Tanoshi Sushi – Holy Grail? Not Quite

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.

tanoshi07The 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.

tanoshi01About 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.


Delicious, but endangered.

Comically small slice of scallop.

Comically small slice of scallop.

You also get a comically small cup shot of miso soup.

Shot of miso, anyone?

Shot of miso, anyone?

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.

Kyushu Mackerel.

Kyushu Mackerel.

Botan sweet shrimp.

Botan sweet shrimp.

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.


Rating: ★★★½☆ 
What does this rating mean?

Tanoshi Sushi and Sake Bar
1372 York Ave
New York, NY 10021
(646) 727-9056

Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar on Urbanspoon

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
3.5 / 5 stars     

Article written by

iOS App Producer of Motor Recall, Co-Founder at Pay4Bugs, SEO consultant, and aspiring coffee roaster.

4 Responses

Page 1 of 1
  1. Mark
    Mark January 14, 2014 at 7:25 pm |

    Nice article!!

  2. Brian
    Brian January 27, 2014 at 10:40 am |

    I went to Tanoshi just this past Friday and I completely agree with everything you said here… my biggest complaint was that the quality of the rice was absolutely awful.

    One other note – if you’re sitting in seats 8-12, you’re not even served by Chef Toshio, you’re served by his assistant. She was very sweet, but that was yet another negative aspect of a very mediocre sushi meal.

    Tanoshi may have been worth the affordable price (mid-$40s) when it first opened last year, but since then the cost has rocketed to almost $70 and, from what I’ve read and what I experienced, the quality has declined, significantly. I’d much rather go to Azabu for their entry-level omakase.

  3. amy
    amy August 12, 2014 at 9:53 pm |

    I completely echo your thoughts here – I just had the omakase at Tanoshi a week ago, and was very underwhelmed by the experience. While the sushi that I had was good, it did not live up to the hype. I was also served by one of the assistant chefs, who put a bit too much wasabi (for my taste) in almost every piece. Also, I felt that the kitschy interior took away from the experience – especially if you sit at the end of the sushi bar towards the interior, you notice all of the random things that are stacked at the end of the restaurant. At the same price point, Sushi Dojo is definitely THE place for an amazing omakase – from the service level to the fish selection (when I went, the tasting included both east and west coast uni – seriously divine), everything about the omakase at Sushi Dojo is right on point.

  4. Eddie Tsang
    Eddie Tsang February 19, 2015 at 12:02 am |

    I’ve been to Tanoshi over ten times. They get it right. They are the only sushi joint here in NY that follows Jiro’s belief about room temperature fish (maybe THAT”S WHY they use the torch), and body temperature sushi rice. The nori is always crispy, from the toaster oven. I’ll take Tanoshi as my favorite under $100 sushi place. Dojo does come in a close second. Try to sit where Toshio, Rachel, or Oona can serve you.

    If everyone hypes up a restaurant, any restaurant, can that restaurant actually live up to the hype? “Holy Grail” is high praise. Go in with an open mind. And you’ll eat multiple pieces of nigiri that will have your head nodding approvingly, eyes closed, as you moan slightly, “mMmmm”

Leave a Reply