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Sushi Seki


cabrales
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Nina and I visited Sushi Seki, which is at the location formerly occupied by Sushi Hatsu (62d and First).

Even though there was not a sashimi-only omakase, we ordered the $60 sushi-and-sashimi omakase and stated we only wanted one roll shared between us as the sushi component. Members should be alert to differences between the more "new-ish style" sushi (not in the Nobu "add the hot oil" sense) and certain traditional-type sushi (less saucing, etc.) that are also offered.

(1) Sashimi Plate #1 -- A large platter with (a) 3 amaebi (this was the least attractive of the sashimi items during the evening), (b) 2 raw octupus suction cups (interestingly cut, with the bulbous upper portion of the suction cup exposed), © 2 raw octupus flesh slices (nice, very crispy texture; raw octupus cannot keep for a particularly long time; hence many sushi bars have cooked octupus on hand) -- this was served with a nice umeboshi Japanese plum sauce that was an orange color, (d) 2 Kumomoto oysters in their shells with soy, vinegar and chives (nice as well), (e) 3 pieces of tuna (average), (f) 2 pieces of yellowtail belly with jalapeno and a white-colored sauce (this was very good -- the best part of the meal; fattiness and smoothness prevailed; the dining room team member indicated it was called "hamachi toro", with "toro" referring to the best part of a fish?), and (g) 2 pieces of seared salmon with a peppered skin portion.

(2) Sashimi Plate #2 -- This included (a) 3 amaebi, (b) a piece of uni (average, although it was not the boxed variety), and © larger oyster with red chilli sauce (not bad).

(3) Raw quail egg yolk with squid strands. After the hamachi belly, my preferred dish of the meal. Upon being pierced, the yolk lent its golden emoliance to the medium-thick, curled long strands of squid. The base saucing was soy, sake and scallions. There was a gelatinous feel to the saucing, even before the egg yolk effects.

(4) A cut-up roll with salmon roe, squid, shiso leaf and cucumber slices. This was appropriate. A lot of moisture could be discerned, including in the rice utilized.

(5) Nasu Shigiyaki (baked eggplant with miso paste; $5 ordered separately) -- This was nice, for small cross-sections of Japanese eggplant were presented on the plate (looking almost like cut-up sushi roll sections). Each eggplant section had an appropriate amount of white miso on top of it (white sesame also), and stood on a plate that had a significant amount of red miso sauce with chilli effects on it. I am beginning to appreciate the nice inherent qualities of Japanese eggplant, which has a suppleness and controlled sweetness relative to most other eggplant specimens I have sampled. The area of improvement in this dish is the unduly salted nature of the potato julienne fritters. That saltiness did not match the overall sweet theme of the dish.

(6) Octupus Tempura with jalapeno and warm "normal"-type tempura sauce.

(7) Green Tea Ice Cream (not included in omakase) -- This was poor, as the inside had crystallized into ice a bit and the flavor left something to be desired.

We shared a bottle of Sybille Kuntz, Riesling Gold-Quadrant 1998 ($30). Total bill after tips was $110/person. If members visit, they should ask the dining room team members to alert them when the price threshold stated on the written menu is crossed.

There were three sushi chefs working, of which two appeared to be very young. If the older chef was Chef Seki, he was not particularly old either. The service by the dining room team members was very good for a Japanese restaurant (stronger than at Sushi Hatsu). A female team member's English communications skills were excellent, with a strong ability to explain ingredients, etc.

Overall, a bordering-on-good meal. The rating reflects my having liked the meal overall, but having found some items to be not as good as others. Also, Seki is not at the Sushi Yasuda level or the level previously achieved (and possibly lost, although it is premature to say) at Jewel Bako -- due to the better balance in taste of compositions at the two other restaurants :wink:

I enjoyed discussions with Nina a great deal. We each remembered that our first meal together had been at the same site, when it had been occupied by Sushi Hatsu. :raz:

Miscellaneous Information

Nina had alerted me to Asimov's review, which had accorded Sushi Seki two stars in November 2002.

"Its owner, who goes only by the name Seki, spent five years at Sushi of Gari ... Sushi Seki will produce traditional sushi if you wish, but its specialty is a modern style reminiscent of Sushi of Gari's, in which each piece is topped with a little sauce. ..."

The decor appears largely unchanged from that of Sushi Hatsu, although there is a little panel effect with flowers that has been added behind the sushi bar. The wine list is now better presented, including with respect to sake descriptions.

Edited by cabrales (log)
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  • 2 years later...

Went there again tonight, probably the 10th time I've been there. Very good as usual, although only the uni was really outstanding. Spent $70 per person on fish. They served that same salmon with tomato combo that Gari serves (I had it there several months ago). Seki used to work for Gari..... The version at Seki was better, partly becuase the tomato was better (now in season) but also because Seki included marnated onion. Seki still has one of the best Sake lsists arounnd, although if you're having a party you can get the same stuff at a good liquor store for about 1/3-1/2 the price.

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I've been to Seki maybe five times in the last six months. Mostly I've eaten omakase sushi but with no price cap. Just sushi until I and my companions cry uncle. One piece at a time. And every time except once I have sat in front of Seki's station. (He's plumpish with an easy smile and relaxed demeanor. Also I heard a rumour that he's Chinese) The one visit where Seki was absent, both my wife and I thought that things weren't quite as good. A few of things that we really appreciated:

toro with cold tofu sauce

salmon with scallion puree sauce

chopped eel with panko crumbs and avacado

Seki has odd hours. You can't get anyone on the phone until five. I don't recall what the first seating is but I do know that he's open until 4am. I've always had a reservation. They have always seated me within two minutes of my reservation time. Very punctual.

In terms of his "modern style", it is an interesting mixture of experiment and easy-going. I took a family member there who is an ardent sushi-phile. He termed Seki's food "Bistro sushi" judging it as not so refined as Yasuda or others. I balked at this. . . initially but then I can kind of see what the man was saying. I don't think Seki's goal is to be like Masa or Daniel, for example. Maybe more like Balthazar. . . dunno. Maybe I'm stretching the metaphor too far. Those examples aren't so good anyway because they are all traditionalists, including Yasuda. Seki isn't so bound by tradition but he also avoids the pitfall into which so many experiemental or avante garde chefs fall: pretension. He doesn't seem to have any. He's very matter-of-fact when he lays down a piece of salmon sushi with a brillian green sauce that looks like green pigment or pureed grass. It has almost no taste, just a little nuttiness. You wonder what the hell it is and ask him. He smirks the tiniest bit, then says scallion. The mind recoils: but there's not a trace of onion flavor. . . I ask about it every time but still don't quite get how he does it.

After five or more visits I'm filled with excellent feelings about Seki and will return there whenever the thought occurs.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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Seki is a native Japanese speaker, I am doubtful that he is Chinese, although I suppose he could be ethnic Chinese raised in Japan. The older chef who works to Seki's right is also a native Japanese speaker. That man orders and preps the fish and in fact seems to be in charge in some ways, I strongly suspect he is a part owner of the restaurant. My dining friend is a native Japanese speaker and based on her conversations with them, she's not sure who is really running the place. Seki might be the business man in overall charge, the older guy seems to be in charge of the fish and what they do with it. The man to the older guy's right is not a native Japanese speaker and is probably Chinese. The man to his right is a native Japanese speaker, and he is not a full fledged chef. The rest of the staff seems to be almost 100% native Japanese speaker. Dining at a sushi bar with a Tokyo native and Wasada graduate has its advantages.

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Seki is a native Japanese speaker, I am doubtful that he is Chinese, although I suppose he could be ethnic Chinese raised in Japan.  The older chef who works to Seki's right is also a native Japanese speaker.  That man orders and preps the fish and in fact seems to be in charge in some ways, I strongly suspect he is a part owner of the restaurant.  My dining friend is a native Japanese speaker and based on her conversations with them, she's not sure who is really running the place.  Seki might be the business man in overall charge, the older guy seems to be in charge of the fish and what they do with it.  The man to the older guy's right is not a native Japanese speaker and is probably Chinese.  The man to his right is a native Japanese speaker, and he is not a full fledged chef.  The rest of the staff seems to be almost 100% native Japanese speaker.  Dining at a sushi bar with a Tokyo native and Wasada graduate has its advantages.

seki is most definitely chinese, he is from eastern china.

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Seki is a native Japanese speaker, I am doubtful that he is Chinese, although I suppose he could be ethnic Chinese raised in Japan.  The older chef who works to Seki's right is also a native Japanese speaker.  That man orders and preps the fish and in fact seems to be in charge in some ways, I strongly suspect he is a part owner of the restaurant.  My dining friend is a native Japanese speaker and based on her conversations with them, she's not sure who is really running the place.  Seki might be the business man in overall charge, the older guy seems to be in charge of the fish and what they do with it.  The man to the older guy's right is not a native Japanese speaker and is probably Chinese.  The man to his right is a native Japanese speaker, and he is not a full fledged chef.  The rest of the staff seems to be almost 100% native Japanese speaker.  Dining at a sushi bar with a Tokyo native and Wasada graduate has its advantages.

seki is most definitely chinese, he is from eastern china.

I'll ask next time I'm in the place, but he speaks unaccented Japanese and my friend has had some fairly long conversations with him in Japanese.... She's a native speaker and moved out of Tokyo when was 28. She could be wrong but...The chef who I think is Chinese is the one who works alone at night BTW.

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Seki is a native Japanese speaker, I am doubtful that he is Chinese, although I suppose he could be ethnic Chinese raised in Japan.  The older chef who works to Seki's right is also a native Japanese speaker.  That man orders and preps the fish and in fact seems to be in charge in some ways, I strongly suspect he is a part owner of the restaurant.  My dining friend is a native Japanese speaker and based on her conversations with them, she's not sure who is really running the place.  Seki might be the business man in overall charge, the older guy seems to be in charge of the fish and what they do with it.  The man to the older guy's right is not a native Japanese speaker and is probably Chinese.  The man to his right is a native Japanese speaker, and he is not a full fledged chef.  The rest of the staff seems to be almost 100% native Japanese speaker.  Dining at a sushi bar with a Tokyo native and Wasada graduate has its advantages.

seki is most definitely chinese, he is from eastern china.

I'll ask next time I'm in the place, but he speaks unaccented Japanese and my friend has had some fairly long conversations with him in Japanese.... She's a native speaker and moved out of Tokyo when was 28. She could be wrong but...The chef who I think is Chinese is the one who works alone at night BTW.

you never trust me???

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Seki is a native Japanese speaker, I am doubtful that he is Chinese, although I suppose he could be ethnic Chinese raised in Japan.  The older chef who works to Seki's right is also a native Japanese speaker.  That man orders and preps the fish and in fact seems to be in charge in some ways, I strongly suspect he is a part owner of the restaurant.  My dining friend is a native Japanese speaker and based on her conversations with them, she's not sure who is really running the place.  Seki might be the business man in overall charge, the older guy seems to be in charge of the fish and what they do with it.  The man to the older guy's right is not a native Japanese speaker and is probably Chinese.  The man to his right is a native Japanese speaker, and he is not a full fledged chef.  The rest of the staff seems to be almost 100% native Japanese speaker.  Dining at a sushi bar with a Tokyo native and Wasada graduate has its advantages.

seki is most definitely chinese, he is from eastern china.

I'll ask next time I'm in the place, but he speaks unaccented Japanese and my friend has had some fairly long conversations with him in Japanese.... She's a native speaker and moved out of Tokyo when was 28. She could be wrong but...The chef who I think is Chinese is the one who works alone at night BTW.

you never trust me???

It's not that I don't trust you, I trust my friend more. She says that Seki is a native speaker....given the fact that she's Japanese, was born and raised in Tokyo, went to university there, and didn't leave Tokyo until she was 28 years old, I tend to trust her when she says someone is a native Japanese speaker. She also says that Seki is an ethnic Korean family name in Japan (which may explain your point of view), but that he could have that family name and be 3'rd or 4th generation Japanese (meaning his family has lived in Japan for a hundred plus years). I check more next time I eat there. Also, Seki speaks in Japanese to the sushi chef who I think is Chinese, and that guy answers in what even I can tell is broken Japanese.

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  • 7 months later...

My Sushi Problem New York City Entry #81 Sushi Seki

I have a sushi problem. I am a promiscuous sushi eater. I consume sushi from the supermarket with as much relish as sushi from a four-star Tokyo restaurant (say, Kozue, at which I recently dined). Raw fish is like chips; I can't stop with one. And perhaps I am tone-deaf when it comes to maki and sashimi. It's all good. Soy, no soy. Wasabi from a tube or chopped fresh. Ginger fresh or preserved. It's one big happy deal.

Thus, when I say that I really enjoyed my sushi platter at Sushi Seki, the busy, late-night fish emporium on the Upper East Side, let the buyer beware. Sushi Seki has more of the flavor of First Avenue than a Kyoto teahouse, and its noise may put off those who desire the quiet elegance of Sushi Yasuda. But the meal is fine.

We began with an order of Shumai (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings), in which the dumpling was lighter and more impressive than the somewhat ordinary shrimp inside (I am not tone-deaf on the dumpling front). We also started with a delightful snow pea salad: a haystack of snowpeas in an assertive soy-garlic-onion sauce.

But the main course was Seki's Original Special Recipe Sushi Platter. I can recommend the raw fish, the rolls, and the more intriguing chef-designed creations. Among the latter, I found a ethereal pile of snow crab wrapped in nori, a tomato and salmon sushi combo, and a toro tartare particularly memorable. The fish was, I recognize, several steps above that to be found at the Food Emporium. The maki rolls: avocado, salmon, and shrimp were all delicious, but only slightly more delicious than many rolls of my memory. Perhaps the two pieces that I will most treasure were a perfectly fresh, slightly sweet raw scallop and a breezy and herbal eggplant. Bass, red snapper, and salmon both hit the right note. I particularly admired the touches that made these bites special and visually startling, a tiny band of jalapeno, for instance.

New York is fortunate to have a sushi culture: from Brighton Beach to Gristede's, and I am fortunate to indulge. True, my skills need to be sharpened to be able to distinguish among remarkably fresh fish, very fresh fish, fresh fish, and catfood, but it is an effort well-worth making, and Sushi Seki is a location well-worth the effort.

Sushi Seki

1143 First Avenue (at 63rd Street)

Manhattan (Upper East Side)

212-371-0238

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

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True, my skills need to be sharpened to be able to distinguish among remarkably fresh fish, very fresh fish, fresh fish, and catfood, but it is an effort well-worth making, and Sushi Seki is a location well-worth the effort.

Why would you want them to change? Right now if you are as happy eating at a supermarket then you are at a 4 star.. Why ruin that? It only costs you more money..Perhaps you might want to be able to appreciate better sushi, but if you can enjoy them equally, then thats great..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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  • 10 months later...

I haven't seen any recent reviews of this restaurant. We have a reservation here for tonight. Unfortunately there was no space at the sushi bar, so we have a table instead. Can someone who's been tell me what the omakase was like? Or, if you have recs other than the omakase, please share as well!

Thanks!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was at Seki last week eating Omakase more or less and Seki served up something that I haven't been able to stop thinking about. Some kind of Japanese beef. Raw and as sushi. He may have put some kind of sauce on it, I don't remember. But the texture and flavor were unforgettable. At least I'm having trouble forgetting them.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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