Omakase under $100 in NYC for 2019
O Toro with an Uni backpack. Taken 2019.
Takeshi Sato behind the counter slicing the lean part of the Tuna (Akami). Taken 2018.
Yes, there are options for good sushi in this city that aren't a billion dollars
Entering Uotora, the first thing I notice is the coziness. Capacity is tight: there's room for about 20 in the main restaurant and 8 or so at the sushi counter itself. Atsuomi-san, who served me at the counter through the duration of the meal, explained that the size of Uotora was a natural check on what him and his partners felt would be muted initial interest. Well, turns out he was wrong: incredible initial reviews coupled with demand for great sushi in Crown Heights (slash the world) have meant throngs of customers, despite the fact that Uotora does not yet have a liquor license. That's a great problem to have but it means that if you're planning on going - and you should - a reservation is probably wise.
You'd be forgiven for being surprised about Uotora's location. A small nook in a subset of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, it resides in an area not exactly known as a culinary hotbed. Or it wasn't at least, until recently, when soaring rents in Manhattan, Williamsburg and Long Island City have pushed some of New York City's true tastemakers further (or farther?) outside the city's center. This isn't the place for massive restaurant groups or celebrity chefs with venture capital funding. It's for people like Hiroyuki Kobayashi and Atsuomi Hotta, two experienced New York City sushi chefs, who've finally decided to push out on their own and open a sushiya in more reasonably priced real estate.
See my full review here
Sushi By Bou
Before Uogashi was a gem on West 51st street, it was a gem in the East Village, well-liked by many, including yours truly. That was, however, until a brutal October 2018 fire left its former home completely unusable. The midtown west version is the successor, despite the bizarre absence of that fact anywhere on the internet.
The super-long counter that appealed to many is gone, but the charm remains. Moving the magic has been historically tough for restaurants with local followings, but Uogashi has avoided that risk in a few ways. First, some familiar faces behind that long counter are back, and with them, their devoted local followings. Second, that very modestly priced, $95 Omakase has made the trek northwest. Though it's required for those sitting at the counter, you won't hear many complaints given the relatively reasonable price point
See my full review here
Upper West Side
T here's not too much beauty in New York City. I know it has the reputation for the glitz and glamour, but I promise you that fantasy will evaporate the second you see a pack of cockroaches that have somehow developed (evolved???) the ability to fly. Really, unless rats scurrying between in, on or through subway cars is your thing, there are about 745 cities I'd recommend visiting first. But I'd be lying if I said this concrete jungle didn't have its moments. For instance, if you happen to be on the bike path on the west side of lower Manhattan around sunset, you might get the view pictured above. Or, more relevant to why you're here, there are few places outside of Japan that have the diversity and quality of The Big Apple/Outworld when it comes to sushi.
The sheer volume of sushiya in this city - approximately 745,000 at last check - means you don't have to spend your paycheck going to a Michelin Star restaurant if you don't want to. Which is perfect, because the question I get the most - far more than, "What makes you the Sushi Legend?" (hint: it's the name of the blog, not me) - is "Where I can find a reasonably priced Omakase in this city?" Well kiddos, you're in luck. I've collated a bunch of my favourites that are under the arbitrary amount of $100 below. No particular order. Think I missed any? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Instagram at @TheSushiLegend and slide into the DMs.
Thanks for reading.
Arctic Char w/ a hint of tomato (not terrible!) from Sushi Lab's omakase. Taken 2019.
In theory, the one small downside for Katsuei is its location, situated in an area of Brooklyn that isn't exactly convenient (even to the subway). The reality however, is that its Park Slope location mean that the owners can afford to provide an outstanding sushi experience at an affordable price. The sushi wasn't the best that I've ever had (the maki left a lot to be desired), but I came away extremely impressed - or at the very least, I came away with some great pictures.
Katsuei has also recently expanded to the West Village, with prices that either are higher due to the location or the passage of time (cost of living or some other classic). I enjoyed my Brooklyn excursion more, but although I haven't gotten around to writing about the West Village just yet, at a starting price of $60 for a "Sushi Omakase", you won't find a better deal in that posh enclave.
See my full review of Sushi Katsuei Brooklyn here
It seems that with a new sushi restaurant opening daily in New York City - which is, by the way, the mecca of sushi outside Japan - finding the sushi restaurant that fits your mood is easier than ever. So on a lazy Saturday night, I figured I'd make the 20 minute trek by Subway to Sushi Daizen in Long Island City. Early reviews pegged it for having a high quality omakase with none of the bells and whistles that familiar haunts like Ichimura, 15 East and even Sushi Inoue have. Unfortunately, I ran into an all-to-familiar sight - a subway closure, which turned my 20 minute jaunt into a 75 minute expedition. By the time I finally found the inocuous storefront on Vernon Ave, I was ready to just relax. Fortunately, the staff was more than accommodating, even indulging me when I moved seats multiple times (yes, I'm that annoying blogger who needs the lighting to be justttttt right).
Daizen has a small daily features menu, which I would absolutely recommend if you are prefer something more reasonable. In fact, I actually went to Daizen alone and - despite some issues finding the hidden restaurant - felt that the set up of the restaurant and all of its menu options made it easier to relax. That's because the fish is diverse enough - and the prices low enough - that ordering on a whim is encouraged. Most people around me ordered in spurts, rather than all at once, which seemed to make it easier to keep the conversations going. Despite the fact that it was Saturday , the restaurant was more than happy to let people spend as much time as they want at the bar. For me though, I take the responsibility of sushi blogger extremely seriously. So I ordered the omakase. You're welcome, dear readers.
See my full review here
Zawa Japanese is a delightlful marriage of neighborhood sushiya and an "open door omakase", a term I literally just made up. To wit, my first time at the 7 seat counter had three people: yours truly, a father and his daughter (introduce your kids to different cultures please!). No high snobiety, no hushed voices, no scared customers and no gatekeeping.
Of all the sushiya on this list, none has suffered more from a lack of media attention than Zawa. As far as I can tell, it hasn't been reviewed in the Times, on Eater or really any major publication or blog in New York City. In fact, a quick google search has my Zawa blog - which is a shell and supposedly hidden from the internet machine - on page 1. That's objectively bad.
Real, non-shelled review to come.
I wrote about Takeshi Sato when he was at Nare Sushi in Midtown, New York City. What struck me then, which is what strikes me now, was the precision with which he works his craft. It reminds me of a boxer, which isn't surprising given that boxing is his entire life. His other craft.
At the eponymous sushiya, Takeshi Sushi, it's impossible to miss references to boxing . From the gloves behind the counter to the dark ambiance straight out of Friday Night Fights with Max Kellerman, Takeshi-san 's dual life is everywhere. Of particular importance to you readers are the prices: while not every omakase option is under $100, dinner's "The Undercard" (10 pieces nigiri for $75) and all three lunch options are.
Full review to come.
Akami (Lean Tuna) from Sushi Kaito's omakase at the sushi bar. Taken 2019.
O Toro (Strong fatty tuna) from Zawa's transcendent omakase. Taken 2019.
Every so often, genius entrepreneurs name their business exactly as it is. Smoothie King? King of Smoothies. Untuckit? Shirts for untucking. Greyhound? As reliable a method of transportation as a literal greyhound. Now, put Sushi Lab in that group. The whole point of the enterprise is experimentation. And sure, with the proliferation of sushi into mainstream culture, there’s a zillion of the “what if we did sushi, but modern?” sushiya concepts springing up. But Sushi Lab is an actual Lab, complete with beakers and others tools I would know if I didn’t sleep through science in grade 7.
Sushi Lab, located inside The Sanctuary hotel within the bustling cement mixer known as Times Square, is going to be on a lot of tourist radars. Like any good experiment, there is some trial and error, but when it works - like it does with Uni and a battered shiso leaf - the concept is striking. Obviously the methods aren’t traditional - though Madai with shiro ebi jelly is an excellent combo - the concept will be familiar. Piece by piece, nigiri by nigiri, clocked in at an hour and chalked in at under $100.
Full review here.
10 SUSHIYA WORTH TRYING
It didn't take much to get me excited about Omakase by Teisui. The second I heard it was located in the Nomad area of New York City, a notorious black hole of good sushi that really just features low-effort KazuNori, tourist beacon Haru and zillion dollar Noda, my ears perked up like Bugs Bunny's. Teisui deserves credit for not only plugging that gap with - spoiler alert - great sushi at a reasonable price, but for also reading the market. Previously, it was Teisui, an Izakaya. Same owners, same place. New York City is littered with the corpses of restaurants that stubbornly stuck to their original vision; Omakase by Teisui's owners, who also own a Ryokan in Akita, Japan, smartly pivoted in October, 2018.
The renewed focus on sushi is led by Taguchi Kazunobu, a veteran of the scene in both Japan and stateside. Taguchi-san presides over the L shaped counter and a few tables with the help of two chefs, a dedicated management team and knowledgeable servers. The restaurant functions far more effectively than you'd expect for a 7 month old sushiya - each nigiri in our omakase comes like clockwork - but of course, it really isn't a seven month old restaurant, is it?
See my full review here
by THE SUSHI LEGEND
August 19, 2019
Long Island City
Outside one of Sushi by Bou's tucked away locations. Taken 2019.
It's easy to forget that despite the massive proliferation of intelligent sushiya in New York and the broader continent, there's still a large number of people that think a communal dorm shower like Zuma represents good sushi. Fairly certain that a Venn diagram of those people and the folks that think "Omakase" and tasting menu" are synonymous is probably just a circle. That said, I was still caught off guard when, at Sushi Kaito, a 2-year old, omakase-only sushiya in the Upper West Side, two erstwhile individuals entered looking for a menu, and then argued when told there wasn't one. To their credit, the wonderful staff and management handled the situation calmly; not surprising, because Sushi Kaito is, above all else, an extremely warm and welcoming sushiya that takes on the character of its family-heavy neighborhood.
Owned and operated by Yoko Hasegawa, Kaito is an intimate, 12-seat sushi counter that sources much of its fish for the three nightly seatings directly from Japan. My 90 minutes there alongside a buddy felt more like eating in my cousin's living room than a $125/per person sushi temple. And as an added plus, it happens to have a website that puts mine to shame (seriously, check it out and drool).
See my full review here
Chu Toro from Sushi Katsuei West Village. Taken 2018.
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Omakase by Teisui
Kohada (Gizzard Shad) from Sushi Daizen's omakase. Taken 2016.
King Salmon nigiri from Uotora. Taken 2018.
Chef David Bouhadana's latest venture, Sushi by Bou (which theoretically you are here to read a review of), certainly covers all the familiar beats. Bouhadana - or as the locals call him, "Chef David" - is still relatively young by itamae (czar behind the bar) standards, but he's been through a lifetime of headlines. He first rose to relative fame at Sushi Dojo, where he eventually ran afoul of New York City's department of health because of his (correct) refusal to wear gross plastic gloves while doing something that people have been doing without them for centuries. He eventually left Sushi Dojo and created Sushi on Jones, a 4 seat omakase that makes a typically expensive activity accessible to more people. After a year, Chef David moved on from there as well, which brings us to the present day, and Sushi by Bou.
As Sushi by Bou continues to expand across the country, it's the 30 minute omakase experience that it continues to excel at, particularly at its various New York City locations. Regardless of geography, there are familiar constants: the menu - hangs behind the bar for all to see - 12 pieces of nigiri for $50, plus what is basically Frankenstein's temaki (for $12): wagyu beef and uni (called the "Wagyuni H.R" for obvious reasons). For all of the back and forth banter between chef and customer, it's easy to forget that Chef David can still form his nigiri with the best of them.
Upper East Side
O Toro and Chu Toro at Uogashi. Taken 2019.
Getting Mercury Poisoning - so you don't have to