A sushi place in Harlem? Definitely sounds like an odd fit, right? When I heard that the former head chef Shinichi Inoue at Sushi Azabu (which I’m a big fan of) left Tribeca to open a new place on his own in Harlem, though, I was very intrigued, especially after some really positive words coming out from Sushi Inoue. Could this be the type of sushi gem that I’m constantly looking for (like Kura in East Village or Tanoshi in UES)? Overall, the experience at Sushi Inoue was definitely on the top end, with some very good pieces that are coming from the sushi bar.
My dining companion and I were served by chef Take who joined chef Inoue after the restaurant opened. Curiously, he was a second generation Korean who has lived in Japan for a long time and spoke fluent Korean to my great surprise. That also meant more opportunities to chat on various topics such as where to go in Japan, chef Take’s personal journey, etc., which further enhanced the dining experience. It certainly helped that the omakase menu (we chose the sushi-centered shorter one at $120 per person) turned out to be a very pleasant affair too.
After excellent chawanmushi with king crab, most of the sushi pieces were very fresh fish and texture of rice that was somewhere in between firm and soft at the optimal level. The toro was one of the best I’ve had in a while, and needlefish, which hasn’t been one of my favorites in other places, was very good here too. Fatty tuna maki and salmon roe were sensational as well, and other pieces like amberjack, golden eye snapper, Canadian jumbo shrimp and Alaskan king crab more or less delivered.
Inevitably, there were some misses too, such as surprisingly mushy tamago (which also came before the sushi pieces to my surprise as I thought tamago is typically served toward the end), marinated fluke with mint leaves that somehow didn’t work quite as well as I had hoped or the uni (which was not part of the omakase menu so I had to order one separately) that was not as delightful in texture as I had expected. But the misses were rare, and toward the end miso soup that was so aromatic along with the other winning pieces more than made up for them.
Getting a reservation wasn’t that difficult, and while the relatively small restaurant was by no means full, there were always people, especially Japanese diners who probably know a thing or two about what constitutes great sushi. Was Sushi Inoue magical? I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a very good sushi restaurant that should be added to any sushi aficionado’s list. Just another reason to visit the less-explored Harlem on a weekend.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
Address: 381 Lenox Avenue, New York, NY 10027
Telephone: (646) 766-0555