It was my wife Jun’s birthday recently, and I was searching for a new place that I could take her out to celebrate. We haven’t had a good sushi dinner in a while, so I figured why not try for one of the many new places that have opened in NYC recently? I haven’t been to Sushi Zen before it closed last year, but its former chef Toshio Suzuki was quite well-known for his trailblazing contribution for introducing the beauty of sushi in the city. He recently launched a new project where he would helm the intimate 10-person sushi counter while there is also bigger dining space that focuses on traditional Japanese kaiseki courses. Was his sushi counter at Satsuki a life-changing experience? Hard to make a bold statement like that, but nevertheless we very much enjoyed our dinner on a recent Saturday evening.
The omakase option at Satsuki is certainly not cheap, at $250 per person (there is also cheaper sushi-only option at $130 per person). In addition to 10-piece nigiri pieces, chef Suzuki and his younger counterpart prepare a series of fresh seafood-centric dishes. Some of these starter dishes turned out to be our favorite, and we actually liked this pre-nigiri course better than the actual nigiri one. Sashimi featured some interesting combinations with vegetables like lean tuna with kelp or a block-shaped combination of tuna and yam.
Jun and I were both astounded by the lightly blow torched king salmon and salmon roe in a cup for its complexity of flavor and texture. I don’t know how the chefs thought of making deep fried sardine covered by spicy rice cracker and with scallion on top, but the dish was another winner of the night, as we both savored these blissful bites that showed the level of attention to details and dedication that these Japanese masters approached their craft with. How about the actual sushi part? Our experience was somewhat more mixed there. Overall, the fish was consistently fresh and the texture of rice (with plum vinegar added on top) was also satisfying. There is no need to dip your nigiri into soy sauce; the chefs already season each fish or add ingredients like chive or ginger on top to add subtle flavor to the fish.
Some pieces like striped jack, golden eye snapper and bonito were quite good, and I think the sea eel and fatty snapper pieces that we had were respectively one of the best I’ve tasted in a while. On the other hand, there were some pieces that made us puzzled, like the white squid that was too murky in its texture or the scallop where the chefs put too much salt on top. When I visit a sushi restaurant, the two most important pieces personally for me in judging a restaurant’s worth are fatty tuna (o toro) and sea urchin (uni). The o toro at Satsuki was delicious but not quite at the level that wowed either of us, and uni curiously lacked textural layers that I had seen at other sushi places. On the other hand, our last savory course, followed by a miso soup with very aromatic flavor, was this awesome fatty tuna hand roll with scallion and pickles; the crunchy texture of pickles worked beautifully with the fatty tuna inside for a blissful combination.
The sushi counter seats only 10 people as noted, so making a reservation in advance is always highly recommended. We both liked the intimate setting of the sushi counter that works perfect for special occasions. Both chefs were approachable and the overall service was quite inviting and charming too. There are wine, beer and sake selections you can choose from, and I liked the fact that the sake options are available in carafe portions too. Satsuki is one of those places that is perhaps best checking out for special occasions or if you are the type of person who spares no expenses when it comes to sushi eating. The value proposition was a bit steep, but nevertheless you will be able to find some really interesting and fresh seafood here.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
- Value: 7.0/10
Address: 114 West 47th Street, New York, NY 10036
Telephone: (212) 278-0047