This is the fourth post in the series A Casual Weekend in New York. Other posts include Frank Pepe's Pizza, Salumeria Rossi Parmacotto,and Szechuan Gourmet.
There's a curse that accompanies exposure to really, really good food.
It takes awhile before you can adjust back to normal food.
It's always hard for us to eat sushi after coming back from Japan. I really think it's true. The best fish goes to Japan, and then the rest is doled out to the world.
This particular trip was difficult because we had just come back from a mind-blowing meal at Sukiyabashi Jiro with sushi master Jiro Ono, arguably one of the most famous and revered sushi masters alive.
So it was with slight trepidation that we ventured into 15 East, the first Japanese restaurant we would visit in the States after having many insanely good sushi meals in Japan.
15 East boasts one Michelin Star and is located, as its name indicates, on 15 East 15th Street in Union Square in Manhattan. Owners Marco Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitzky hired Chef Masato Shimizu to take the helm at this restaurant. Shimizu has an impressive background, training for seven years in Tokyo under sushi master Rikio Kugo, who studied under Yoshino Suekichi, the famous Jiro Ono's teacher (!).
Yes, his sushi master and Jiro learned from the same guy!
Prices aren't cheap here. If you order individual nigiri, they cost between $5 and 12 a piece. That can add up very quickly. We instead went with a chef's omakase lunch for $32, which included seven pieces of nigiri and half a roll (yes, still quite expensive, but the quality is definitely top notch).
In our set menu, we got zuke (tuna), hamachi (snapper), Sama (needle fish), ika (squid), ebi (sweet shrimp), and two others I can't remember (maybe some sort of mackerel?).
Bryan decided to also try the "oh-toro" (fatty tuna) $12 and Hokkaido uni ($12) a la carte.
To round out the meal, we ordered some non-sushi items, such as these Seared Scallops, ($36) which were served over squid ink risotto along with spinach, Shitake mushrooms, and a soba flour cracker all mixed together in a flavorful sea urchin butter. Overall the dish was quite tasty, though we felt the scallops were just a tad overcooked beyond our liking. For the price, the portion size seemed quite small, which is why we were glad we also ordered the soba.We both loved the cold Soba Noodles ($15), a dish that was simple but very well executed. Fresh handmade and handcut soba noodles were tossed with ikura (salmon roe), caviar, uni (sea urchin), fresh wasabi, seaweed, scallions, and soy sauce. And I discovered a new dessert that I've totally fallen for - Mineoka Tofu. Have you heard of it? It's thick and creamy, with a texture sort of like creamy panna cotta or burrata cheese. It has a distinct soy flavor, which I love. It was served with this intensely deep and rich caramel sauce. It was heavenly and I savored each bite. I walked away thinking that was my favorite part of the meal.
15 East is a very nice restaurant overall. The ambiance is very airy, bright, and pleasant. The service is excellent. The prices are high for the quantity of the food, but then this is a high-end Japanese restaurant in a prime section of New York. It's perfect for a business lunch, when someone else is paying.
Because we just came for lunch and only sampled a tiny bit of the entire menu, I feel like I haven't really had a chance to fully experience the creativity of Chef Shimizu's work. However, I can say that Chef Shimizu serves impeccably made sushi and high quality dishes overall. I like how the menu reserves a dedicated section for fresh handmade soba. I also loved the dessert. Though not quite Tokyo, it's still a perfectly pleasant experience.
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