15 E 15th St (at 5th Ave & Union Square W)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 647-0015
Site: Visit the restaurant site
2nd Cuisine: Japanese
Area: Union Square
I had forgotten just how sensuous sushi could be until I stepped inside 15 East, the new sushi spot run by Marco Moreira and JoAnn Makovitzky in the space that formerly housed Toqueville.
I would strongly recommend a seat at the sushi bar to witness chef Masato Shimizu (formerly of Jewel Bako) in action. It is a wonderful site to behold. Each piece of sushi is not just formed, it is caressed with loving care. Some pieces are painted with soy sauce, or dabbed, while others are rubbed with lemon and sprinkled with sea salt. Shrimp are cooked on the spot or offered raw, while snow crab gets a blast from a propane torch. All are to die for.
Mildly marinated yellowtail called "Zuke" starts off the adventure, followed by "Chu-Toro", a slightly fatty tuna, and "Tai", a Japanese salmon with tiny slashes to absorb the chef's secret sauce kept behind the bar. Each piece is presented to you personally by Masato on a banana leaf. The only garnish - bits of ginger. Nothing else is needed to distract you from his master work. On two occasions I asked the chef to make the pick. For the first, out came a wooden box. Inside were four tuna filets. Each piece glistening. Chef Masato pointed to a piece that he said came from below the pectoral fin, a fatty spot on the fish... and let me just say it was mind-blowingly delicious. As was his second pick; a piece of eel that dare I say was almost a sexual experience.
I am not a sushi aficionado. In fact, in recent years I had become frustrated by how homogenized sushi had become in the city with restaurants looking to impress with monster sizes or rolls made from strange concoctions. Yet, here was a man standing before me, loyal to his teachings in Tokyo, preparing perfect sushi and sashimi that might only be found in places like Masa at exorbitant prices. At 15 East the full tasting menu is $120 or you can pick, as I did, from the à la carte menu ($4-10 per piece), while enjoying a glass of fine sake. Pure heaven!
One thing is certain, Chef Masato is a master and I am a true believer!
Review By: Sam Sayegh