15 East 15th Street, New York NY 10003 (map); 212-647-0015; 15eastrestaurant.com
Setting: You can sit at the bar but the dining room, sleek and modern, is very comfortable
Compare to: Bar Masa
Cost: 3-course chef's selection, $29
15 East is owned by the same team that run Tocqueville, which is situated just a few doors down 15th Street. While Tocqueville serves wholly admirable French-influenced New American cuisine, 15 East bills itself as a contemporary Japanese restaurant. There is a sushi master on board, Masato Shimizu, and the sushi counter turns out top-flight sushi with correspondingly high prices. A chef's tasting menu cost $120 at dinner, and even at lunch, an abbreviated version costs $55.
But bargains can be found at lunch if you order the $29 prix-fixe—a three-course menu that changes daily and features dishes from both the kitchen and sushi counter. After the jump, the dishes I recently enjoyed.
Being a block away from the Greenmarket has its rewards: the Greenmarket salad came well stocked with nutty-tasting shimeji mushrooms, wafers of radish, pickled beets, and mixed greens with a tangy grapefruit-avocado dressing.
Next up, a fist-sized hunk of house-made tofu, silken and amorphous, in a warm broth spiked with scallion and ginger and dusted with bonito flakes.
The wasabi is grated tableside moments before your sushi is delivered.
For the main course, a chirashi, a treasure trove littered with the bounty of the sea: salty salmon roe, succulent sweet shrimp, and a plump, fatty tuna tartare, along with delicate slivers of lean tuna, salmon, hamachi and mackerel. The fish are all wonderfully fresh—delicate, buttery, the rice perfectly vinegared with a sweetness that compliments the sashimi. A small garden of shiso leaf and pickled ginger add visual relief and helps cut the richness of the fish and seafood.
Based on the a la carte prices, the chirashi would cost north of $40 at 15 East; add the salad ($14) and the tofu ($12), and you are saving quite a bit of cash while still getting top notch food.