Restaurant Review: Sugarfish

Details: Located at 33 E 20th St., New York, NY 10003. Official site is http://sugarfishsushi.com/

Sugarfish is a pretty well known sushi place in Los Angeles that opened its first location in New York City. The main thing to note about Sugarfish is it’s price and quality. Most sushi places in New York City are either of the higher end that is priced around one hundred dollars or higher, and the lower end sushi places that are priced around ten to thirty dollars. There is no in between. Sugarfish is unique in that it seeks to fill this gap. Prices for the omakase range from forty to fifty-ish dollars.

Also important to know is that this place does not take reservations. This means that if you show up and there is no wait list, then you either need to have your whole party there and be ready to sit right there and then, or you need to leave. Since its opening, Sugarfish has had wait times lasting hours. It is very popular, especially since it’s relatively new. However, because of their seating method, if you show up on off peak times (not dinner or lunch times), then you will likely be seated right away. Personally, we arrived at 4:00 PM on a Friday and were seated right away. We saw a guy trying to finagle himself a reservation for later, but he failed and left angry and dejected. Oh well.

Additionally, they don’t accept tips. The tips have already been worked into the price for the food. I liked this, but it may be good or bad depending on how you feel about tipping. They still charge tax though.

Omakase is essentially chef’s choice; you let the chef choose what he wants to serve you rather than picking yourself, which makes sense since we aren’t all sushi chefs who’ve spent years mastering our craft. I confess that this was my first experience with anything remotely omakase-esque. For years I’ve been trying to find a friend who liked sushi enough to dish out the dough for an omakase. Sugarfish solved this problem by offering a cheap enough option while being fairly reputable (I read about it on some food blogs and heard a celebrity mention it on Jimmy Fallon’s talk show).

Me and my friend ordered “The Nozawa, Trust Me,” which was the most expensive omakase option they had at fifty one dollars. This comes with Edamame, Tuna Sashimi (a bunch of raw tuna served in a citrus-y sauce), two pieces of albacore sushi, two pieces of salmon sushi, two pieces of snapper sushi, two pieces of yellow tail sushi, two piece of hirame sushi, a toro and a blue crab hand roll, and the daily special. In our case, the chef seemed to run out of the salmon special so we got two pieces of scallop sushi instead. Later, he realized he had some more so we got one serving of the salmon special, which was salmon sashimi in a citrus-y sauce.

In regards to taste, two things became apparent upon that first bite. Firstly, rice matters. The rice that came with the sushi we ate was warm, soft and seasoned well, I imagine with some kind of rice vinegar or wine. This makes a world of difference when mixed with the cool, soft, raw fish, which sometimes came with a sauce for itself. Secondly, the quality of fish matters. In those first bites, my conception of what is or is not good fish and, indeed, good sushi expanded greatly. My scale of quality and satisfaction expanded. These two points combined and forced me to realize one conclusion: all sushi that I’ve eaten before now has been pretty shit. It’s been trash sushi. It’s stuff you get off a buffet line, stuff that’s been sitting around for a while, or stuff made by chefs who have not received proper training. What I ate at Sugarfish was undoubtedly a class above any sushi I had eaten before.

With that said, my meal at Sugarfish made me just that much more aware of how much higher the standards of sushi can go. For instance, the toro hand roll was essentially mashed up toro, likely not even close to the quality of sliced toro sushi. The blue crab roll, though tasty, was cold and clearly kept refrigerated and tasted less fresh than the sushi we had. In other words, there was room for improvement.

Without a doubt, Sugarfish is a good place to go. It offers sushi that is worth at least it’s price tag, if not more. What I gained most from my meal here was not just some tasty pieces of raw fish, but imagination and hopefulness. I know now that there are higher levels of deliciousness in regards to sushi than what I had previously thought. Most importantly, I’ve learned that not only are there higher levels, but, in my opinion, those higher levels are likely worth their price tags. I’ve now caught the sushi bug and look forward to trying omakase elsewhere and at higher prices. Sushi of Gari and Tanoshi Sushi, I’m looking at you.

Additionally, the service was very, very good. Everyone was very nice and friendly. The waiter was nice enough to offer the salmon special for free after discovering they found some more. The environment was also nice. Can’t complain about trendy dim lighting and exposed brick.

Score: 8/10

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