Sushi loving people of Manhattan take heed – Tanoshi is overrated.
Since the excellent Jiro Dreams of Sushi hit theaters in 2012, people without the will or the means to travel to Sukiyabashi Jiro have been looking for the next best thing. The director of the Jiro flick David Gelb said in an interview that his favorite NYC sushi spots are 15 East and Sushi Yasuda, two excellent choices, yet people still weren’t satisfied. It’s hard to go a dinner at the sushi bar nowadays without hearing the word “Jiro” mentioned a least half a dozen times.
The craze hit a fever pitch when J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats exclaimed to the world that he’s found the “Holy Grail” of sushi, which was picked up by Eater, then subsequently discussed to death on Yelp and other media. The folks at Immaculate Infatuation followed up with a glowing review, and immediately Tanoshi became the hottest sushi bar seat in town…. until Nakazawa came to town, but that’s another story for another day.
I went into my meal then with lofty expectations, yet there were too many issues for this to be considered the holy grail.
The first thing I noticed as I took my seat in front of Chef Toshio was the pre-cut pieces of fish stacked atop one another. There seems to be a small mound for each seating. At the best sushi restaurants chefs religiously wipe their knives and board to avoid cross contamination of flavor for different fish, apparently not something practiced here. The texture and flavor of the fish also starts to deteriorate as soon as it’s cut from the neta.
About 5 pieces into the omakase meal, another issue took me by surprise. The BYOB policy and crammed quarters results in a seriously loud and sometimes obnoxious atmosphere, the noise level is closer to that of an Izakaya than a proper sushi restaurant.
The nigiri sushi were a combination of hits and misses. From the 10 piece omakase, the standout were the white fish and the uni with quail egg. Although I must say I was hesitant to eat the Maine sourced sea urchin (delicious, but endangered). The mackerel lacked the intense flavor of silverfish, and the comically small piece of scallop (slized 1/3 of a whole piece) was devastatingly glazed with eel sauce. When you charge $65 per head, I expect an entire scallop. Of the 10, 3 pieces were grazed by the blow torch, quite a high number.
You also get a comically small
cup shot of miso soup.
Trying to salvage a meal, we ordered a-la-carte. The Kyushu mackerel had a much more intense flavor than the piece from the set menu. To wrap up the evening, “botan” giant sweet shrimp topped with uni undoubtedly the highlight – a blissful mix of intense flavors and soft creamy mouth-feel.
The bill, without alcohol, came to just over $100 per person after tip, making it pricey for a regular neighborhood meal. Meanwhile the quality is not quite good enough to be considered destination dining. Given the same budget, I would go south to Sushi Dojo or Sushi Azabu, two superb restaurants.
What does this rating mean?
Tanoshi Sushi and Sake Bar
1372 York Ave
New York, NY 10021