NYC: New York Sushi Ko (June 2013)
Authors: Victor and Ken
Restaurant: New York Sushi Ko
Chef: John Daley
Date: June 12, 2013
New York Sushi Ko just opened on Tuesday, June 11, 2013, and it consists of a sushi bar that can seat seven and a small table that can seat four. You make reservations by calling or texting the number listed. They have pretty late hours, and Chef Daley mentioned that he made the hours so late because he likes serving other people who also work in the restaurant industry. (I don’t know how truthful he was being when he said this, though!)
There are four main menu options: 3 courses, 5 courses, 7 courses, and an open-ended omakase (it generally comprises 9 to 12 courses). We went with the open-ended option, as we wanted to try as much of Daley’s food as possible.
The restaurant’s only two days old, so they’re still working out kinks. I liked what I saw, though! The staff was really friendly and unpretentious, and the atmosphere felt fun and exciting—the staff seemed to enjoy what they were doing, and the customers enjoyed the food. Chef Daley’s loud, relatively wild (at least for a chef), and fun to be around; he definitely made the meal both more lively and relaxing.
The major problem is that Chef Daley is pretty much the only guy preparing the dishes during service… and he has to prepare dishes for up to 11 people. Meals took longer than necessary for some people, but Chef Daley acknowledged this and thanked customers for their patience. We got lucky because we were seated at 9:15 p.m.—by 10:30 p.m., most of the customers had cleared out, so we received our food at an accelerated (or what should be normal?) pace.
Thoughts on the sushi:
The fish was very fresh, and most of it was flown in from Japan. A few things were from other countries; for instance, some of the uni was from Chile and California, and some of the Bluefin tuna was from Spain.
The sushi rice could have been slightly warmer and softer; the rice felt too hard/grainy at times. I wonder if it was because we were eating sushi so late—it was around 11:00 p.m. when we started eating sushi! Still, for a restaurant that was only in its second day of service, the rice was pretty solid.
In the end, I had an enjoyable meal with Chef Daley and the rest of the staff and customers, and there were truly some outstanding dishes and sushi pieces. I can’t say that the meal was perfect because I thought the sushi rice was slightly off. I’ll definitely come back in the future, though, to try new dishes and have more of the sushi! (The place is definitely worth checking out, and it’s still very new—you should go while reservations are relatively easy to make!)
Ikura (salmon roe) shoyu with Hokkaido uni (sea urchin).
Victor: The ikura shoyu was really strong, and it drowned out the uni a bit. I could really only taste the uni in the aftertaste. I enjoyed the taste of the ikura, but I kind of wish I could taste more of the uni. This wasn’t a great start for me :(.
Ken: I liked it a bit more than Victor, I guess. It was OK. I like the flavors, but I would have liked the broth to be lighter.
Chilean uni (sea urchin), ikura (salmon roe) marinated in dashi, and Hokkaido hotate (sea scallop). Topped with yuzu foam.
Ken: This has mostly the same ingredients as the first course, but it works better here without the broth to muddle the flavors. Uni + ikura is always a good combo, and the scallop adds a nice bit of sweetness to the dish.
Toro tartare with tuna chicharrón, sushi rice, and wasabi. Drizzled with tuna bacon fat (seared).
Victor: The toro tartare was delicious. I thought the sushi rice was a little too hard here, but overall it was delicious. The tuna chicharrón added a harder and welcome textural contrast to the softness of the tartare.
Ken: Toro served 3 ways – barely seared, raw, and seared to hell. One of the best dishes of the night.
Chawanmushi. Chinese-style pork belly inside Japanese egg custard, with sea salt and wasabi.
Ken: Not the best chawanmushi I’ve had, but not the worst. I don’t think it needed the wasabi. Not sure what it was there for.
Front: Hot spoon–seared saba (Japanese mackerel).
Back: Mackerel tartare (several different types of mackerel) with ginger, shiso, miso paste, and green onion.
Victor: Sorry for the terrible pic. I didn’t check to see if the pic was focused or not :(. I have got to get a real camera…
Ken: Mackerel isn’t my favorite fish, but this course was delicious. I think Sushi Ko is at its best when it’s preparing classic flavors like this in a somewhat more modern way.
—There won’t be a pic/description of this dish “for [sushi] reasons” (to paraphrase David Stern). You’ll have to come here yourself to try it!—
Mirugai (giant clam) and aoyagi (surf clam) with ume, cucumber gelée, shiso, and ponzu foam.
Victor: He apparently made this dish up on the spot, and I thought this was one of the highlights of the evening. It wasn’t as delicious as some of the other things, but it’s hard to make mirugai/aoyagi as delicious as, for instance, ōtoro. (The toro steak dish and the three ōtoro sushi pieces win were by far the most delicious). However, the creativity and flavor combinations involved were outstanding. The harder, chewier aspects of the clams contrasted well with the soft jelliness of the cucumber gelée, and the acidity of the latter four ingredients balanced well with the clams, making the dish light and refreshing.
Ken: Not a big clam fan at sushi places, but this course was good. The flavors were really light and refreshing. Personally, shiso is always a bit overpowering for me, so I could’ve done with a little bit less of that.
Toro steak with sushi rice.
Victor: You can’t really go wrong with seared ōtoro. You can probably tell how delicious this was just from knowing what it is.
Ken: Beautiful piece of toro. The best thing I had at Sushi Ko.
Course 10: Sushi!
Akami (lean tuna).
Chūtoro (medium-fatty tuna).
Seared kinmedai (golden eye snapper) with lemon and truffle sea salt.
Victor: I couldn’t quite taste the truffle in the sea salt, but the bitterness and saltiness of the lemon and salt complimented the kinmedai really well. (Personally, though, I think lemon, yuzu, and sea salt are three ingredients which can compliment quite a lot of fish well…)
Ken: This was the best piece of nigiri for me. Served without shoyu since the flavor of the fish was so delicate. Just a beautiful piece of fish.
Wild-caught and cured saba (mackerel).
Ken: Chef Daley sure loves his mackerel.
Uni (sea urchin) from Santa Barbara, California.
Victor: Chef Daley told me to eat this ASAP and didn’t let me take a picture, and I complied with his rather reasonable request. It was rich and creamy, just like how I like my Cali uni. Unfortunately, I was reveling too much in the taste of the uni to focus on how the seaweed quality was :(.
—There won’t be a pic/description of this piece “for [sushi] reasons” (to paraphrase David Stern). You’ll have to come here yourself to try it!—
Victor: At this point, Chef Daley ended the omakase and asked us if we wanted any more food (which we can order from the supplemental menu). I was still hungry (as usual, I guess… haha). I asked for some more sushi and the uni ramen, and he went to work!
Kama toro (tuna collar).
Victor: It’s been MONTHS since I’ve tried kama toro, and I am rather happy that I had the chance to once again have it. It’s only the second time that I’ve been able to try it in New York, as it’s incredibly rare. Apparently, though, 15 East has it if you ask for it…
Ōtoro engawa (fatty tuna belly).
Victor: MMMMmmmm… Ōtoro……
Ōtoro aburi (seared ōtoro).
-MMmm…. Seared ōtoro…
-You can kind of get the point about how I feel about ōtoro, seared or raw. I really wouldn’t mind just getting a big slab of ōtoro and taking bites out of it. (TIME TO GO TO TSUKIJI MARKET!)
Ken: Personally, I like seared otoro a tiny bit more than raw. Searing it cuts down the richness by a bit and brings out the flavor a little bit more imo.
Ramen noodles with uni-and-dashi broth, ikura, and shiso leaf.
-The dish was served cold, and it was a great summer dish. Chef Daley prepared the broth by using an immersion blender to mix uni and dashi; the thick broth that resulted had an intense uni flavor, which I enjoyed a LOT. The shiso leaf and ikura made everything seem rather refreshing. (The ramen and concentrated uni broth would have felt pretty heavy by themselves.) This was a wonderful end to the meal—it was like a big version of uni and ikura nigiri!
-(Of course, I still enjoy ramen from places like Ippudo and Shin-Sen-Gumi far more haha. There’s nothing like a hot bowl of Hakata ramen…)
Ken: Personally, I would’ve liked a heavier broth, though I guess that would defeat the purpose of a light, refreshing summer dish. Still, I was expecting a creamier broth if it’s made of uni.