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I am a huge sushi enthusiast, and recently tried the unassuming-looking tomoe sushi on thompson street. i live around the corner and have always noticed long lines around the block to get in. there's been a lot of talk about this restaurant, and let me just add to it by saying:

1. yes, it really is that incredible.

2. yes, you will wait in line, but not for as long as you think (i waited 15 minutes, a perfect amount of time to get excited about what you're going to order)

everything about tomoe is refreshing, not least of which is the superb fish. i grew up in a fishing town and am pretty snotty about these things, and i'm telling you the quality of fish here is outstanding. to top that off, you get huge pieces of fish for your money compared to most other sushi places in the city. try the sushi sampler- it's $25 but so big two people will have to split it. add some appetizers (the seaweed salad actually tastes like the sea; the soft shell crab is perfectly and unpretentiously done), a few ichibans and you can eat like neptune for $30 a head. as if this weren't enough, tomoe adds to its charm with a set of arbitrary rules: closed sunday and tuesday? only american express?

what can i say? i'm in love. :wub:

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what s/he said :wub:.

We don't get into the city often enough, but when we do, Tomoe is our favorite lunch place. If you're not in line by 12:45 (when they open at 1:00), you'll end up waiting for the second seating. That's the bad news. The good news is we found a little grocery around the corner with an excellent beer selection to help the wait go by. My favorite place to sitis at the tiny bar.

A few weeks ago we were in the city with our daughter and had decided to try Lupa. Walking by Tomoe was tough -- we started talking about how much we love it, the great tuna, etc. and started to waver -- but then we saw it was closed for lunch. What a relief that we didn't have to pass on it by choice!

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Tomoe is a bargain, although not as cheap as it used to be when there were no lines (in the late 1980's :laugh: ) Portions are large, and in fact, that's been a connoisseur's complaint.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Whatever Tomoe serves, it's not sushi. First of all, their fish is poorly cut. Their selection stinks. And their rice is pedestrian. If all sushi took was to slap a huge piece of incredibly fresh fish on some sticky rice, then there would be no art involved. A waste of time, in my book.

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Whatever Tomoe serves, it's not sushi. First of all, their fish is poorly cut. Their selection stinks.

That's an interesting comment. The quality of Tomoe's food is right up there with the best NYC sushi restaurants. Sure, they don't have eleven kinds of Yellowtail like Sushi Yasuda, but that's not their competition. There's a reason the line is so long; it's the gigantic sushi/sashimi combination for ~$25.

Must sushi be artful?

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Sorry if I make a blatant commercial plug, but while your party is waiting on line for Tomoe Sushi (or Lupa for that matter) take a look at the gift store across the street, Random Accessories. It's run by my vivacious sister, Lynn Freidus :), tell her eGullet sent you. You'll be glad you did.

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In my experience, "long lines" and "waits" are a HUGE NEON SIGN to run away...far away.

For instance, in LA, restaurants that have long lines/waits:

1. Cheesecake Factory - Huge portions of mediocre or terrible chow. And the cheesecake is worse than Sara Lee.

2. Crazy Fish in BH - stunningly bad sushi in an ugly, uncomfortable enviornment. Last time I went I gagged on a revolting piece of "whitefish". How can any sushi joint with jars of wasabi and ginger on each table be good?

The only exceptions to this rule are Dim Sum and Sunday Brunch places (though I really don't get why someone would wait an hour to eat pancakes)

Coachboy

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coachboy Posted on Aug 20 2003, 12:35 PM

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In my experience, "long lines" and "waits" are a HUGE NEON SIGN to run away...far away.

Tomoe is definitely an exception. Everything on the menu is good. As far as the line goes, all the best restaurants in NYC would have huge lines outside if they didn't take reservations, as Tomoe does not.

Another reason the line is so long is that Tomoe is mentioned in many foreign NYC travel guides. The demographics of Tomoe's customers are very broad.

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I think that there needs to be a clarification made for the purpose of this thread. There are two different schools of sushi establishments and both serve raw fish but they are clearly different beasts. There are low price sushi joints which are the proletariet establishment that gives you a slice of fish and made with minimal care...generally because the good ones get busy and they need turnover. I would say that Tomoe is on the upper end of this variety.

Then there is a second Sushi shop variety which treat the fish and the process of sushi as art. The details such as proportions and rice tase and consistency is raised to maticulous level. The price may drive the hoards away but that allows for the exacting methods necessary to keep the sushi perfect.

I have eaten at both Tomoe and Sushi Yasuda and I wouldnt even go near trying to judge them it is apples vs. oranges. Personally I dont really like low priced sushi but i certainly respect Tomoe for providing fresh fish. We all must just view sushi as having to different parties and choose your own affiliation.

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Whatever Tomoe serves, it's not sushi. First of all, their fish is poorly cut. Their selection stinks.

That's an interesting comment. The quality of Tomoe's food is right up there with the best NYC sushi restaurants. Sure, they don't have eleven kinds of Yellowtail like Sushi Yasuda, but that's not their competition. There's a reason the line is so long; it's the gigantic sushi/sashimi combination for ~$25.

Must sushi be artful?

Tomoe's best yellowtail wouldn't get in the door at Yasuda.

beachfan

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Well, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I think Tomoe serves excellent sashimi, and their yellowtail is delicious. I've been to most of the best sushi restaurants in Manhattan and I feel Tomoe deserves an honorable mention for being in the 99th percentile in that price range. I wish Tomoe was my neighborhood takeout joint.

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Must sushi be artful?

Yes.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 1 month later...
Whatever Tomoe serves, it's not sushi.  First of all, their fish is poorly cut.  Their selection stinks.  And their rice is pedestrian.  If all sushi took was to slap a huge piece of incredibly fresh fish on some sticky rice, then there would be no art involved.  A waste of time, in my book.

I have issues with several posts on this thread.

1) I am absolutely shocked anyone would be that critical of Tomoe. Maybe you grew up eating at the best restaurants in the Ginza district or perhaps you are one of the Iron Chefs. Maybe I can't tell the difference between o-toro and bumblebee. But, how anyone could say Tomoe is a waste of time is completely beyond comprehension.

2) I get a little annoyed when people bring up the prices, as if its a discount sushi place. The reason its not as expensive as these fancy, upscale places is because the owner/operator spends all his money on the ingredients. The guy flies his fish in from Japan. If you've been there, you'd know they didn't spend a dime decorating the place. If you really knew sushi, you'd know theirs is very good. Perhaps you were there during the warmer months of the year, which is not a very good time to go for sushi. Go there when it gets cold, try the sea urchin roe, it is absolutely divine.

3) I don't understand why some people equate long lines with bad food. I don't know, maybe I am just stupid. But, if the food wasn't good, why would people stand in line for so long to eat there? I mean, I am sure everyone who knows Tomoe knows that they don't take reservations--which is why you have to stand there and wait. And the place isn't one of those glitzy, hip, trendy places that people go for all the wrong reasons.

I don't know...maybe I am dumb...maybe I have a bad palate. Tomoe sushi is extremely good in the opinion of this dumb man with a bad palate. If you like going there, and if you've never tried his sea urchin roe, I strongly urge you to do so.

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3) I don't understand why some people equate long lines with bad food.  I don't know, maybe I am just stupid.  But, if the food wasn't good, why would people stand in line for so long to eat there?

actually, the "lines" argument doesn't really hold up either way. doesn't mean it's good, doesn't mean it's bad. just means there's a line.

Edited by tommy (log)
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