One of the standout meals from my summer in New York was dinner at Sushi Yasuda - I remember every piece of sushi distinctly, from my initial reaction down to the aftertaste. Time follows different rules at Yasuda, a combination of impatient anticipation for the next piece and tenaciously savoring and treasuring each bite. Each piece is so good that you grow attached and want more, but you know that good, if not better things are to come, so of course you move on. All the while you know that with each piece, the inevitable end to the meal is approaching, and you try in agony to prevent that by eating slower and mentally deducing the remaining pieces by process of elimination. Dining at Sushi Yasuda is a tricky matter indeed.
Since J and I were curious about trying everything, we automatically went with the omakase. Our chef asked if we didn't like anything. Nope, we replied. Did we like anything in particular? "Well, toro and uni are some of my favorite things (in life)."
We started off with blue fin fatty tuna from Spain. It was rich and buttery, yet so ethereal it melt in my mouth. Complimenting the toro was the perfect ratio of rice, perhaps the best sushi rice I've had in the States. The consistency was just right, such that each grain was hard enough to be distinct to balance out the fish, yet delicate and light to accentuate the texture of the fish.
According to their site:
Perhaps the most complex and difficult part of making sushi is perfecting the rice. Yasuda uses a domestically grown mix of Japanese short and medium grain rice, combined with Japanese red and white rice vinegars, Japanese sea salt and small amount of sugar. The water has been purified with bincho-tan (Japanese charcoal). He cooks the rice in precise proportions at calculated temperatures for a specific time. Like a scientist in a lab, he has revised his method after years of research and experiment. Using his hands as an instrument, he evaluates how moist the rice is before cooking it. He adjusts the amount of water accordingly.
"Yasuda's rice is a revelation... Each grain is as eloquent as a haiku."
– Anya von Bremzen, Travel + Leisure, "America's Best Sushi," March 2001
Eloquent indeed. I too will try my hand at a haiku.
Toro and uni
Some of my favorite things
I miss Yasuda.
"The rice is cooked evenly, is subtly sweet and is the ideal "stickiness" to conform to the shape of the inside of Yasuda's hand. He applies six swift strokes and a delicate pressure to the rice to control the amount of space between the grains and to achieve the particular density, size and shape he deems suitable for the kind of fish or vegetable to be placed upon it."
Peace Passage Oyster
Engawa - halibut fin
A very muscular cut, fibrous to the point of being very "meaty."
Anago - fresh dark sea eel
Lightly grilled and just sweet, this was some of the most delicate and smooth anago I've had.
White king salmon
Similar to normal (red) king salmon, but fattier and also sweeter.
Uni from Santa Barbara
This uni was simply incredible. Nutty, creamy, and buttery, it was finished off with a sprinkle of sea salt; it tasted like foie gras with a strange hint of mango flavor. Naturally, this would not be my last piece.
Gensaba - mackerel
Mackerel is not my favorite of cuts, since I am often repelled by the sharp flavor. However, the taste of the mackerel was actually refreshing, even after just having the buttery uni.
Toro scallion roll
The toro was just as buttery as the earlier piece from Spain, and it was complimented perfectly with subtle scallion rolled inside crunchy nori.
Sawani - fresh white sea eel
A little heavier than the anago, but delicate nonetheless. It was so light that it melted in my mouth, something pretty rare for a cooked fatty fish.
A palate cleanser of sorts, like taking a solid wheat grass shot (with Yasuda's perfect rice). Perhaps I should have one of these every morning with breakfast.
Live sea scallop
Encore round. I just couldn't get enough.
How can simple fish and rice
Be so magical?
Red bean mochi
Green tea mochi
A fantastic meal that exceeded my already high expectations. It's like being transported to Japan for a few hours with access to the best fish being prepared before your eyes, minus the 16 hour flight, jet-lag, and fish-market smell. Yasuda-san, I will write haikus for you any day.
204E 43rd St
New York, NY 10017