33 East 20th Street
New York, New York 10003
Contact | 347.705.8100
Sushi is well-established as mainstream cuisine in coastal America. But nothing proves that point like a famed sushi chain from Los Angeles finding a home in New York’s Flatiron district to a ravenous fan base willing to wait upwards of three hours for a table.
I’m talking about Sugarfish, a sort of sushi-for-the-people type concept by Chef Kazunori Nozawa. Indeed, it offers an enticing middle ground for New Yorkers who are accustomed to either fancy 12-course sushi restaurants with months-long waitlists or hole-in-the-walls with wooden bars that seat no more than 10 at a time. (Of course there are examples from both sides of the spectrum that serve some of the best sushi in town.)
Sugarfish finds a happy medium, and does it with a very West Coast quality with its casual menu (laminated), clean plating (all white tableware) and no-fuss service (the food comes when it comes). This place does to sushi as what California Pizza Kitchen did to pizza, which may sound negative, but it isn’t. Yes, there is a hint of commercialism, but I’m thinking more in how bright and accessible Sugarfish is making sushi to eaters.
For lunch, the menu is straightforward: Three preset “trust me” options that vary in number of courses, and a wide-ranging a la carte offering.
I selected four off a la carte given that my very specific sushi favorites don’t tend to make it onto preset menus. The four items totaled $32, which comes out to be around the same price as the mid-sized “trust me” menu of $33.
Sweet ebi has a permanent place on my sushi palate, and the quality can span widely, from the tiny shriveled slivers available at delis to the fresh voluptuous gems served at the fancier places. At $9.25 for a pair, you’ll get shrimp that comes quite close to the high-quality end. No complaints. In fact, the dash of spice they brush on top is a solid kicker.
The bay scallops, at $6 for two, was also top notch. They’re also brushed with a light ponzu so that soy sauce isn’t necessarily needed. Then there’s the salmon staple, which is available as six pieces of sashimi without rice, for $9.25. They’re served in a pool of the same slightly sweet ponzu sauce. For anyone looking to keep the rice intake in check, the sashimi is good to include. Tuna is also available.
There are also a few roll selections, which you can order as a handroll or cut of eight. My fatty tuna handroll, at $6, was on the small side. But it’s fresh, with the nori still crispy and not melted onto the warm rice.
The work it takes to get a seat at NY’s Sugarfish (putting your name down hours in advance) will deter me from going back any time soon. But once (or if) the hype dies down, I can see it as a perfect casual dinner/lunch spot that makes it so that going out for sushi doesn’t have to be some grand occasion.