I’ve been to some of the best sushi restaurants in New York City during my culinary journey, but I haven’t had the kind of experience that Mayanoki offers. The restaurant, which is showcasing what it calls the “sustainable sushi” experience, has one single counter helmed by a Caucasian chef Jeff Miller, who recently came onboard after working in Texas. When I showed up with my wife Jun for a Sunday evening, we were the only diners at the counter, and as much as I hate to admit it, having a non-Japanese chef was a scary proposition at first. I am very glad to be proven wrong about my trepidations, though, since Mayanoki had some of the best locally sourced fish (i.e. mostly on the East Coast) with quite unique attributes.
While speaking to chef Miller during our dinner, I was very impressed with his knowledge of the fish and the way he tried to showcase an alternative vision of a sushi dinner. None of the fish on our menu (I would say a relative bargain at $95 per person for 15 courses) came from California or Japan; in fact, there was only one from Iceland (more on that later). Yet, many of the pieces that we sampled were very delicious and made me truly appreciate what the kitchen was trying to do here. After an outstanding dish of kale and quail egg, chef Miller handed us a roll with oyster and salmon roe. I don’t remember ever getting an oyster at a sushi restaurant but I wasn’t complaining as the combination of the two distinct species made for one heck of a bite. Shrimp that was farmed indoors nearby in New York State, unlike the traditional ebi, had the crunchy feel to it that was quite wonderful, and bay scallops from Nantucket Bay had the silky smooth texture that is not easily forgettable.
Others like swordfish from Montauk and fatty bluefish (a Rhode Island version of o toro in two different cuts) were also outstanding. The only non-U.S. fish was salmon farmed in Iceland, and Jun was raving about how the lightly smoked touch made it so much more interesting than a typical salmon nigiri we’ve had before. Others like albacore from Oregon, Spanish mackerel from North Carolina, herring from Rhode Islands, Boston mackerel and fluke from Long Island had varying levels of success. For the pieces that I graded at a lower level, I felt the seasoning could’ve been slightly toned down to give greater pleasure to the texture of the fish. Still, at the end of the night, Jun and I really enjoyed our meal while chatting about chef Miller about his background and the philosophy behind this potentially pioneering sushi restaurant.
Mayanoki accepts reservations, and while we were the only diners on a chilly Sunday evening, there is only one single counter so I recommend booking in advance. There are some interesting sake and wine options that can go well with your meal that I suggest checking out. The cozy counter, combined with the friendliness of the manager and chef Miller, will make for one good date idea. I am very looking forward to seeing how Mayanoki evolves over time; its unique concept is certainly worth exploring if you are tired from all the high-end omakase places in the city and want to see a fresh set of perspectives on the art of sushi.
- Creativity: 9.0/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 9.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 620 East 6th Street, New York, NY 10009