More often than not, simple sushi is the best sushi. Our Japanese tour through Manhattan with mom landed us at the perennial gem, Jewel Bako nestled on 5th street between 2nd and 3rd avenues.
The thoughtfulness of this place begins when you approached their door. The decor is simple, precise, and the staff accommodating beyond the norm for a restaurant of this caliber. We wanted to sit at the bar, which they found a way to make happen.
My mom’s tough to please when it comes to Japanese tableware, she being an avid collector. But the thoughtfulness extends to the plating, and you won’t get the same one twice.
Of course all these touches would mean little if the food didn’t live up to it.
But it did. It gives Yasuda a run for its money and Gari a shade of artifice. The clean lines and simple construct makes you wonder why anyone would ever over-complicate sushi.
Take the sushi omasake. No sauces, you barely need soy sauce, just let the combination of different tastes and textures meld in your mouth. If you’re the type needs a little more punch to give your fill, order a variety of appetizers.
The trio of tartares give you a nice sampling of blue fin tuna, salmon and yellowtail. What struck me was how its built with a solid blocks of fish, no sauce or diced avocados as gap fillers.
The rolls are somehow just as punching in flavor as the sauce-loaded rolls you order for takeout, yet there’s a lightness to it that draws the taste straight from the quality of the sushi alone. Use the wasabi they scrap from the wasabi root for a cleaner taste.
All these goes well with a packet of their steams mushrooms, which will draw out flavors from a variety of mushrooms that you never knew existed.
It’s an understatement to call this place Manhattan gem. It’s the epitome of what what quality dining should be: not commercialized, true to its origins, humble but bold where it matters. All of which helps it stand the test of the formidable New York minute.