Sasabune was our first love. It was the first sushi restaurant where we could really taste and experience quality and mastery. We quickly discovered that we had much more to learn about the art of sushi and decided to save up for the more expensive, higher quality sushi at Sasabune than wasting our money at our local run-of-the-mill sushi-slinging restaurants once a week. Chef Kenji Takahashi, whose special of the day is always Trust Me, showed us why a spicy tuna roll or California roll does not belong on an omakase menu. Sometimes when we dream of sushi, we can clearly hear him say “soy sauce” or “no soy sauce” as he politely directed us how to best experience the delicate bites he’s created. Chef Takahashi trained for many years under Nobi Kusuhara who owns multiple Sasabune locations in California. He then moved to New York with his family to start Sasabune in NYC, and quickly gained the respect of sushi-loving New Yorkers on the Upper East Side and beyond.
Chef Takahashi is undoubtedly responsible for our appreciation of great sushi rice. During our omakase experiences with him he would frequently replace the rice with a fresh and warm batch. The rice he did not use was probably still good, but his standards rise above most in this way. He explained to us how important the rice is to each bite, and this is the reason why rice is the first paragraph in all our reviews. The seasoning, temperature and texture of his rice is always perfect and compliments each bite of sushi nicely.
The fish at Sasabune is handpicked by Chef Takahashi. It is always of the highest quality. He frequently starts us off with fresh oysters that have been marinating in the most amazing sauce along with a bite of calamari stuffed with blue crab. Once during Natalie’s birthday, he made her a literal tower of Uni as a birthday cake replacement because he knew that Uni is her favorite. After you make your way through some of my favorites like the Toro/Otoro combination and the hotate, ebi, and black cod gunkan plate, we always look forward to the blue crab hand roll. The blue crab hand roll is consistently served with perfectly warm, toasted seaweed. One improvement we would suggest is that after going to a number of different omakase restaurants in NYC, it would be great if Chef Takahashi changed up the menu a bit more. In Sasabune's omakase, the fish is always fresh but the menu is not.
Chef Takashashi is single handedly making sushi for the entire restaurant most nights. We're always very impressed with his speed, focus and consistency. Sometimes he is so focused you need to make an effort to start a conversation. His explanations of where the fish was sourced, or how the rice was made is always welcome but often the experience is just watching him do what he loves. In other omakase restaurants we frequent, they often have staff going into more detail about each bite or someone that can help you pick the best Sake based on the menu that evening. Finally, service can feel rushed at Sasabune, so it’s up to you to speak up if you’d like to take your time.
Josh is a big eater, Natalie eats a bit less, so we will have different opinions. Sasabune is one omakase meal that completely fills Josh up and we feel you get a great amount of food for the price. Natalie is always stuffed and sometimes if Josh is lucky she even asks him to finish her crab handroll. There is no dessert in this omakase, but the blue crab is pretty sweet.
When you get to Sasabune, you are greeted with their signature sign: “No spicy tuna. No California roll. TRUST ME”. This place means business but could use some work in the atmosphere department. The restaurant is clean but has absolutely no frills. You almost would not expect them to be creating such amazing sushi there. The first time we walked in we wondered if we were in the right place. They could benefit from freshening up the sushi bar area a bit.