Midnight at the Omakase (New York, NY)
If Sushi Seki were merely adequate sushi, the fact that it’s open at 3am, when you’re either too tired, too drunk or too pissed to give a shit about the bill, would make it destination-worthy. The fact that it’s one of the top sushi bars in the City only makes it all the more appealing. Though it does attract drunks (the last time I was there I can only vaguely recall), the sushi is impeccable.
As an apprentice to Gari, Seki loves to enhance traditional sushi with non-traditional ingredients. Though they didn’t serve the Gari trademarked grilled tomato topped salmon on a recent visit, the seared King Salmon needed no accompaniment. Similarly simple sea salt draws out the umami of red snapper. Jalapeño Hamachi is as tasty as it is alliterative. Tofu sauce renders boring Maguro exciting. Ditto crushed sesame seeds, pureed cucumber and other sauces on traditional nigiri.
The spicy scallop handroll is tah doy fowr. Unagi chopped and mixed with avocado does justice to the eel and the typically overly-used fruit (if you actually like California rolls). Octopus Sashimi is tenderly sliced, and chopped toro is superior to run-of-the mill sushi bars, which use it to get rid of end pieces unsuitable for sashimi. If you’re in the mood for cold noodles, the Zaru Soba Udon are refreshing.
The chef knows when not to tamper with mother nature— generous portions of uni get little or no topping. A simple, deep-cupped Kumamoto is allowed to swim in its own liquor with just a drop of soy sauce and finely diced scallions. Mackerel also gets the dice and slice treatment with traditional ginger and scallions. Ikura and snow crab gunkan-style and tomago sashimi needed no enhancement.
So the next time you’re tired, drunk or just plain pissed off at midnight, head to the omakase oasis at Sushi Seki on 62nd and First and don’t pay attention to the bill— it’s high, but probably so are you.