Before living in Japan, I used to be impressed by people saying “Oh I do my sushi at home, it’s so easy”! Now that I know more about Japanese culture and cuisine, it makes me smile.
Traditionally, it takes ten years to become a sushi chef. Yes, you heard me, ten years!
A sushi chef’s career starts with becoming an apprentice, and only after five years will the apprentice receive his or her first big task, which is the preparation of the sushi rice. That said, I’m still impressed by people who try to make them at home, don’t get me wrong. Personally, however, I went another way and took the initiative of finding the best sushi restaurant to eat them.
Sushi Yasuda was opened in late 1999 by master sushi chef Naomichi Yasuda, following strictly the traditional art of sushi making. Since then, he retired in Japan and his disciples took over and they seem to follow their master’s path with success.
The floor, the walls, the tables, the chairs, and the sushi counter are all made of light golden bamboo wood, which create a very elegant and relaxing atmosphere. We sat at the L-shape sushi bar, as we were only two. This is by far my favorite place to eat sushi. I love watching the chefs manipulate the rice with agility and speed; you can hardly see their fingers moving. The way they slice the fish with an eared knife is fascinating; it looks like they are slicing butter.
To make successful sushi you need of course the right ingredients; the choice of rice and fresh fish is extremely important. Yet this is not sufficient! The rice has to be cooked to perfection and served at the right temperature. The ratio of fish to rice has to have the perfect balance and the size of each piece of sushi must be well studied to completely and entirely enter your mouth and be eaten with delight without making you choke. Needless to say, fresh wasabi is also mandatory!
When you are seated at the sushi bar you want to show that you are a sushi pro and not a novice. With your chopsticks you take the sushi, turn it delicately upside down and dip it very carefully in the soy sauce if needed. Never dip the rice first, it very often ends up with disaster – the rice gets soaked and falls apart, immersed in the sauce. Never bite in sushi, you must bring it to your mouth and eat it whole. If you need to add wasabi, don’t add it to your soy sauce, instead, take a little bit with your chopsticks and spread it delicately on the fish.
Sushi Yasuda is a one Michelin star restaurant and truly deserves its star. If you have time and a fairly high budget try the “omakase” (selected by the chef). I hear it’s outstanding. The price varies according to the market, but be prepare to pay around $120-130.
They also have a lunch prix fixe menu for $29 that comes in three options: a combination of sashimi & sushi, sushi, or yaki zakan (grilled fish). We opted for the sushi: five choices of nigiri (what you traditionally think of as sushi – a thin slice of fish over rice) and two rolls, served with either a Japanese Sea bream soup, “Ushio-jiru,” or a salad.
After the soup, we received our sushi presented on a bamboo platter served with wasabi and ginger pickles. The sushi was very tasty, it had the right size, the rice had the right texture, and the fish was very fresh. There is a large variety of fish choices on the menu to choose from; tuna, yellowtail, white fish, mackerel… you name it. After enjoying the sushi, the rolls came perfectly wrapped in the Nori seaweed sheet. The rice had the perfect quantity and the seaweed was firm and a bit crunchy.
Sushi might look simple to prepare but takes years to master. On top of that you need the je ne sais quoi to be among the best!
At Sushi Yasuda our lunch was simple and definitely delicious!
204 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017
Monday – Friday: open for lunch – dinner
Saturday: open for dinner
Lunch menu: $29