- Cost: $70-$110, before drinks, tax, and tip
- Size: 12 seats at counter
- Style: Otsumami (a la carte) + sushi
- Reserved: 2 weeks in advance
Let's get this out of the way: Tanoshi isn't the "best" sushiya in New York. If you're looking for the highest quality neta, or the zen-like surroundings of a Michelin-starred sushiya, you'll be disappointed. But there are a number of other reasons why Tanoshi is a destination-worthy spot for those looking for a serious and authentic omakase experience.
Tanoshi is a neighborhood shop in a fairly out-of-the-way location, which explains the more casual environment and lower price point. Otsumami are offered a la carte and range from more authentic items (ankimo, steamed sazae) to selections that might be more at home in a more casual shop, like a "spicy scallop" concoction. The only offering is a 10-nigiri omakase, though diners can add on to this. The variety of neta offered is not on the scale of some of New York's highest-end shops. On one night I visited, the only maguro offerings were zuke and nakaochi toro (a more economical cut than your standard chutoro, but no less delicious). Some neta considered to be "lower-end," like albacore and farm-raised salmon, are served.
The real magic of Tanoshi is that there is serious skill and care behind neta that might otherwise be unremarkable when compared to other top American sushiya. The aforementioned zuke nigiri came with dabs of smoked moromi shoyu. A slice of farm-raised king salmon was marinated in egg, yuzu, and salt (a preparation in Japan sometimes reserved for kuruma ebi or rich shiromi). What would have been an otherwise typical slice of kanpachi was elevated by virtue of a six-hour cure in sakura leaves.
The shari is warm and very lightly seasoned with akazu. Texture-wise, the rice is consistently excellent: fairly dry, of medium firmness, and very loosely packed, with each grain distinctive (for me, this is one of my preferred shari styles). The size of the nigiri are on the larger side - a decent meal for me at Tanoshi is in the ~15 piece range, whereas at other sushiya I'll routinely consume more than 20 pieces.
Sushi is more than just the neta quality; the rice and overall balance of flavors is critical, and Tanoshi is very good at getting these components right. To this end, I've enjoyed the nigiri at Tanoshi more than at some other "better" sushiya where I have spent twice as much money.
There are a number of non-food reasons that make Tanoshi endearing. Oguma-san has decorated the walls with his hand-annotated maps depicting ocean currents and fish migration patterns. The wall of a la carte items includes a few tongue-in-cheek suggestions like "crab brains" (kani miso) and "triple x" (the aphrodisiac overload of uni, ikura, and raw quail egg). Notably, since the shop's opening Oguma-san has employed various female itamae; commendable because traditional attitudes towards female sushi chefs are overtly sexist, and it's nice to see a shop make a conscious effort to buck this trend (in New York, I've also noticed that 15 East, Jewel Bako, and Sushi Dojo have at various times also employed lady chefs).
At the end of the day, "tanoshii" (楽しい) means "fun" and this shop lives up to the name. It may not be your first stop for top sushi in New York, but it's a worthy candidate.
Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar
1372 York Avenue (near 74th St.), New York