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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Restaurant Review: Mapo Galmaegi

 

Located at 136-71 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, NY 11354.

Mapo Galmaegi is a relatively new Korean barbecue place in the heart of Flushing. It’s surprising to see since the area is mostly Chinese, but I am very glad it opened and is a welcome addition to the area.

The interior is pretty classy and comfortable.

You can order a la carte or you can get all you can eat. I prefer the all you can eat option which will cost somewhere around forty dollars if you include tax and tip. Here, you can get your standard bulgogi and galbi varieties. They also have pork belly, brisket, and sirloin steak. The quality of the meat is really great in my opinion and definitely better than Picnic Garden. What is noteworthy is that you only get one sirloin steak if you choose to the all you can eat option. The other meat choices you can order as many times as you want.

Service is fantastic and closer to what you’d expect at a higher end, Korean barbecue place that’s not all you can eat. The waiters are very attentive and will direct you to when you are supposed to eat a piece of meat.

Additionally, I like the appetizers or bon chan they have here. They have your standard Korean appetizers, but they also do that egg moat thing. The egg moat thing is a mixture of egg and other ingredients (I think some kind of stock is mixed in as well) which is poured into a groove surrounding the circular grill. As you grill your meats, the juices from the meat will fall into the egg moat surrounding the grill, adding some more flavor. The result is a grilled (or steamed?) egg that captures the flavor of the marinated meats. It’s really good.

Score: 8.2 My new favorite Korean barbecue place. It is easily better than Picnic Garden. It’s a better environment and less hectic, plus it’s still all you can eat so you will never leave this place hungry or wanting more. Definitely recommend this place to anyone who likes Korean barbecue and wants all they can eat.

Restaurant Review: Gu Shine Taiwanese Restaurant

Details: Located at 135-38 39th Ave, New York, 11354. Couldn’t find an official website.

Before talking about Gu Shine, we first need to discuss the restaurant located at 135-25 40th Rd, Flushing, NY 11354. This place is known by many names like 66 Lu’s Seafood Restaurant according to google, 66 Prince Restaurant according to yelp, and just plain 66 according to my friends. It’s been open for at least a decade. Unfortunately, we were walking by the place and saw that it closed. In it’s place a pharmacy will arise, and that is just depressing. 66 was one of the only two main Taiwanese restaurants left in Flushing and with its closing, that leaves only Gu Shine.

There are a number of things to look forward to at Gu Shine. You could get the lunch boxes, which only sell during lunch times. These generally have a main meat component with sides, rice and a soup. The sides vary, but it’s usually some kind of vegetable. Some examples of the meat portion are pork cutlet, chicken cutlet, braised beef, and fish.

If you come at dinner, they have a deal where they serve two main dishes and a soup for twenty five dollars (at least at the time this was written). You can add dishes for eleven dollars a piece. It’s a family style affair. There are a large number of dishes to choose from. Two of my favorites are the shrimp with egg and the diced spicy chicken with peanuts. The soup I usually get is the clam soup. It has heavy ginseng and is great if you’re feeling under the weather.

Lastly, you can just order directly off the menu instead of looking for their specials. I most often see people ordering the beef with spicy pepper. They also sell the chicken cutlet, pork cutlet, and a number of other over-rice dishes around the clock. They also have the classic Taiwanese dishes, like stinky tofu and the oyster omelet.

Score: 8/10 I love this place, and with the closing of 66, this is the only Taiwanese game left in town. If you’re craving some home style Taiwanese food, then this is the place.

Restaurant Review: Toloache (NYC)

Official site: http://toloachenyc.com/media/toloache.html

Came here for dinner but forgot it was restaurant week. Oh, well. We went to the location on Thompson Street.

Normally, I group most Mexican food with Italian food; just different forms of the same three or four ingredients. Nothing special. Sometimes though, I’m surprised by something that is just a little better than what you normally get with these kinds of foods. This was one of those times.

I had the prix fixe menu, which came with a quesadilla de buratta, the entrana (steak), and the flan de dulce de leche.

The quesadilla was all right, but it had this citrus-y dressing on it which made it great. The entrana was perfectly cooked steak, but what really made this dish amazing was the brussel sprouts. The steak came with these amazing tasting brussel sprout salad in some kind of seasoning and dressing. I could’ve eaten bowls of just those brussel sprouts. The flan was also great. Good texture and tasted even better with the berries.

My friend had some tacos, a margarita and Mexican corn. She said it was good, too.

Score: 8.2/10. Looking forward to coming back again.

Restaurant Review: Daeji Daeji (Flushing, NY)

While Koreatown in Manhattan is more convenient, most people who know about Korean barbecue will testify that Murray Hill in Queens is the absolute best place to get Korean barbecue in NYC. On one late night, me and some friends decided to head over and indulge ourselves there. The place we decided to go to was Daeji Daeji (nothing else was open as it was one in the morning).

This place is fantastic. Firstly, the appetizers… man I love Korean appetizers and this place didn’t skimp. They had a large selection including duboki (rice cakes in spicy sauce), steamed egg, and fried dumplings.

As for meat, we ordered the LA galbi (short rib), the pork belly, and the sirloin steak. The galbi and pork belly were amazing. The sirloin steak was likely a poor choice. If you want a steak, you may as well go to an American steak house. If you want galbi, go Korean barbecue.

Service was amazing. They usually close around two, but they let us stay till two thirty without saying a word until after we asked him. We were guilty and greatly appreciative. Plus, our server did a great job cooking the food and helping us to additional servings of duboki and steamed egg.

Watch for that price though. It was about forty dollars per person.

Score: 8.4/10 So, so good. If you get a chance, it’s worth a visit.

Yelp Site: http://www.yelp.com/biz/daeji-daeji-flushing

Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/daejidaeji/daeji daeji