The best sushi in New York City
- Insider's Herrine Ro and Emily Christian visited three popular
sushirestaurants to find the best omakase in New York City.
- They went to Sushi Katsuei, Sushi by M, and Sushi Lab and tried each restaurant's omakase, or chef's tasting menu.
- The two hosts agreed that Sushi Katsuei had the best omakase, based off freshness, creativity, and overall flavor.
The full transcript is below:
[soft upbeat music]
Herrine Ro: New York City boasts of many world-famous sushi restaurants. It's home to chefs whose deådication and passion rival those in Japan. We ordered from three famous sushi restaurants to find which omakase is
Welcome back to "Best in Town." This season, I'm super excited to bring back my close friend and a member of my small social circle during this pandemic, Emily Christian.
Emily Christian: Yay, I'm so excited to be here! Herrine and I have done our research, and we have selected three popular omakase spots in New York, which are relatively affordable, since places in the city have omakase for, like, $800 a person.
Herrine: Yeah, so "relative" is the key word here, but we will see you at the first stop.
[soft jazz music]
Emily: Our first stop is Sushi Katsuei. Their Park Slope location is considered one of the best sushi spots in Brooklyn, and the West Village location that we're at now is equally as popular. Herrine: They are known for their traditional-style omakase that features a variety of high-quality fish. We'll see you there.
Aung Ko Win: Face mask off? OK. I started making sushi 23 years ago in Japan. We specialize in, like, some part in Edomae sushi and some part in authentic sushi. Edomae is a time period. That time period is only cured fish. And also with a little bit of a garnishing. Not the fusion. We don't go to the fusions, no. Fusion is not authentic, and we don't want to use the ingredient besides the Japanese ingredients. The omakase's change depends on the fish coming from the Toyosu Market. Depends on the seasonal items. The fishes that we use are 90% from Japan. The fish is from Tsukiji, Toyosu Market. Now we get shipment from Japan. Four days we can get shipment. Before we get everyday shipment. For example, like, a sea urchin from Hokkaido, then the anago we have coming from the Tokyo Bay.
[soft upbeat music] The one that you have here we call open omakase. Open mean, like, no limited.
[soft upbeat music] We set the first like a starter, like three kinds of sashimi and 12 pieces of sushi.
Herrine: Everything we've tasted so far, super fresh, delicate, and, like, held back. And I think the holding back takes a lot more skill to execute than, like, throwing a bunch of things on it, you know?
Emily: Because just the raw flavors really need to shock. You know, you have to, like, have really, really, really good fish to be able to not add too much for it and for it to have that complexity of flavor that it is having already. Since the omakase has multiple pieces, we'll only be showcasing the chef's favorite, the most surprising, the best overall, and the ikura and the eel because each place has its own take.
Herrine: I'm assuming that we will eat with our hands and not chopsticks.
Aung: It's also the preference too. Eating with hands more delicious.
Emily: Just, like, gets the
Herrine: Wash your hands. Of the 12 pieces, which one's your current favorite?
Aung: Marinated bluefin tuna.
Emily: Oh, this one's the specialty? Aung: Yes, this is one of the traditional item of the sushi. Herrine: Would you say that this is like a quintessential example of what Edomae type of sushi is?
Aung: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Herrine: At other sushi restaurants when you get lean tuna like this, it's very irony, and it doesn't have other taste outside of that. This was very rich.
Emily: Rich, yes.
Herrine: And you didn't get that irony taste.
Emily: Mm-hmm. It had such a savory flavor. It's a really deep flavor. You know, when you were eating, it was like, like this, like it was like this in my mouth.
Herrine: We're having a lot of gestures today.
Emily: Well, sometimes it's just, like, there are no words to describe the flavor of this. The rice, when you eat it, you can taste each individual grain of rice in your mouth.
Herrine: That's exactly what I wanted to say!
Emily: Wow. Each little added topping is so small. He put, like, two drops of something or one sprig of something, and yet, when you eat it, it tastes like this explosion of flavor.
Herrine: That's a really good point. It looks so small, but it really explodes in your mouth.
Emily: Yeah. Herrine, I think we're about to have some more mackerel.
Aung: Nama saba. Fresh mackerel from southern part of Japan.
Herrine: Thank you.
Aung: Topping with miso vinegar and sesame seed. Emily: Awesome, thank you. Aung: The water is getting cold, so our mackerel has a more, like, fatty and richer in taste. I'll be surprised if you don't care for that mackerel.
Herrine: I normally don't like mackerel because of that, like, scent. How is it that yours doesn't have that scent? Like, why am I enjoying --
Emily: How have you done it?
Aung: Mackerel's freshness is important. Shiny fish goes bad very fast.
Emily: This had none of that.
Herrine: This is the first and only time that I enjoyed mackerel. And I don't think it was because they hid the scent, I think it was just, like, paired with flavors that really complemented it.
Emily: Yeah. Absolutely. Herrine: For me, that's the biggest shocker.
Aung: It's a bluefin fatty tuna.
Emily: That is a hearty slab of tuna, too. It's not holding back at all.
Herrine: What makes the otoro here special? Aung: I use normally, like, a not very big one. The muscles are not very strong and also more, like, delicate.
Herrine: Oh, that's, like, that's richer than butter.
Emily: Mm-hmm. My favorite piece is for sure the fatty tuna. Not the fatty tuna, but the fattiest tuna. 'Cause what we ate originally I thought was my favorite, which was just a fatty tuna, and this was as-fatty-as-it-comes tuna, and ooh. Ooh. It was like eating a really good piece of chocolate in the way that it was so decadent and melty.
Herrine: The way that he pairs different flavors, it's like you're getting sweet one time and spicy one time and sour one time, so that your mouth is constantly going through a new thing each time.
Emily: Going on a little mouth adventure.
Herrine: Yes, going on a little mouth adventure. This is the fresh ikura.
Aung: Fresh ikura. Fresh ikura, it's the start of season. Fresh ikura is when you open up the salmon belly. Skin is different, and also the texture and skin is different.
Herrine: That was a lot.
Emily: I was so excited to eat.
Herrine: The fish egg membrane, it's, like, so much more soft.
Emily: You could press the little, you know...
Herrine: Balls. Emily: Eggs up into the roof of your mouth, and they would just kind of delicately explode like a little tiny water balloon, you know?
Herrine: Your way with words, man. So, eel is one of those things that you see at every omakase restaurant.
Emily: Yeah. Herrine: But every place has its own iteration of this piece. Mm. Emily: You know what it is? It's fluffy.
Herrine: Mm-hmm! Has a little bit of a kick.
Emily: And just like a little cloud, like a little eel cloud. And that was just different, 'cause I usually -- [both laugh] My word choice. I liked that you could taste the eel and not just the sauce. Oftentimes when I'm eating eel, I'm just tasting the sauce.
Herrine: Yeah, and when you go to places, a lot of the times, eel is, like, completely drenched in sauce.
Emily: Right. Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Herrine: Just a little light little drizzle. Emily: It was perfect. Again, the balance.
Herrine: The balance.
Emily: The balance is what makes it so good.
Herrine: I would say that without all the bells and whistles, this tasted the most pure. Compared to the other two places that we're going to, this will be the most traditional way we will experience omakase.
Emily: From what I can tell, I love it.
Herrine: Thank you for making this experience so great.
Emily: It was delicious. Thank you.
Aung: Thank you for coming.
Emily: So, our next stop is Sushi by M.
Herrine: And we will be trying their omakase.
Emily: And what makes this place so special?
Herrine: So, Chef Tim is known for using, like, a modern twist to his traditional omakase, and he has a lot of fun with his diners.
Emily: Ooh, I'm excited to figure out what that means.
Herrine: Let's go do it. [soft upbeat music]
Tim Lin: I have been a chef 25 years already, so. Even though I look so young though. I learned sushi while I was in high school over here, from my sushi master. So, he's from Japan, and he taught me everything. I know what kind of foods, what kind of evening people like in this country. 70% is from Japan. I do the traditional omakase, but I still want to find out my own style. My style, I'm like slow casual. We talk, and I serve you piece by piece, and we talk, we drink.
Both: Yes, cheers, cheers.
♪ Yeah ♪ ♪ Rock your body ♪ ♪ Oh, yeah, yeah ♪
So, my sushi master told me that people spend money on the sushi and that you have responsibility to people, actually. So I really want people stay here, have fun, and have good sushi. That's it.
Tim: You're gonna have a good time here.
Emily: We are gonna have, I can feel it already.
Tim: I promise.
Emily: We've been having a good time.
Herrine: We have been having a good time. We've been having a grand old time.
Tim: Before I start making the omakase for you guys, one shot.
Herrine: Cheers. Oh, we're doing the whole thing, OK.
Tim: Only the one shot though.
Emily: You said shot and I was, I didn't register until halfway through.
Tim: I prefer people pick up and get a piece with their fingers, 'cause my sushi rice is so soft. Best premier rice sushi rice from Japan. Making sushi rice is so hard actually, and I spent three years on that. Three years on sushi rice only. So I was not allowed to touch the fish. Sushi rice is the key for the sushi.
Emily: I can really tell your rice is very distinct from anything else I've ever tried. It is really, really soft and plush. It has, like, a pillowy texture to it that just totally sets it apart from any other piece of sushi I've ever had. Shrimp is not always my favorite. This already looks different.
Herrine: So, how is shrimp to you now?
Emily: Oh, beautiful. That is beautiful. It is... it's plump.
Herrine: Compared to Sushi Katsuei, I think that, there, it was like you really got, like, a very distinct flavor profile, in terms of the fish. Here is a little bit more, like, soft-spoken, demure, like, delicate.
Tim: So, I put a salmon roe ikura. Also I marinate it. So, a little special sauce, and also, I won't tell you.
Emily: Special sauce!
Tim: I won't tell you.
Emily: I am really, really excited, because you said there's yuzu in here, right?
Tim: Yes, I told you that? Both: Was that the secret?
Tim: I was trying to make it.
Herrine: I wanna compare this with the one at the previous location, because it was really, really fresh there.
Emily: I will say this is a different, slightly different color. Is it because of the marinade?
Emily: To me that looks more appealing.
Tim: And we also have the eel over there.
Emily: The what? Oh. [laughs] Mm.
Herrine: That yuzu, wherever you get it from...
Emily: It's so good.
Herrine: It's super floral and delicate.
Emily: Citrus and spice are my favorite flavors, so this is already speaking my language.
Tim: There's this new person that's training with me, so that's why I call it a secret.
Emily: Ah, cheers.
Tim: Now three more, three more secrets.
Herrine: It's not as briny or salty.
Emily: The ikura here, the bursts, were a little extra bursty. Like, it was just like, mm, they were just having a good time in there, just pff, pff. Just like little water balloons. Just over and over.
Is there another piece on the omakase specifically that you won't find anywhere else?
Tim: Shiro ebi. Shiro ebi, that's a baby white shrimp from Japan that is so amazing.
Emily: This is something I've never had before.
Herrine: This is something that neither of us have ever had before.
Emily: It's unique.
Herrine: If you compare it to f---ing water balloons, I swear to God. That, like, sobered me up!
Emily: I love those little shrimp.
Herrine: I know, those little shrimp are f---ing bomb!
Emily: They're so soft, and they just kinda, they swim around your mouth a little, you know? I'm sorry, I knew you were gonna hate that, but they do! They, like, there's little shrimps everywhere.
Herrine: No. Out of all the pieces that we've had, that was the most creative.
Emily: Yeah. Herrine: How many pieces is this?
Tim: I have no idea. I'm drunk. [all laugh] So, my favorites would be the A5 Wagyu beef with the California uni and the foie gras. Tastes like cheeseburger. [laughs]
Herrine: So, why is it, like, No. 1?
Tim: Because expensive. [laughs]
Herrine: Ah. This is the one that I feel like will be the best piece out of all 18.
Emily: This is my first fancy beef experience. I've never had fancy beef before.
Herrine: Your first fancy beef experience.
Emily: If I have Wagyu, I'm just gonna call it fancy beef. Wait, wait, wait. Wait, wait. He's putting gold on it.
Herrine: This piece of sushi wants my rent. Mm. Mm, mm. If umami was encapsulated in one... Emily: Yes.
Herrine: Piece of food, it would be that. Like, point blank, period.
Emily: I'm blown away.
Herrine: You aren't going to find that piece anywhere else, but it truly was, out of all 18 pieces, the best thing, because that piece alone can be on anyone's bucket list for the top five things they should eat before they die.
Herrine: Every sushi restaurant has their own eel rendition.
Herrine: And here, we see it mashed with avocado. Oh, that's fragrant.
Emily: It's so good.
Herrine: It does hit your olfactory nerves as much as it, like, coats your tongue.
Emily: What's an olfactory?
Herrine: Olfactory is like...[sniffs]
Emily: Like my nose factory? Herrine: All of the caviar and the uni and the king crab and the A5 Wagyu, it's a great bang for your buck. Cheers!
Herrine: So, our third and final stop is Sushi Lab inside the Sanctuary Hotel.
Emily: And this place has recently garnered a ton of attention on social media during the pandemic because of its modern high-quality omakase but also its socially distant rooftop. Herrine: And today we will be trying their Lab Experiment. All right, let's go.
Jeremy Poon: As we currently speak, we are one of the only existing sushi rooftops that does omakase or specializes in omakase. We specialize in a modern take on traditional sushi. What we call a Lab Experiment, which is a more advanced omakase experience. It doesn't just focus on nigiri but also appetizer courses. So, we incorporate things like tomato confit, which is not your usual traditional Japanese item. And we utilize that as a garnish and a topping to enhance certain flavors of a different fish and different combinations.
Frankie Chen: I work for 15 years. So, in the beginning, it was Nobu. When I meet another Japanese master, so he training me a lot. I feel interested in the cooking about Japanese. We use the short-grain rice. It's found in California. And we season with vinegar, Japanese black vinegar. I gotta say my ingredients is all around the world. Like, 65% from Japan.
Herrine: The omakase here, we are going to be served a little differently. Since we are sitting at a table, they're just gonna be coming in batches.
Frankie: Chimichurri original is from Argentina. First the ikura we marinate in soy and sake. So, when you combine together, you got a whole piece in your mouth, you got a little bit for the chew.
Herrine: I am gonna predict that this place will have the most unique pieces overall.
Herrine: Because the way that he sources his ingredients and the ingredients itself that he uses aren't typically seen.
Herrine: To pair it with that oyster, that herbiness really pairs well with that, like, I don't know, fresh oyster.
Emily: But it's like you said, the herby flavor was spectacular, and then paired with the shrimp, the contrast of textures, both textures were very fresh, but one was springy and one was a little creamy, and I really liked that. Oh, wow. Beautiful.
Both: Thank you.
Frankie: First, when I toast the tomato, it's a big warm taste also. First, Arctic char is really fatty and sweet, mild taste.
Herrine: I just think in general the pieces here are a lot bigger than what I'm used to.
Emily: Yes. This is the piece I'm most excited about, I think.
Herrine: Me too, just because you don't see tomato confit paired with fish.
Emily: Mm. Mm! That's the piece.
Herrine: I have goosebumps.
Emily: Yeah, me too. Honestly! Like, a chill went down my spine.
Herrine: What is that? What is that?
Emily: The tomato. The tomato is like....
Herrine: It's, like, sweet and kinda warm and comforting. Also has the texture of raw fish.
Emily: Right, so it kind of all blends together as one. It was almost the perfect combination between, like, a really good pasta and, like, a piece of nigiri. Like, it was like those two things, because that, I've never had that, like, blistery tomato taste outside of a pasta.
Frankie: The most I like is the Wagyu beef. So fancy. [laughs]
Emily: Wow. Oh, my gosh. Look at that. Thank you so much.
Herrine: Which one smells great?
Emily: I bet you it's the Wagyu topped with the foie gras, because --
Herrine: No, it's this one.
Emily: Oh, it is? Oh, it's the eel. Makes sense.
Herrine: OK, OK, hold on. Let me figure out how we eat this. Don't mind, I was given this -- Emily: We're eating so fast I'm getting indigestion. Sorry.
Herrine: OK, this is the chef's favorite, because it has the really expensive Sapporo uni. Uni is his favorite ingredient. That's why you see it a lot on his menu.
Emily: Yes, in everything.
Herrine: This was also smoked on, like, a --
Emily: Tiny barbecue.
Herrine: Yeah, like a Korean barbecue griddle thing. Very interesting.
Emily: Isn't that, like, Ariana Grande's tattoo? Mm. Wow. I think I just blacked out. The Wagyu unfurled in my mouth, and it became such another large piece of food that I was like [makes chewing sounds]. Like, I was just trying to catch it, like, with my teeth, and it was, like, all.... When I eat good food, I get weird.
Herrine: That's true. That is true.
Emily: I get really happy, and it makes me bizarre.
Herrine: I can't say that I tasted the uni very well because that piece of Wagyu was so thick and rich.
Emily: I tasted nothing but beef.
Emily: This is the unicorn!
Herrine: This is the uni-corn. Emily: The uni-corn.
Frankie: It's basically popcorn powder, French panini, Hokkaido uni, and caviar.
Herrine: Another similar pairing to the Sushi by M, but it didn't have this little pancake.
Emily: Yeah, little pancake. [laughs]
Herrine: No! Producer: Got some on your hair.
Herrine: I got....
Producer: It's everywhere.
Herrine: Where? Where?
Emily: I'm so sorry, Herrine. I'm so...[laughs]
Herrine: Very, um...
Emily: What are you up to?
Herrine: I wanna pick up this Korean seaweed that I've never seen as a Korean. Well, that is delightful. You know how, like, we learn from the very beginning that eel is different at every restaurant? This is by far the most different. It's encapsulated in Korean seaweed that's just like little tiny delicate strands of seaweed fused together.
Herrine: A lot of chewing.
Emily: Yeah. Did you just skip to dessert, like, before I could even get involved? Did you just, like...? It's like a little cake.
Herrine: So, it's been a few days since Emily and I ate at Sushi Lab. I'm going to call her on Skype to talk about our final thoughts just because she's going away in a few weeks and she wants to quarantine, so let's give her a call. [Skype music]
Emily: Hey, Herrine.
Herrine: So, you helped me formulate my opinion.
Emily: Sure did.
Herrine: Emily, what was your pick?
Emily: My personal favorite is Sushi Katsuei, and I also think that it's definitely best in town. I think that the fish was fresh, I think that all the flavors were really balanced, and it felt like just a really authentic experience.
Herrine: I agree with you in terms of Sushi Katsuei being best in town. My personal favorite was Sushi by M just because it was a fun, new experience and it was a creative take on sushi, but at the end of the day I feel like Sushi Katsuei was kind of like the next best thing if you aren't getting sushi from Japan. So, what do you guys think? Do you agree that Sushi Katsuei has the best omakase in New York City?
Emily: Or do you think it was another place that we missed? Let us know in the comments below. You hold my hand, I'll hold your hand. We'll talk, we'll think about food, we'll remember the food, the flavors. I don't know, man. I'm so full I feel like I'm hallucinating. I'm losing it. Herrine: We'll see you in a bit.
Emily: We'll see you in a bit.
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