- Cost: USD $80-$150, before drinks, tax and tip
- Size: 14 seats at counter, plus dining room
- Style: Nigiri sushi omakase
- Reserved: 1-2 weeks in advance
When it opened in 1999, Sushi Yasuda introduced many New Yorkers to a traditional sushi omakase meal for the first time. Prior to this, most authentic sushi experiences in the city could only be obtained at hidden, lesser-known restaurants (such as Kurumazushi) or were only available to especially discerning clients and regulars at shops like Sushi Zen or Hatsuhana.
Yasuda-san's style is one that is markedly different from the traditional "edomae" and newer "Ginza" nigiri styles that are found most high-end sushiya in America and Tokyo. The nigiri are small, irregularly-shaped and almost jewel-like, and there is a definite emphasis on the short-grain shari (which is consistently excellent) over the neta. Seasoning is spartan and simple - either shoyu, or sea salt with a dab of yuzu. What is especially remarkable is that even after Yasuda-san's return to Japan in 2011, the 6-7 itamae on duty at any given time can consistently replicate this style. Yasuda certainly falls into the realm of a sushiya where a meal with any one of the itamae is an accurate representation of the experience.
One notable difference since Yasuda-san's departure is that the once-daunting list of daily specials and seasonal fish has continually dwindled to the point where the shop is no longer a go-to place to experience the best of whatever may be in season. At the shop's peak, the variety and the ability to "surprise" (for example, one time I was served a procession of 8 different tuna cuts) was one of its most enjoyable aspects, and it seems this element is gone.
In line with a more mild price point (it is worth noting that the menu has seen very little price inflation over the last 10 years), the fish quality is also not the highest that can be experienced in New York, and on recent visits I've come away with a few disappointments. While I still believe that Sushi Yasuda offers a great omakase experience, in my view the shop has been eclipsed at the top end by numerous other American sushiya in terms of quality and overall experience in recent years.
204 E. 43rd St., New York