March 27, 2014

I ❤ NY: Dining at Tanoshi Sushi & Sake Bar

   I recently went to dine at Tanoshi, an omakase style sushi restaurant on the Upper East Side. I am a highly avid and fervent lover of sushi. I always say that if I could eat one type of food for the rest of my life it would be sushi. I especially love sushi that focuses on enhancing the natural flavor of the fish. My friends and I waited over a month to sit at Tanoshi which is a 12 seater, reservation only establishment. If you're also a fellow sushi lover (or you like to look at food porn pictures), click through the jump to see photos & my review of my entire omakase dinner at Tanoshi!






Ambience & Omakase Dining Style

      If you don't know what omakase ("oh-mah-ka-say") is, it literally means "I leave it to you" meaning that you put your trust in the chef. This means that the chef will choose what he/she thinks is best when serving you. Of course, at the beginning of the meal you will be asked if you dislike anything or have any allergies. Dining omakase style is good for those of you who wouldn't otherwise try new things because it exposes you to food that you wouldn't order yourself, on the other hand it is also good for those of you who would like to try new things.
     In true New York tradition, Tanoshi is very small. It is a 12 seater sushi bar, and the seats do not even have back supports. There are three chefs preparing the sushi. There are only 3 seatings per day; 6pm, 7.30pm, and 9pm. Before the omakase courses begin, you may order from the a la carte and appetizer menu. The establishment is BYOB, and if you do bring your own beverage they have an ice bucket for you to place it in. When the omakase starts, the hostess takes away your chopsticks because traditionally you eat sushi with your hands.

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Order of My Omakase Dinner at Tanoshi

Creamy Scallop Sashimi*
1. Fluke
2. King Salmon
3. Tuna
4. Yellowtail
5. Wild Albacore
6. Black Sable
7. Scallop
8. Salmon Roe
9. Uni with a raw quail egg
10. Anago (saltwater eel)
11. Maki Trio (tuna, albacore, & salmon)
12. Miso soup (half red, half white)
13. Spicy Tuna handroll
Hamachi (yellowtail) belly*
*this was a la carte/extra and not part of the omakase.



Creamy Scallop Sashimi (a la carte appetizer)

This was an appetizer and not part of the omakase. The scallops were super fresh, and not fishy at all. I usually don't go for raw scallops so I didn't know what to really expect but I wanted to try something new. The flavor of the scallops was mild, but it had an aftertaste I didn't enjoy. Almost similar to the sort of sour, briny, and metallic aftertaste raw oysters give you albeit much milder in flavor. I don't particularly like raw oysters, so I didn't enjoy this appetizer much. However, I do think that if you like raw scallops, you would enjoy this dish a lot.

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1. Fluke with Shiso (Mint Leaf)

This was the first course of the omakase and it was delicious. You can see that the green from the shiso is peeking through underneath the fish. I thought the shiso perfectly complemented the fish and gave it a richer flavor since fluke (a type of white fish) is naturally mild in flavor. This was also the first time I got to taste the amazing rice. The rice was served warm, highly chewy, perfectly seasoned and balanced between the pungent vinegar and the natural sweetness of red vinegar. This was my boyfriend's favorite piece.

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2. King Salmon lightly Seared

I am a big fan of salmon. It's probably my favorite fish to eat both uncooked and cooked. The salmon at Tanoshi had a slightly smokey flavor which I think might be attributed to the fact that the chef uses a small blowtorch over the top of the fish immediately before serving it to you. It was different (but in a good way) from other salmons I've tasted in other establishments. My boyfriend said this was probably his second favorite piece.

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3. Tuna

Ahh the tuna. Just take a look at that color! That's the reason why I chose this picture for my Instagram! The tuna at Tanoshi was hearty, substantial, and if it was a type of meat it would definitely be most similar to a steak. If you enjoy good tuna, you'll enjoy this piece.

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4. Hamachi (yellowtail)

For those of you who love the taste of yellowtail, the hamachi at Tanoshi was excellent. The flavor of the hamachi was strong and bold, but not overly fishy. Some hamachi can be too overwhelming for me because there is an "old fish" aftertaste in my mouth. However, the hamachi at Tanoshi did not leave me with a bad fishy aftertaste. Instead the flavor was its strongest when I was chewing it, rather than when I already swallowed it.

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5. Wild Albacore with Tamago Flakes

This was really fun to eat. Albacore is part of the tuna family but as you can see it is naturally more lighter than its more famous counterpart. At first my friend and I thought it was topped with ginger (which we both don't like) but were pleased to find out when we were told it was tamago flakes. Tamago is a sweet Japanese omelet and when it is paired against the intense tuna aroma of albacore, it makes for an interesting and pleasant palette experience.

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6. Black Sable

This was probably my least favorite out of the entire omakase. I clearly remember that the black sable had a rubbery and muscular texture which I didn't enjoy. I was actually surprised by the texture when I was chewing it. It almost felt like I was eating cushion foam. While the flavor of the fish was good, the texture overshadowed the flavor for me personally.

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7. Scallop

Unlike the creamy scallop appetizer, the scallop in the omakase was topped with a sweet like soy sauce which really blended well with the mild flavor of the scallop. As you already read, I didn't enjoy the scallop appetizer, but I didn't mind the scallop in the omakase probably because it was paired with a complementing sauce.

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8. Salmon Roe

First off, I actually don't like salmon roe. I never get it if I have a choice. It's way too fishy, salty, and just not my slice of cake. Most salmon roe actually makes my stomach turn. However, I do enjoy roe when it's super fresh because it's neither extremely fishy or salty when it's fresh. Fortunately, the salmon roe at Tanoshi was very fresh and pleasant to eat. And as such, it did not make my stomach turn.

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9. Uni (sea urchin) with Raw Quail Egg

One word - creamy. I actually had never had uni with a raw quail egg until Tanoshi. While the uni was delicious (creamy, sea salty, and very fresh), I can't say I liked it with the egg. I think I would have enjoyed it much better without the raw egg since I don't really like the texture of it. The nori was of course excellent - very crisp and warm. Overall, if you're a big fan of uni you should enjoy this piece very much.

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10. Anago (saltwater eel)

I remember the anago clearly because I thought it was unagi (freshwater eel) and told my friend that I thought unagi was up next. The chef heard me and corrected me that it was actually "anago" which is different from unagi because anago is saltwater eel and not freshwater. Until then, I didn't know that they had two different names! I enjoyed the anago from Tanoshi. The flavor of the eel was not masked or drenched by tons of sweet sauce, and the subtle flavor of the eel was allowed to shine through. The texture was great, flakey, but moist and soft at the same time. My boyfriend who doesn't like eel, said he enjoyed the anago and that it was the best eel he's ever tasted.

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11. Maki Trio: Salmon, Hamachi, & Tuna

I really don't have anything bad to say about the maki trio since it's pretty difficult to mess up maki. I absolutely loved Tanoshi's nori, so I was very happy and excited to see that we were being served the maki trio.

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12. Miso Soup - half red, half white

At the time I was drinking the soup, I couldn't exactly pinpoint what was different about this miso soup. When I came back home, I googled "red miso" and found out that red miso is fermented longer and as such is bolder and richer in flavor. I do agree with that bit. The soup stock was significantly bolder than the other miso soups I've had in other establishments. It was a nice treat to have a shot of hot soup after having the bulk of the omakase already.

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13. Spicy Tuna Hand Roll with Shiso

If you have eaten handrolls freshly prepared, you know how important it is to eat it immediately because the seaweed gets soggy almost instantly. The chef did not even place the handroll down on my personal sushi platform and instead handed it directly to me for that reason. I'm used to making my own spicy tuna at home where I control how much spice I put, so the spicy tuna at Tanoshi was not spicy at all (I actually couldn't taste any spicy-ness) but I did clearly see that the fish was slightly tossed in mayo and a spicy sauce. Also, there was a mint leaf in Tanoshi's version of spicy tuna which was a pleasant surprise.

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Hamachi Belly (a la carte)

This was my last sushi piece, but it was not part of the omakase. As you already saw there was a traditional hamachi sushi in the omakase. The difference between the hamachi and the hamachi belly was of course that the hamachi belly is a fattier piece. Since it is fattier, the flavor is much more rich. I can't really describe the difference but it's analogous to the difference of flavors in white meat and dark meat. Dark meat is richer in flavor because it is more oilier. The same concept goes for fish as well.

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Concluding Remarks

      If you're interested in dining at Tanoshi, you need to make a reservation online via their website. If your party is over 12, you will not be able to dine all together since the tiny location seats only a total of 12 people. The omakase is 12 pieces of sushi, but my dinner also had a small shot of miso soup. Although I can't guarantee that your omakase will be the same as the one I had, it should be similar in terms of variety and quality. If you like omakase style, definitely give Tanoshi a try! Next on my list of sushi bars to try is Sushi Yasuda (I will of course review when I eventually dine there).





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