On a random Wednesday after a long day of working in the office, we quickly searched for a last minute omakase to enjoy with a colleague. We had plenty of options in walking distance from Union Square, and after getting denied at Shuko, 15 East had our backs with a last minute cancellation at the sushi bar. We’d heard about this highly revered sushiya from plenty of fellow sushi aficionados, so we were happy to cross this one off of our bucket list. Although the celebrated head chef Masato Shimizu left to open a sushiya in Bangkok a few years ago, his successor has taken the lead with confidence and zeal, maintaining the restaurant’s status of high end, high-quality, authentic and delicious omakase.
The rice at 15 East, while not the star of the show, was good. The shari here was lightly-seasoned and served at body temperature, and the texture was almost perfect but not quite as firm as we’d have liked. We also prefer a slightly warm temperature and a little more vinegar forward seasoning, but these are all particular critiques. Though it wasn’t anything special— looking at you Sushi Noz—it was comparable to the rice served at Sushi Ishikawa and Sushi Kaito.
It’s a little awkward discussing a restaurant that has had such a significant management shift. Do you take into account what used to be? Or do you solely consider what currently is? We’re going with the latter since we can only review what we experienced. That said, it sounds like the variety of fish at 15 East used to be more varied and exotic, and while that may be true, the fish served in our omakase still had some fun surprises. Furthermore, the expected cuts of fish like kinmedai, akami, shima aji, and uni were outstanding and did not disappoint. We told our waiter to give us “the works”, so our omakase consisted of some otsumami (appetizer/small dish) courses which led into a gorgeous sashimi plate, about 10 pieces of nigiri sushi, and finally, dessert.
The omakase started off strong with our favorite bite of the entire night—impossibly, inconceivably tender tako yawarakani (slow poached octopus). We’d heard rumors of the pampered, salt exfoliated cephalopod, massaged exactly 500 times to achieve maximum tenderness, but this bite definitely has to be experienced to be believed. After an impressive display of the whole creature, the tako was simply sliced and served on its own with just a bit of sea salt to bring out its natural flavor. We’d go back again just to have this bite alone!
Other otsumami standouts included a delicately sliced, slightly smoky Scottish salmon with marscapone and chive, and a softshell crab atop a shiso-lemon aioli. Considering the salmon, normally we would raise eyebrows at the thought of raw fish and Italian whipped cheese hanging out on the same plate together, but this turned out to be a fun and inspired bite that recalled the flavor of a classic lox bagel or a smoked salmon canapé. And the softshell crab offered the crispy, salty sweetness everyone loves in a softshell crab, while the lemon-shiso aioli and some fresh greens kept the dish bright and fresh. Suddenly… it was sushi time!
Favorite pieces of nigiri included suzuki (Japanese sea bass) with a tiny bit of sea salt and lemon to enhance the flavor of the mild whitefish, perfectly executed kinmedai (golden eye snapper) with the skin slightly aburied for a total melt-in-your-mouth sensation, akami so tender we would’ve believed it was chutoro if not for its beautiful deep red color, and some of the best aji (Japanese horse mackerel) we’ve ever had, adorned with yuzu kosho for a little kick. We also loved the chef’s treatment of the yari ika which showed off impressive knife skills while tenderizing the squid at the same time. This piece was visually stunning and even contained an uni-surprise which is the best kind of surprise to have, in our humble opinion.
Pieces that were noticeably missing were ikura, otoro, and hotate. No handroll or maki roll, but we did get a taste of seaweed with the uni gunkan.
The omakase concluded with bites of both anago and unagi, house made tamago, and an indulgent yet refreshing dessert for an all around super satisfying meal.
We’re confident that no fault could be found in the service at 15 East. The hostess sweetly helped us with our last minute seating and made sure to take our jackets and laptop bags since we’d just come from work. Our sommelier offered valuable insight into which sake we should order and our plates were consistently picked up and placed down in seamless tandem by a team of professional and respectful waiters. Our itamae was friendly and engaging, even pulling out an ancient looking book to point out which fish we were having and where the cut came from when we had a question.
Bonus points from Josh for satiation! We’re happy to report that this one does not fall into the “Josh ordered pizza later” category. From the otsumami courses, to the generous amount of sushi and dessert, we were definitely satiated and content after the omakase. We’d say this omakase offers a great value considering the price and the amount of food you are served.
15 East provides a perfect environment in which to enjoy their quality omakase. Nothing too stand-out here, but the restaurant has high ceilings, a beautiful sushi bar with prime lighting separate from the busier, noisier table side of the restaurant, and a sleek and efficient vibe throughout. The restaurant doesn’t provide too much in terms of personality, but we couldn’t ask for much more from this clean and contemporary setting.
15 East gets 4 out of 5 makis from us for their ability to impress in all aspects of their full omakase, their superb quality of service, and their professional and authentic vibe. We recommend for a date night, a first time omakase experience, or an after work sushi fix!