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Ushiwakamaru, NYC


Ushiwakamaru

Chef: Hideo Kuribara
Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi
Neighborhood: Greenwich Village
Price: $100 per person
Omakase options can range from $33 to $100 per person, I think one could be satiated with $60 worth of sushi
Phone: 212-228-4181
Address: 136 West Houston Street, NYC 10012

Sushi has always been my favorite food.  In fact, I would say 90% of my decision to study abroad in Tokyo during university was attributed to this love for raw fish.  Last time I traveled to Asia, I made sure to squeeze in a layover in Tokyo long enough to allow me to feast on some sushi at Tsukiji Market. So when a friend offered to take me out for my birthday recently, of course I chose sushi!

A Japanese friend recommended Ushiwakamaru to me, saying it was the best proper sushi restaurant of all New York.   By “proper,” I mean true authentic Japanese sushi that doesn’t include cream cheese or avocado or random fruit.  Dishes like California Rolls or Spider Rolls are rarely found in Japan as they have mainly become a Westernized style of sushi.  While I do enjoy the occasional Dancing Eel Roll, I much rather prefer traditional sashimi.  I have been to a decent number of the top sushi restaurants in Manhattan; however, Ushiwakamaru is probably the BEST quality for the price you can find in NYC.  The existence of this restaurant proves you can have incredible sushi outside of Japan without breaking the bank.

Ushiwakamaru borrows its name from a popular 12th century warrior in Japanese history.  The restaurant is a small and cozy spot with servers clad in traditional Japanese yukatas and who shuffle around the restaurant in their cute white socks and sandals.  The freshness and quality of the fish is amazing; it felt like I was back in Tokyo again!  Compared to other popular proper sushi spots, I found Ushiwakamaru to be about equivalent to Sushi Yasuda but below Kuruma Zushi.  However, when you throw in the fact that Sushi Yasuda is slightly more expensive ($100 pp min) and Kuruma Zushi is wayyy more expensive ($300pp), Ushiwakamaru definitely wins out.

The meal detailed below came out to $10pp for cooked sides/appetizers, $5pp for desserts, and  $100pp for sushi/sashimi.  But as a disclaimer, we did not do omakase as my Japanese friend took over and ordered everything à la carte.  And then, because it was my birthday, we kept ordering more and more sushi even though we were full.  I think we would have been satiated with $60 worth of food, as that is how much we had spent before we decided to go crazy with our splurging experimentation.  (Basically, we would peruse the menu and say “Ooh what does that taste like?” and then order it right away to find out.)

Ironically, a lot of the dishes I loved here were the ones that I normally dislike elsewhere… which must mean the quality was just that good.  My favorites included: Ikura, Uni, Shiroebi, Otoro, Zuke Maguro, Toro Taku, seared salmon,and for dessert, the Green Tea Crêpe Cake was absolutely superb.  The Akamiso (not pictured) was also quite good.

Upon ordering sake, our server came by to have us select our own sake cup.  With each new bottle, you get to pick a new cup!  Sake offered here ranged from $30-50 per bottle.

AMUSE-BOUCHE

Kombu (kelp) sprinkled with sesame
A light and refreshing Japanese-style  palate cleanser

OTOSHI (APPETIZERS)

Shisamo (“Willow Leaf Fish” or saltwater fish/smelt)
These little white fish were grilled to perfection with a thin, crispy skin and delicate, flaky meat that was lightly seasoned with this amazing feathery salt.  We gobbled them up in no time — bones and all!

Edamame

SASHIMI

Maguro (Bluefin Tuna)
Tuna is my all time favorite fish!  I am fairly certain it wasn’t the endangered species of Northern Bluefin, mainly because prices are cheaper here

Tako (octopus)
Best raw octopus I have ever tasted

Saba (Mackerel)
Not a big fan of oily fish like mackerel, but eating with shaved daikon and wasabi helped balance out the oily flavor

Seared Salmon
I normally don’t like seared fish, but this was incredible!

OTORO (Fatty tuna)
My favorite fattiness level of my favorite fish 🙂  This was perfectly marbleized and melted in my mouth

NIGIRI SUSHI

From bottom to top: Chuutoro (medium fatty tuna), Madai (red snapper), Shiroebi (White Shrimp), Uni (sea urchin)
The shiroebi was the best melt-in-your-mouth shrimp I have ever tasted in NYC.  Madai was quite good too.

Uni (sea urchin) and Ikura (salmon roe)
I normally never order these but I loved love them — super fresh and not fishy smelling at all

Wagyu sushi
If we are talking raw meat sushi, Bohemian‘s short rib sashimi is way better. Oh and avoid horse sashimi… had that in Yokohama and it was weird

Aoyagi (orange clam)
Chewy… that’s all I got, not a huge clam person, raw or cooked

Zuke Maguro (soy cured tuna)
The raw tuna is marinated in soy sauce (probably some dashi and mirin too) — also a new try, was delish!

Toro Taku (fatty tuna mixed with chopped takuan / yellow Japanese pickle made of daikon)
My new favorite sushi discovery!  Great to end a meal with sweet fatty tuna laced with the satisfying crunch of Japanese pickles!  My friend said this was how sushi chefs would use the leftovers scraps from otoro… I’m all for not wasting perfectly good food!

Tamago (sweet egg omelet roll)
In my friend’s opinion, how well a sushi chef makes tamago sushi is representative of his skills overall.  His verdict: “Pretty good.”


DESSERTS

Mochi Ice Cream (sticky rice cakes filled with ice cream)
Always a classic favorite


Green Tea Crêpe Cake
My favorite dessert here!  Look at all those fine layers stacked delicately on top of one another and dusted with green tea powder… was so light and delicious!

Green Tea Ice Cream
I am a bit obsessed with green tea.  I will consume it in any form.


Zenzai (red bean soup)
I love how the Japanese version of azuki soup has mochi!



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Comments
4 Responses to “Ushiwakamaru, NYC”
  1. rachel says:

    holy moly my mouth is watering! i love sushi so much, but i still have yet to try certain ones like salmon roe, giant clam, sea urchin or octopus. everything here looks so fresh and simply prepared. i completely also hate “sushi” that has cream cheese in it. yuck! who thought that’d be a good idea?

    • woopriscilla says:

      Yum!!! that green tea crepe cake looks delicious — a coworker of mine made one the other day but different flavor – so good!!

      • SecretNinja says:

        first time i went to this place, i yelled over to my friend brian “WA-SA-BI!” then the restaurant went dead silent. *crickets chirping* yah, exactly.

        food here is spectacular. just don’t order “uno of the uni.” apparently, the sushi chefs don’t take too kindly to the spanish language.

        oh and the green tea ice cream is stellar. but just to warn you, if you go with a frienemy who swaps it for wasabi while you’ve stepped away to use the little boy’s room, then good night IRENE! (or ilene – but if you’re asian, then its irene.) i took a large bite out of the wasabi and all my nose hairs fell out onto the dish. yuck.

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