Total Bill: $580 for three
130 St. Marks Place
New York, New York 10009
Contact | 212. 228.1010
Omakase dining in the city has become a lot like buying jeans — omnipresent in their respective scenes, classic in style but with one or two tweaks could completely alter the experience. You’ll have trendy ones that rise and fade quickly from the scene, and time-honored ones that promise authenticity and consistency. But at the end of the day, all you really want is one that’s right for you and won’t break the bank.
But Kura is a beautiful mix of tradition and modernity. It extends no-nonsense service, but one that’s flexible and accommodating when it’s so easy to be rigid in this dining format. And perhaps the biggest sticking point is the meal itself served by Chef Ishizuka, which involves items you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere outside Japan.
Options are tiered into three levels: a small $85 omakase, $105 medium experience and large coming in at $130. We went big for mum’s birthday. You’ll feel full by the end of the night, but it’s solid value for 20 pieces of nigiri, two appetizers and a dessert,especially compared to what else you can get in the city for $130.
With a smile on his face throughout the evening, Chef Ishizuka prepares your sushi from behind the bar, posing occasionally for the camera-happy diners (ourselves included). He places it one by one on your plate. The whole thing was very Nakazawa — but with a warmer, friendlier atmosphere. Reservations were taken such that the 12-seated bar is never fully packed at any one point. And unlike Nakazawa, most of the fish aren’t from New Jersey waters.
You’ll have the classic tunas and salmons of course, but it got impressive when I started seeing things I’d never seen before. That includes cherry blossom shrimp — these tiny ebis are more often seen in dried form at Asian supermarkets. Raw, they’re super sweet and crunchy with every bite, and I didn’t want it to end. The big botan shrimp was just as mouthwatering. They come out live from the kitchen and the heads are brought back in for frying.
The other highlight was this really velvety lean tuna, served after undergoing an overnight marinating session. The outer surface turns this coppery color against the dark magenta tuna. The fish is smooth in texture, bold in flavor and gives the often-preferred fattier cuts a run for their money.
One feature ties the whole night together: the rice. It’s no ordinary sushi rice at Kura. There’s an ever-so-slight kick of spice in the rice means you’ll see no trace of wasabi at the establishment. That actually didn’t hit me until just now, which is saying something as someone who loves her wasabi.
The night was a perfect marriage of exceptional service and quality dining. Given their generally high price tags, omakases aren’t usually the type of dinners that casual or recurring customers. But Kura is the exception, where value and straight-up good food deserves repeated wear.