NEW YORK, NY
Ever had one of those meals that you just cannot get off of your mind. You can close your eyes and be right back there in the moment. Taking in the scents, the feel of the room, the taste of every morsel of food. Well that was the case for me with two omakase experiences that I had at Shoji @ 69 Leonard and Shion Uino @ Sushi Amane. Shion was actually my first omakase experience ever.
I have been so busy of late and I was craving some really good sushi so I finally caved in and decided to come in to Shoji again. Lo and behold two critical things had changed. First their name was changed to Shion 69 Leonard but wait for it… in addition, the sushi chef from the Sushi Amane omakase was now present here! This made for all the delight and excitement. This brought back so many amazing memories, especially about the tamago. I do not believe I have ever had better tamago than his and I could not wait to enjoy his piece of heaven.
What I love about omakase, aside from the delectable fresh fish, is the show of watching the chef prepare the sushi and even before that prepare for the experience that he is about to craft. I watched as the master first grated fresh wasabi with more and more build up of it on the grate. I have no idea why this was so entertaining and fascinating for me to watch but it just was. I guess I am just a big nerd about food.
Now let us get right into it. Normally I would try to get the Japanese names of the fish but in this case I was so hungry that I figured I would try my best to just get the English names. The first plate was the Japanese grouper and crab. I am pretty sure I got the second fish wrong and it was not crab as it did not taste that way but that is what I remember chef calling it. On flavor, the grouper had this mild saltiness to it that did not even need the soy. However, having it with the soy took the flavors to a whole other level! The “crab not crab” (as I am affectionately referring to it as) had this firm texture but delicate flavor and it was absolutely phenomenal.
The next dish was a warm preparation of fish. It was harvest fish in ponzu sauce. I cannot get enough of ponzu and this was no exception. It was absolutely phenomenal and I truly could have carried the bowl and sipped it but I behaved. There was a little dollop of spice that brought so much additional delicate flavor to the already amazing ponzu.
Next was the uni tasting. There were two, one from Kumamoto and the other Hokkaido. The Hokkaido looked as you would traditionally expect for Uni to look like while the Kumamoto looked kind of like a puddle on the plate. I started with the “puddle”. It was so silky and just melts in your mouth. You almost did not get the chance to process what you were tasting but there was a long and delicate finish that was basically a “don’t forget about me” goodbye. Then there was the Hokkaido which I personally preferred with its slightly firm texture that lingered and then melted down on your mouth. I wonder if they did that intentionally I.e. one with a long and one with a short finish. That would be absolute craft if so.
At this point, I saw him plating the actual crab which I still remembered all these years later from my initial experience… I really wanted to dance in my seat. He stopped midway though and prepared quickly Japanese scallop in seaweed. This was nothing but the best on the sear of the scallop and perfect temperature too. After enjoying this, I went back to salivating and watching him generously place the crab in the shells. Finally I got my shell and it tasted exactly as I remembered, simple and understated flavors at first that develop and expand to their full flavor the longer it stays in your mouth. Absolutely excellent.
After the glorious crab, was the tile fish with daikon radish. The fish was fried and incredibly hot so be careful to take a small bite (unlike me). It was, despite the temperature, incredibly flavorful with the outer crunchy texture bringing a fun additional element to the fish. I really was curious as to how they achieved the crunchy outer layer as it was indeed a work of art. The daikon radish played with my head as it looked as though it was fried, following the color scheme of the fried fish. I did not finish it, not that there was anything wrong with it but I was starting to feel my I am full bloat and we had not even started sushi yet.
Now it was time for sushi and we were presented with marinated cucumbers to clear our palates before that part began. These were amazing and I believed they would be quite the perfect snack at home.
One of my favorite things about Shion is that you are encouraged to eat your sushi with your hands. This I have been told is the real, correct and traditional way to eat sushi. However, at many omakase places, people do eat their sushi with chopsticks. I do not want to appear like a mannerless human at these places so I cave in and use chopsticks. I love that I can eat the sushi here with my hands.
So here we go, started with the baby sea bream. As I mentioned I love watching chefs and with real omakase, the chef provides the perfect amount of soy and wasabi on your piece. I absolutely loved it. It is beyond me when I see people at other omakase places still dipping yet more soy and piling on wasabi. I unfortunately missed the photo on this piece.
Next was the Hokkaido sweet shrimp which had ginger on it. Personally for me, the ginger was too potent which speaks to its freshness.
For the rest of the sushi, I had a variety including otoro, squid, swordfish, mackerel and sea eel. The sea eel was my absolute favorite of all the pieces as I just have a weakness for eel. This was actually the first time that I have had eel without the sauce of unagi.
By the end of the sushi, I was beyond stuffed. Honestly, I barely made it through and just when I thought it was over and tamago time… chef started making tuna handrolls. I took a bite and it was absolute perfection but even the flavors could not expand the capacity of my belly and I really wanted to save the little space I had left for tamago so this I did not finish.
Finally, we came to the end of the meal and I spotted my piecè de resistance, the legendary TAMAGO! Taking a bite of it, I found the flavors to be exactly as I remembered but the texture had changed. It was silkier and fluffier without losing depth of flavor with a long finish to end the meal perfectly.
This is a beyond amazing omakase experience that everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. I assure you that you will not be disappointed.