad). Even with the skin completely removed, this looks and tasted nothing like a SHINKO. Chef Jack took out the whole fish to show me, and again, looked NOTHING like a SHINKO. This fish was also not treated like most SHINKOs (the silvers have to go through a vinegar processing).
- AKAMI (Lean bluefin tuna) – Happy we are going back to the basics. I haven’t had a zuke in a while, but still very happy with an omakase staple, the AKAMI. Very nice.
- AJI (Horse Mackerel) – I don’t understand what chef Jack does. His silvers are WEIRD. Silvers are fairly opaque, somewhat dense, almost always treated with a vinegar, and served with much of its skin. Chef Jack’s silvers look more white to me, but he insists, and I think who am I to fight… This tasted like a white, not at all like an AJI. Still good, but just in bizarro world. It’s like if a chef puts a nice Ribeye in front of you, and insists it’s Chicken. You eat it, and it’s a perfectly cooked, scrumptious Ribeye, you are perplexed, but it doesn’t mean that the Ribeye was not good. Right?
- King salmon – Second orange of the night, and again, very happy with this orange. Super, DUPER fatty deliciousness!
- KAMASU (Barracuda) – The saga continues… Chef says it’s a KAMASU, to me, this looked and tasted more like either a HIRAMASA or a BURI, but whatever you say chef… That said, up until now, despite my confusion, I was happy with the quality of what I was consuming. This serving was FISHY! Second “eh” of the night…
- KASUGODAI (Baby Snapper) – Back to the whites! Served with just soy and yuzu zest, this was thoroughly good!
- HAMACHI SUNAZURI (Hamachi Belly) – Not only am I not happy that we’re getting HAMACHI again (remember, wasn’t happy the first time we were served this), what is heck is with the black pepper sauce. It doesn’t belong on fish!!!
- SABA (Japanese Mackerel) – Not a fan of SABA in general, and VERY MUCH not a fan of this particular serving of SABA. Fishiness galore!
- CHUTORO (Medium Fatty Tuna) – Another serving of very respectable Tuna! Great cut, no big veins, no chewiness, very light to the mouth, and great flavors with no funky aftertaste! Good!
- California UNI – So pretty! And the flavor held up too! Great, full, complex, nutty sweetness. YUM!
- NIJIMASU (Rainbow Trout) – Noooo!!! Should have quit while you were ahead. Chef Jack knocked it out of the park with the first two oranges (Trout and King), now with this Rainbow Trout? YUCK! Not only was the Trout itself not the best, then you go and top it with the combative/overpowering black pepper sauce? Double fail!
- BOTAN EBI (Spotted sweet shrimp) – Thank goodness Chef Jack finished strong. This BOTAN EBI was so sweet, so crunchy, so delicious! And my fried shrimp head? DOUBLE YUM!