So here's the thing about Naoe...it's the best culinary experience I've ever had.
One of the weird things that I do - that I truly hope I'm not alone in doing - is imagine what my last meal on earth would be if I had that choice. For most of my life, my default answer usually was some variation of whatever I'd be in the mood for before my impending death. After experiencing Naoe though, there's really not much debate. The crazy thing is that it isn't even really a meal. It's an experience - no, it's theatre. Never have I sat for a 200 minute meal and not felt like I wanted to leave after 60. But at Naoe, the time flies, partially because of the food, but also because of the service. 8 people are allowed to eat at Naoe per sitting. Contrasted against the 7 staff that I counted, and the fact that each of them is incredibly engaging are why call it theatre.
None of that would matter if the the Food wasn't world-class. If the pictures attached don't give it away, I can assure you that it is. Naoe is partly-owned by chef Kevin Cory, a highly rated sushi chef who uses his Japanese heritage to his advantage by sourcing most of his ingredients directly from Japan. That includes by the way, the Sake, which comes from Chef Cory's family brewery in Oono.
Among the many courses, one that stands out was the Bento Box, a course which I haven't usually seen in Omakase meals and a course which has become somewhat of a hallmark for Chef Cory. Obviously this isn't your typical Bento Box, given that this one featured Egg Custard with Uni sauce, Sweet Potato and Daikon rice, Bostom Clam (pictured being removed on the left) with Pork Jaw and Live clam with herring roe. Again, that was just the Bento Box.
Among other meal highlights was the whole Japanese Sandfish (pictured right), which included some of the tastiest roe I've ever had. The Lobster with Golden ring Octopus and Monkfish Liver (a personal favourite) worked well together as a break in the middle of a multitude of Sushi courses.
As some of you who read this blog know, I'm always a sucker for trying new fish, and Naoe certainly had plenty of that. Specifically, the Sea Cucumber ovaries were phenomenal (please don't judge me). For pictures of all the courses, please see below, and don't hesitate to e-mail for any ID's.
As I mentioned above, The Atmopshere is phenomenal as well. Naoe is situated on semi-private Brickell Key, so it already feels somewhat exclusive before you sit down. Despite having room for 10, reservations are capped at 8 for each of the two seatings. The host and staff are so knowledgeable it's scary; everyone knows exactly what you are eating and from where, which was a bonus for someone like me who hates having to awkwardly ask. Chef Cory is reserved, but friendly, which is as expected for a talented chef.
Naoe doesn't profess to be an inexpensive meal. But - and this may sound ridiculous given it's $250+ price tag per person - it offers people exactly what they want at good value. Sourcing ingredients from Japan, especially in such small quantities, can't be cheap. All that does is add to the experience, which I found to be incredible. Highly recommended.
Kura is a relatively unassuming place. It hasn't received much publicity, and is located in the lower east side of Manhattan - not exactly an area known for it's high class sushi.