Sushi Yasuda

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The Sushi Chefs

“…the half-dozen chefs behind the blond wood counter stand in silent, still phalanx, purposeful as soldiers, humble as monks, their white uniforms immaculate. They symbolize the militaristic precision and quasi-religious ardor with which this restaurant approaches its mission. That mission is sushi.”
– Frank Bruni, The New York Times, “A Return Visit To Sushi Yasuda,” Top Pick, 3 stars (Excellent), August 27, 2008

From 1999—when Sushi Yasuda first opened—to 2011, when he departed, Yasuda almost never missed a seating. In an age of celebrity chefs who rule culinary empires, Yasuda—and now his disciples, today led by master sushi chef Tomo (Tetsuaki Otomo)—simply prefer to make sushi. Yasuda often said, “I’m just a sushi man.” Having assiduously trained the “next generation” of sushi men for over a decade, he returned to Japan to open a small neighborhood sushi shop and embark on a well-earned semi-retirement.

“When Chef Naomichi Yasuda left his namesake sushi restaurant to return to Japan last winter, there were concerns by the sushi cognoscenti that Sushi Yasuda would not be the same without his big personality. Fear not. Mr. Yasuda’s successors, are upholding the ethos of sushi perfection…”
– Melanie Grayce West, The Wall Street Journal, “Shrine to Sushi,” February 11, 2011

The Rice
Perhaps the most complex and difficult part of making sushi is perfecting the rice. Sushi Yasuda uses a mix of Japanese short and medium grain rice, combined with Japanese red and white rice vinegars, Japanese sea salt and a small amount of sugar. The water has been purified with bincho-tan (Japanese charcoal). The rice is cooked in precise proportions at calculated temperatures for a specific time. Like scientists in a lab, the sushi chelfs have refined their method after years of research and experimentation. Using their hands as instruments, they evaluate how moist the rice is before cooking it. They adjust the amount of water accordingly.

The Fish
While Sushi Yasuda brings in fish from all around the world and much from Japan, the chefs highly value outstanding local and regional varieties. Tomo selects the fish one by one, evaluating each for freshness, size and its “spirit” or “energy.” They then carefully begin the comprehensive process of cleaning, preparing and storing. Paper-thin sheets of delicate Japanese cedar-wood line many of the boxes, and different varieties of fish are stored in separate boxes. The chefs carefully control the aging process of the fish—an essential part of making sushi. “Just-caught” fish is not always ideal for being eaten immediately as sushi, and different fish require different methods of refrigeration and storage for ideal preservation and taste.
“the menu is dead serious, a puristís paradise of multiple choices among fish species”
– William Grimes, The New York Times, 3 stars (Excellent), March 1, 2000
Sushi Yasuda typically offers seven or eight main options for tuna “fattiness” that apply to the hon-maguro (bluefin) and mebachi-maguro (big-eye) tunas. The chefs’ ability to identify a wide range of fattiness is virtually unlimited. They prepare many gradations of akami (lean), chutoro (medium fatty), and otoro (high fatty) cuts. Other toro options such as his kama toro, taken from the cheek and hagashi toro, the super high-fatty tuna taken mainly from the top of the tail, drop like rain onto the tongue. True hagashi toro is extremely difficult to prepare, requiring a masterful and time-consuming cutting technique. Toro, the word used to describe fatty tuna, actually means “melting.”
“It feels as if itís melting in my mouth, the fish supremely pure and the rice delicate and subtle... ”
– Eric Asimov, The New York Times, “Quiet, Please: Sushi Being Served,” 3 stars, November 16, 2011
The chefs understand that each person sitting at the counter has different tastes, degrees of “sushi experience,” energy levels and moods. They prepare each meal accordingly, even considering the size and shape of a person’s mouth. They gently query someone who has never sat with them before to gauge their probable preferences; the chefs will design a meal that stimulates interest, awareness and pleasure. And as Yasuda might remind anyone who might feel pressure to match the quantity or “exotic quotient” of another person’s meal: ”it is not a competition.”
“While it’s a serious place for serious sushi lovers, a sense of warmth and pleasure pervades.”
– Eric Asimov, The New York Times, Restaurant Details: Sushi Yasuda, 3 stars, November 16, 2011
Sushi Yasuda’s chefs carefully shape each customer’s experience. Some meals are spirited and energizing, others calming and regenerative. The chefs sense their customers’ needs and tastes and will anticipate a particular cut of a certain kind of fish that will satisfy exquisitely. The sushi chefs maintain an extensive mental database of their customers preferences and they will gradually incorporate new types of sushi as their customers’ tastes evolve. Intuitively knowing the rhythms of their customers, they will occasionally suggest it is time to finish. No two meals are ever the same.

“world class sushi”
– Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living , “Sushi 101 with Naomichi and Scott,” May 9, 2002

The Environment
Sushi Yasuda is a calming space. The floor, walls, ceiling, tables and sushi bar are composed of solid bamboo planks. Slightly different clear finishes and a geometric grid pattern on a few of the wall surfaces create a sense of dimension and groundedness. The airy interior is a haven from the noise and grit of the city outside. Tucked away on East Forty-Third Street between Second and Third Avenues, the inside can be seen from the street through the clean, Mondrian-like design of the vast main window. The United Nations is visible looking east and Grand Central Station is visible to the west.
“The interior's elegant, clean lines veer toward minimalism, but the bamboo planks that compose the floor, ceiling, bars and walls...are as richly textured to the eye as they are smooth to the touch.”
– Jamal A. Rayyis, New York Magazine, "Profile," 2006
There is no music piped into Sushi Yasuda. The lighting, which is brighter than one might expect, is designed to provide visual clarity on the sushi—both its preparation and presentation (as is customary). Customers settle into a warm, quiet, incredibly satisfying kind of space. As in traditional Japan, where restaurants specialize in one kind of cuisine or another, Sushi Yasuda is a sushi place—not a catch-all, tempura-yakitori-sushi-soba-sukiyaki-kaiseki "Japanese" restaurant.
“‘sublime sushi’ to bring ‘tears to your eyes’”
Zagat Survey 2003, Best Japanese & Top Food Ranking: 28 (Extraordinary to Perfection)


204 East 43rd Street New York City 10017 tel 212.972.1001 fax 212.972.1717 tel 212.972.1001 204 East 43rd Street New York City 10017