After my wife Jun and I visited Sushi by Bae pop-up last year (see my review here https://kenscale.com/2018/05/28/sushi-by-bae/), the female chef who helmed the counter, Oona Tempest, mysteriously disappeared. We figured the pop-up was due for expiration, and were surprised to find chef Oona working at Shoji which we had visited earlier this year (https://kenscale.com/2019/02/24/shoji-at-69-leonard-street/). Jun and I both thought chef Oona was too talented to not have her own show, and were thrilled to learn that the next iteration of Sushi by Bae opened up in Union Square this spring. We were finally able to visit the new Sushi by Bae on a recent Saturday and had another solid sushi omakase meal.
Compared to a number of high-end sushi omakase options that have opened up in the city where it’s not unusual to shell out $300 per person, the tasting menu at Sushi by Bae is fairly reasonable at $125 per person. The biggest strength from the nigiri offerings of chef Oona is the balanced flavor. Some sushi restaurants in the city tend to use too much marinated sauce to juice up the flavor of fish, perhaps to cater to the American diners who prefer more aggressive flavor. On the other hand, chef Oona is more judicious in the use of extra flavor and tries to let the fish speak for itself with its freshness. There were some standout pieces like the sea bream, shima aji (striped jack) with chive and golden eye snapper (blow torched by chef Oona) that we ordered as an extra at the end of the meal.
I loved the touch of pickled kelp that neutralized the potentially funky sensation of saba mackerel, and while I don’t recall ever tasting this fish called fuko which chef Oona explained is a type of small Japanese sea bass, its chewy texture was quite memorable. The trio of tuna nigiris from the marinated bluefin tuna to the chutoro (medium fatty tuna) to the otoro (fatty tuna) were also very outstanding in their texture. Other pieces in the menu were generally solid, too. Arctic char cured with kelp had spicy kick thanks to yuzu pepper that was interesting but I wondered whether the fish would’ve been better without the extra garnish. While both the marinated salmon roe and Hokkaido uni rolls were good, I wished the portion were slightly more generous, and the toro maki served at the end could use a little less pickles.
Getting a reservation at Sushi by Bae shouldn’t be too difficult given that there are three available slots each night (6 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.) although chef Oona’s counter accommodates only six diners per seating (the other six are treated by the other sushi chef helming Sushi by Bou). The disco party-like atmosphere that Jun and I found somewhat unusual when we had visited the last iteration of Sushi by Bae is still present in the new location. I think the restaurant could definitely beef up the sake list although the cocktails that Jun and I tried during our meal weren’t too shabby. I’m glad that chef Oona has found her new home. For a solid omakase dinner at a reasonable price range, Sushi by Bae is definitely a place you should think about.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 118A East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (917) 765-1388