I finally made it out to Tanoshi for the omakase tasting menu. I knew that the restaurant was small, but I didn’t realize how tiny it was until I got there, in a highly inconvenient area of Yorkville. There were about 10 seats at the sushi bar in both the original sushi sake bar and the bento shop, which converts into an extension of the sushi restaurant at dinner.
It was very scrappy and humble inside, more neighborhood hole-in-the-wall than critically acclaimed sushi restaurant in atmosphere. But for a high-quality omakase experience at ~$80 all in, and with a BYOB policy, who cares that it was a little janky. Plus, bonus points to Tanoshi for having a female sushi chef on the staff, and to call bs on the Jiro theory that women can’t make good sushi!
There were 10 pieces total in the omakase. Similar to Sushi Sasabune, the nigiri pieces come pre-seasoned, and the staff is absolutely vigilant that you eat each piece with your hands. Apparently the rice underneath is formed a bit delicately, and there’s risk that the use of chopsticks might make everything fall apart. That seemed reasonable to me, since the rice did appear a little more al dente than at other places, and the layer of rice was on the thin side.
There’s no doubt that the fish was absolutely fresh, and the quality impeccable. The seasoning, on the other hand, was a bit uneven. There were times when the fish was a tad too sweet, but these lapses were few. For the most part, the sushi chefs were on point, and I’m still thinking about the uni and the king salmon to this day. Below is a recap of the 10-piece omakase in pictures:
The fluke cured in kelp had a light, clean taste. There was a bit of citrus in the seasoning, which added to the bright flavor profile. A great way to start the palate off fresh.
The seared king salmon that followed was brilliant. Salmon is a fatty fish, which you usually sense in the denseness of the fillet, but at Tanoshi, the richness is of a luscious, fluttery kind, the type that melts in your mouth like butter.
I wasn’t as big a fan of the marinated big eye tuna. I’ve definitely had better tuna elsewhere, and the fish seemed a bit leaden and at the end of its shelf life.
The branzino with pickled kelp had a very interesting texture. It was bit more firm, similar to the sturdy consistency of squid. The flavor itself didn’t really stand out in any way.
I love rich, fatty fish, and no surprise, I enjoyed the miso cured black sable. The unctuousness of the fish muted the wasabi underneath, rendering it to a subtle, mild heat.
Again, I don’t think tuna is one of Tanoshi’s strong suit, at least not the night I went. The wild albacore tuna left no impression, and I’m not sure that the egg yolk really added anything to the piece.
The seared scallop was another winner. The scallop, which was poached and then seared, was silky and slightly sweet. Let the tough, rubbery scallops of yesteryear be distant memories.
Tanoshi really found its footing towards the latter half of the omakase. The marinated salmon roe was an excellent follow-up to the scallop. The juicy, salty squelch of the salmon eggs was a satisfying sensation, coating the rice in a delicious brine.
The santa barbara uni was my absolute favorite piece of the night. It was everything uni should be–rich and soft, with the flavors of the seawater emanating throughout. And what better way to enhance these decadent qualities with some quail egg yolk?
The uni was a hard act to follow, but the sea eel made a very respectable showing. It wasn’t tough and full of prickly bones, and something about it was less fishy than what you ordinarily get. Probably a testament to the freshness of the fish, and the type of water it grew up in.
The nigiri portion of the omakase concluded, followed by two rounds of sushi rolls. I’ve already made my feelings about the tuna here pretty clear. The albacore tuna rolls with scallion were solid, but nothing spectacular.
The spicy tuna handroll was a more successful tuna effort, probably because we were distracted by the heat and the sharp, herbal flavors of the shiso leaf. These were welcome distractions, however, and I was perfectly content with the handroll.
The omakase concluded with a shot of miso soup. I was a little surprised that the meal ended on such a succinct, savory note, and not on a slightly sweeter one, since the progression went from light to rich. Perhaps it was done in response to all the BYOB in the restaurant–coating the stomach one last time with a dense layer of soup might be more helpful in keeping the alcohol in check. Nevertheless, the miso soup, much like everything else, left a strong, positive impression. I’ll certainly keep refreshing the reservation page for another encounter with the uni.
Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar
1372 York Ave (between 74th and 73rd St)
New York, NY 10021