Studio 151 Sushi in East Village

Studio 151 in the East Village is the sexiest sushi omakase you will ever experience, in the truest sense of the word. When I entered the space, I initially thought I was entering a nightclub. There was a line outside, we had to get vetted by a doorman, and then we walked through a dark set of stairs to enter the room. The room definitely is a vibe–there were posters of naked women on the wall, a DJ was spinning some tunes in the corner, and very young and hip people were having some drinks. The people watching was truly amazing. I was impressed to see a very diverse group of people really committed to wearing a “look” for their night out. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking where are we? Are we early for some sort of afterparty? Where is the sushi?? This is about as far away from the quiet and zen omakase atmosphere that usually marks most sushi restaurants.

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Mokyo in East Village

I was blown away by the food at Mokyo, a Korean / Asian small plates restaurant in the East Village. I wasn’t prepared to like it so much. In fact, I was ready to write it off as one of those dime-a-dozen East Village bars that cater to the young drinking crowd, where trendy Instagrammable drinks take priority over really good food. I was so wrong. I loved everything I ate–flavor AND style are prioritized here–and I can truly say it is one of my favorite restaurants in the city.

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Saito, the Sake Bar from Nakazawa, in Nolita

Saito is so nondescript that you would be surprised to hear that Chef Daisuke Nakazawa of Sushi Nakazawa and Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame is one of the backers behind this project. There are really no signs of him at all, other than the small selection of sushi available on the very edited menu. A chef, not Nakazawa, works quietly behind the tiny bar, and he is not making egg custard. A server with a bit of a harried demeanor takes orders and not much more. It all felt a little rushed and unfinished, as if Nakazawa and his business partners had to scramble quickly to meet an opening date and some of the details got lost. Saito bills itself as a sake bar, but it’s not really obvious that this is their strong suit, as no one is really talking up their sake selections or encouraging you to pair this with that.

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Omakase Room by Maaser

wagyu beef and truffle (very good)

Those of you who know me know that I love a good omakase, especially when it is under $100. While the price points of omakase meals keep creeping north of $300+, I do stumble on new sub $100 places every few months. Omakase Room by Maaser is my latest find, a sushi restaurant in the West Village that was opened by Sushi Seki and Sushi by Bou vets in 2019. The 12 course omakase will run you $95 per person, while 17 courses will run you $135. I would advise you to stick with the $95 option and then order any extra pieces you like a la carte at the end. You can essentially tailor your own 17 course omakase with pieces that you would actually like, which is important, because not everything is created equal here.

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Mena in Tribeca

I feel like every few years there’s a shift in countries that start influencing the flavor profiles in high-end restaurant. There was the stripped down Nordic wave that proliferated in the early aughts, and recently Korean food has been having a moment. But now I think Latin America might be due for its moment. I’ve seen the potential in the cuisine at Mena, a new restaurant in Tribeca run by Victoria Blamey, who draws from her Chilean background, as well as from her experience working in different kitchens around the world.

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