D-list sushi—unlike bad pizza, say, or a not-great chocolate chip cookie—simply has no reason to exist. Eating it is a terrifying experience, not worth the assault on your palate or risk to your life.
That said, I do believe that there's a place in the world for the moderately good sushi restaurant. We can't all be Morimoto (and we certainly can't all afford to eat at his place every night). As long as the fish is halfway fresh and the rice isn't gummy, I'm perfectly happy with a just-okay plate of sushi—as long as I pay proportionately less.
I thought that Cube 63 on the Lower East Side might be just that—a neighborhood sushi spot where I could grab a few rolls, bring my own booze, and not break the bank. But unfortunately, this techno-lit, inattentively staffed, and strangely pricey BYOB Japanese spot wasn't quite that.
The shrimp shumai ($6) were all right—steaming hot with shrimp that tasted clean if not necessarily ocean-fresh. But the wrappers were a bit gummy, and at a dollar per dumpling, these tiny guys got a lot harder to swallow.
Vegetable tempura should be delicately battered and nearly dry to the touch; "delicate" is not a word I'd apply to these deep-fried veggies. Tasty? You bet, but so is a Bloomin' Onion.
As for the fish? I'd skip the sashimi—our tuna ($3 each) was pale and somewhat grainy, which went down easier in a roll but didn't fare well when naked on rice. The anemic California Roll ($5) was fine, but right around Whole Foods level. Neither particularly fresh-tasting nor photogenic.
Most of the specialty rolls were of the unabashedly Americanized, throw-it-all-in-there ilk. Plenty of good things went into the Caribbean Roll ($11)—spicy tuna with eel and avocado—but the flavors didn't work particularly well together. The spicy sauce of the Clinton Roll ($12) was full-flavored (if mayonnaise-y), and the tempura flakes crunched appealingly, but the tuna itself was totally drowned out.
Was the sushi terrible? Not quite. But nor was it particularly tasty, or plentiful, or affordable—even if you save a few bucks by bringing your own beverage. If you're on the Lower East Side with a bottle of wine in need of a bite, you could do worse. That said, you could do a lot better.
63 Clinton Street, New York NY 10002 (map)