Scores: 1 M*/ 2 NYT
When you are on holiday, especially in a city, it seems a shame not to eat out every night, although if I eat out at restaurants such as Daniel every night I would be the size of a house. Thus I like to mix up heavier meals with some lighter fare, originally this is why we headed to 15 East; however, we ended up eating more than we planned!
15 East is a Japanese restaurant just off Union Square, it has a small main restaurant that serves dishes from both the sushi bar and also food from the main kitchen. In addition to this there are 9 seats around the sushi bar from with you can order a la carte or have an omakase served to you by sushi chefs. We had booked a table in the main restaurant at 9, mainly because I was not sure how the separation worked, but our table was not quite ready when we got there so we were asked to wait seated on the bench next to the sushi bar. I started to get very jealous as I watched the individual handmade pieces of nigiri being passed to the customers. After we had ordered some drinks the hostess came up to us and told us we have two options- you can wait 5 minutes for a table or you can sit now at the sushi bar. Well we jumped at the chance to sit at the bar and promptly declined the menu and ordered omakase.
This was served by Masa, the head chef and followed the usual order of some starters followed by sashimi and then sushi. The first dish was uni with salmon roe, served in a miniature martini glass. This was a very good combination and the uni was not too strong for my tastes. This was followed by one of the highlights of the night, poached Spanish octopus with sea salt. This was just fantastic; the octopus was so tender and had a real buttery taste. Monkfish liver with ponzu and yuzu rind was also very good- the citrus flavours helped cut the intense richness of the liver.
A Sashimi platter contained excellent quality fish- there were two pieces of chu toro, Japanese mackerel, red snapper and white salmon as well as a piece of sweet shrimp. All of these were very fresh and well cut; they were also served with real fresh wasabi which makes a lot of difference.
Some house made pickled ginger was then cut into thick slices and was placed on the self in front of us to be used as a palate cleanser. A hot course of tofu custard with various types of mushrooms followed, this tasted really rich and earthy and was really good but there was perhaps a little too much of it for me.
After this the nigri were served one at a time: a piece of hamachi was a great start, it is one of my favourites and this did not disappoint. Three different cuts of tuna were served including some more chu toro and the chef pointed out where these came from on a picture of a cross section of tuna that he had. All of these were great; one of the best was some akami that still had a lot of flavour because of exactly where it was cut from. A piece of snapper was superb, probably the best I have had. Sea scallop with yuzu rind was lovely the sweetness of the scallop complemented by the sour from the yuzu. Two types of uni were served, both different from the one used in the first dish; both were nice but the Japanese one was a bit too strong for me. Some warm anago with sweet sauce was very good, meaty and rich.
At this point the main omakase ended but the chef asked if we wanted anything else. I got an additional two pieces; one was many pieces of different types of prawn that had been minced together. This had a very strong taste that as a prawn lover was very appealing. A final piece of seasoned blow touched o-toro was simply exquisite, great flavour with a real melt in your mouth texture. I do feel a bit guilty about eating the blue fin tuna but it is not hard to see why the Japanese eat so much of it when it tastes like this.
Some sweet custard was then given along with some nice tea, this was not bad but I was full by this point so did not eat it all. This was a great experience and although the plates that were prepared by the other chefs leaving the sushi bar for the main restaurant looked good, if you want sushi sitting at the bar is the way to go.