‘Twas the night before Sushi. I was shaving. That’s when I usually do most of my deep thinking. Like when was my last pizza. Where did I park the car. And how does Sugarfish handle the huge service demands of an Omakase for an entire house. How do they serve a house full of people, an 8 course meal and/or whatever else people ordered. 30 minutes into my meal in the Iphone section (aka counter area) of this new Sushi sensation, I found my answer. They manage to do it by making a lot of mistakes.
My neighbor to the right was the first one, and the luckiest of all. She got an entire plate of something she ordered and already ate. Six mouthwatering pieces of Albacore, Salmon, and something else I didnt recognize, to which she asked if she can take it to go (they could not take it back in this case and give it to someone else). My neighbors on the other side meanwhile kept getting free fish to the point where they got tired rejecting them. And after I finished the final dish I whispered to the lucky female neighbor, “I’m just not gonna ask for the check until I get lucky”. I hope she understood I was talking about food, and that this was not just a terrible pickup line.
But I didnt get lucky. Not in that way or the other. Instead all I got is delicious fish, and the experience of NY’s first affordable Omakase, or so they say. For Sushi purists Omakase is not Omakase without the masters behind the counter doing there thing, but I’m not a Sushi purist or even a snob. Instead I was sitting near the Organic Edamame dispenser where everyone’s first course comes from. A snack that is a small salty upgrade over your corner sushi. The kitchen looked crowded, and the frenzy was all around me. It was all exhilarating and comical at the same time.
Sugarfish was conceptualized by Kazunori Nozawa who converted the name into an empire on the west coast (10 locations as of this writing). The name refers to the melt-in-your-mouth nature of the fish, mimicking that of a child eating sugar cubes. Which raises another important question. Am I a bad parent? I never gave such delicacies to my children, and I’m pretty sure this was not mentioned in Parenting for Foodies. Mine leapfrogged straight to sushi and aged beef. But I’m not taking any chances, oh no. And so before they find themselves on a couch somewhere telling stories about their abusive dad, I’m serving brown sugar cubes as a first course this entire week.
The sushi is indeed good at Sugarfish, but your chopsticks and proper skills may not. One of the first things you will notice is the loose warm rice which is done on purpose, but a difference maker in more ways than one. In order to apply the right amount of sauce on the fish, and not the rice, you’ll need an MBA in Chopsticks. So on my next visit, I plan to go the unconventional way of applying sauce, using other methods
At Sugarfish, just about all first timers order one of the “Trust Me” menu sets, which in a way is mislabeled. It suggests an element of surprise, but really means “Trust Me, you’ll get the same thing everyone else gets since we opened”. I ordered the middle Trust Me which sounded adequate and it was. By far the Albacore, a tuna relative, and a nicely marbled Salmon from Scotland were the stars. The tuna Sashimi early on elevated by the terrific sauce. While the Sea Bass and Yellowtail bland in comparison to the previous set (the stars) but good enough. And the handrolls to wrap it up, featured the same beautiful marriage between cool and warm, but also fine Nori that tasted like the sea and had a nice snap. And just like that, you can trust them to bring you the check when its all over.
33 E 20th St (5th/Park), Flatiron
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: One of the Trust Me sets
As I have a rather long “wish list” for restaurants to go to (this being one of them), yours and a rather 👎🏼 review from NYTimes, may I ask if this is worth the time? One plus is the convenient location. Or I can just go to Ootoya.