I’m a big fan of Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar. Because (a) good sushi is damn expensive in New York, a city with no Sugarfish [UPDATE: Sugarfish is now open, woot!], and (b) I’ve had two amazing rounds of omakase at this tiny Upper East Side chef’s counter at a pretty reasonable price point.The reservation process used to be really confusing, done only by phone and notebook and handled by Chef Toshio’s wife. Since then, they’ve migrated to online reservations (much better, much easier). There are three seatings per night, at 6pm, 7:30pm, and 9pm. When we arrived, we found our places around the cozy bar (you sit by the order your group arrives prior to the seating).
The rules of the house are posted:
A plate of salmon in vinegar to start, with a dab of wasabi.A dish of scallop sashimi. Gloriously sweet. After this, the omakase portion started. The first piece was fluke cured with kelp, with a fleeting green brininess. Chef Toshio’s rice skews a bit toward vinegar, but only lightly. Next up, winter Spanish mackerel with a bit of ginger and scallion. Mackerel’s never been my favorite fish (especially cooked), but the curing process takes a bit of that funky fishiness out and the ginger provides ample balance.Marinated tuna, superbly tender for akami. Shrimp, creamy and sweet.Salmon, with a thin sheet of kelp (?). White albacore with moro miso.An annotated map of where the best Japanese seafood is found. Take note. Scallop, with a brush of soy. All of the scallops and shrimp we had that night had that buttery sweetness that breaks down beautifully over rice. Ikura, nothing remarkable, but good nonetheless. Santa Barbara uni with quail egg yolk. One of my favorite pieces of the night – an onrush of umami and unctuous glory, sweet, salty, the ephemeral airiness of the uni and the lugubrious swirl of yolk disintegrating simultaneously. Anago ( sea eel), with a slathering of that soy-mirin-sugar sauce I love). The few instances I’ve had anago I’ve really enjoyed, more so than its fattier freshwater cousin (unagi). A little cut roll, split among four. A spicy tuna hand roll. That wrapped up (no pun intended) the omakase portion of the meal, and we tacked on two pieces of the more luxurious offerings on the a la carte menu. A dollop of crab brains (kani miso). Good lord. This visually unappealing glob packs a dense wallop of the intensely satisfying innards that my family and I grew up relishing when tearing into a fresh-steamed crustacean. It’s not for everybody, but for anybody who loves the delightfully dirty process of eating whole crab, this is a concentrated moment of goodness you shouldn’t pass up. I finished with a Japanese uni gunkanmaki. Saltier than the Santa Barbara uni, but also less bright. A very good meal, all told. You have to be a little adventurous on the à la carte menu to have a truly memorable experience, but the omakase in and of itself offers exceptional value. A recent passerby said that the rating thing is being sorted out (“Grade Pending”) but I’ll leave that to better-qualified judges to tell me that it’s not worth it. For now, I’ll chalk the rating up to the economical nature of Chef Toshio’s working environment, the same homeyness that gives Tanoshi its uniquely warm ambiance and intimate dining experience.Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar (website)
1372 York Ave