The sushi counter at 15 East
Bloomberg (by Tejal Rao):
15 East is a quiet little Japanese restaurant just off Union Square, where I find the mood is always quite civilized and serious. That was the case on a recent evening, until a junior sushi chef started playing with two massive prawns, whirling them together on the cutting board as if they were ballroom dancing. Another sushi chef grinned widely, then politely told him to stop that.
The restaurant opened in 2006 and it’s a consistently good spot for sushi (along with dishes like poached octopus, and delicate soba noodles with duck and scallions). The newest menu item, a “local fish flight” ($55 for 10 pieces), was introduced a couple of weeks ago and features fish from Long Island and its environs. Earlier this week, that meant lightly smoked mackerel, and a piece of fluke wrapped in a shiso leaf, each presented as nigiri on long, slender clusters of warm rice.
Owner Marco Moreira is a big fan of the local squid from Long Island, served raw. “It’s just gorgeous,” he told me over the phone. “It’s unbelievable with a little citrus zest and sea salt, but unfortunately we don’t always have it in house.”
The kitchen purchases fish from all over the world—Japan, Spain, Portugal—but Moreira explained that he wanted to introduce a new option that would celebrate local scallops, and a couple varieties of whitefish, as well. A tuna from North Carolina, which Moreira admits is only relatively local, may occasionally make an appearance.
If the kitchen runs out of the local stuff before you get to your tenth piece of nigiri, you’ll have the option to try other fish at the counter. You may find yourself with a wide slice of crunchy sea clam, a sweet raw shrimp, or a couple of oysters marinated in olive oil and rosemary (works!). With tiny wedges of the pickled ginger Shimizu makes in house in between each bite, it all makes for a lovely, light, clean-living kind of dinner.
This flight isn’t the most luxurious one in town, but it doesn’t bill itself as that, and in many ways that’s part of its appeal. The experience is straightforward and inexpensive, and so is the seafood. This is everyday sushi done well—if you’re looking for something more deluxe, go with the excellent $110 omakase, which roams farther and wider.
15 East Restaurant is at 15 E 15th Street (Flatiron); +1 212 647-0015 or 15eastrestaurant.com
Smoked mackerel nigiri, from 15 East’s new local fish flight