When I made my reservation for Shuko last week, I thought I was being smart. A newly opened “omakase”-only sushi restaurant 5 minutes from my apartment in New York City? Perfect – I’ll go, enjoy a great meal and put a review out for a place that wouldn’t have much press on the internet. As the old saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men…” – well, that’s really the only part I know, but the theme remains true: whether it’s a crazy case of “word of mouth disease”, or my outstanding instagram pictures, Shuko is blowing up the New York social media food scene. Fortunately for you, there is only one Sushi Legend (likely unfortunately for my bank account to be completely honest).
All that said, I almost didn’t stay at Shuko beyond the host’s greeting; that’s because our 9:00 pm reservation turned into 9:30, a fact I’d be much more willing to forgive if a) the owners weren’t experienced (they are – more on that later) and b) the host gave us accurate information beyond just pointing out a random couple whose spot we might be taking. A quick look at Yelp confirms that my experiences were not abnormal.
Some of my other concerns? The sushi bar itself is crammed beyond belief. Not only does it make it tough for the customers, but it makes it tough for the staff also, especially considering how overstaffed Shuko appears to be. I noted many instances of multiple staff members just standing around the kitchen area, despite the fact that the restaurant was completely full. In the right circumstances, having more staff than customers leads to an awesomely interactive experience (see my review for NAOE in Miami for instance). This wasn’t one of those times, though I was impressed by the manager Sarah.
The food though, is what should make Shuko. The two main chefs are Jimmy and Nick, who gained a popular following in New York City at Masa, followed by Neta until they a few years back. They aren’t super talkative, but they know their sushi, and prepare it well. You’ll note that the Uni is in a folded piece of seaweed that is able to stand freely. That’s because the seaweed (nori) is toasted just prior to being served, which gives it a firm structure. It’s concepts like that, or the Uni/Amaebi spoon (pictured right), that differentiates Shuko from a typical nigiri only Omakase.
Be forewarned – there are only two menu options at Shuko: Omakase (sushi only at $135) and Kaiseki (hot dishes and sushi at $175). I stuck to Sushi only (hello Mercury Poisoning my old friend), but the hot dishes in the Kaiseki have gotten favourable reviews and are likely worth a try. That said, the Grilled Chu-Toro nigiri, a neta usually balancing between reserved and indulgent, was ridiculous, oily from the firing beyond comprehension and reasonable taste.
While it’s easy to stay stagnant in the food industry, I’m pleased to see that Chefs Jimmy and Nick have moved onto a place they can truly be proud of. While there are some kinks with the service, the food itself is solid if unspectacular.
When I first wrote this blog, I had Shuko as a recommended visit. Since, the dearth of sushiya opening in NYC at similar price points ultimately means that you can likely do better with your time and money. As always, please feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions about the pictures you see on my blog.