$85 (12 courses), $125 (15 courses), $155 (16 courses)
Sushi Ishikawa is a fairly new omakase addition to the Upper East Side. They specialize in innovative omakase, offering a unique twist on traditional omakase led by Chef Don Pham. Sushi enthusiasts may know Chef Pham from his days as Executive Sushi Chef at popular NYC sushi hub O Ya, which debuted in 2015. After working in NYC’s omakase scene for nearly two decades, he’s taking the reins and offering up his own selections of fresh and inventive bites. We both chose the 16 course omakase as we wanted to try everything this place had to offer. Being sushi “purists” we were originally a little wary of the amount of toppings that accompany some of Ishikawa’s signature bites—but after the first bite of well balanced and creatively executed components, we were sold. It’s a risk that Chef Pham is taking, and it pays off.
We love sushi rice and respect the tremendous amount of training it takes to make amazing rice. The rice at Ishikawa was clearly made with great skill and care, but the temperature was just a little cooler than our preferred temperature. Some restaurants will switch out the rice multiple times during the course of a single omakase. The texture was a bit on the firm side, but that being said, the seasoning of the rice was perfect and enhanced each bite of sushi.
In all cases the fish was very fresh, and we were told most was flown in that day from Japan. The Dungeness crab was still alive just hours before it was served to us. There was plenty of Uni from Santa Barbara, Maine, Hokkaido, with a surprise appearance from the west coast of Canada which we had never had. This use of Uni is what our personal omakase dreams are made of. We kept calling it an uni-kase. But there are plenty of other melt-in-your-mouth pieces of fish to be had—some expected and some exciting and new. But where Chef Don Pham really shines is his ingenious use of accompanying ingredients which create little bombs of flavor but somehow still manage to make the fish the star.
Omakase highlights included chutoro, otoro, & caviar with gold leaf, hokkaido uni with shiso leaf tempura and truffle shavings, botan ebi with foie gras and yuzu, and dungeness crab with osetra caviar piled up a mile high. There were absolutely no low-points in this omakase, and we even added on an additional two pieces each. The omakase winds down with a stunning handroll of uni, chutoro, and ikura with scallions and little rice balls for some crunch that left us totally satisfied.
You are welcomed to the restaurant with a big hello so don’t be alarmed. Our Sushi chef was very professional and was very focused on making us some amazing bites. He really did not interact with us other to tell us the type of bite he composed. The owner and master was very outgoing but unfortunately was not our chef. He was clearly entertaining the patrons at the other side of the bar based on the amount of laughter and storytelling. Perhaps if you eat there more often, you move up the sushi ladder and get to be fed by the master. We did get special attention from our waiter who frequently went into more detail regarding the fish and made a few great sake selections for us.
Josh is a big eater, Natalie eats a bit less, so we will have different opinions. Before moving on to desert they asked if we wanted to try anything else and we did take them up on the offer. After two more bites we were full and ready for desert. Overall, you definitely get your money's worth at Ishikawa. Chef Pham is extremely generous and wants you to leave satisfied and happy!
From the moment you walk into Ishikawa, you are transported away from the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The restaurant has a really great vibe, mixing both traditional and modern Japanese styles. The size is small, so it feels cozy, but big enough so that you don't get claustrophobic. From the sushi bar you have a great view of the sushi chefs creating works of art. Though it seemed like the sushi bar was the place to be in this restaurant, there were a few tables where parties larger than two or three could sit. Part of what you’re paying for is the entertainment and artistry of watching your food being prepared for you, so we definitely recommend the sushi bar experience.