Baby firefly squid come smeared with kani miso, a paste made from the guts of cooked crabs. This one is no joke—you have to like intense ocean aromas to get past its take-no-prisoners approach to flavor.
It looks like every other hole-in-the-wall, run down restaurant on the Upper East Side.
Monkfish liver marinated in soy and citrus juice, cooked with sake, and served with served with scallions. It has the texture of foie gras and a mildly briny flavor.
A pile of big fat tongues of roe pulled from Santa Barabara Sea urchins. These were some of the finest tasting urchin I've had, with a firm but custardy texture and a very mildly metallic flavor.
Salmon nigiri briefly kissed the the flame of a blow torch gives it a slightly smoky finish, like smoked salmon, the heat helping warm it up so its rich fat melts on your tongue and coats the grains of rice that break up as soon as you pop the nigiri in your mouth.
Olympia Oysters from the West Coast with a simple ponzu sauce, a few slivers of finely sliced shiso, and a touch of grated daikon to balance out their mineral creaminess.
Tiger Prawn and Crumbled Egg
Poached tiger prawn with a swipe of wasabi and a crumble of oboro tamago—cured crumbled egg yolk. The salty sweetness of the egg reflects the flavors in the sweet, tender shrimp.
The first fish is Kohada, a species of small herring known more its roe than its flesh. Here it comes lightly pickled, mackerel-style, with a strip of shiso leaf to balance its inherent oiliness and slightly fishy flavor.
King Salmon Belly
An extra-fatty cut from the belly of a wild King salmon. It comes with nothing but a brush of soy.
Raw squid can be a little off-putting in texture, with a slimy toughness that some folks (including our own Jamie) can't get past to enjoy its sweet, faintly bitter flavor. At Tanoshi, they take scoring to the extreme, making dozens of fine knife cuts to tenderize the cut until it nearly melts in your mouth. It comes sauced with a sweet soy glaze.
Yellowtail Belly with Pickled Cherry Blossom Leaf
Cherry blossom leaves smell great but taste bitter. How do you get their aroma without their flavor? Chef Toshio starts by pickling the leaves in a sweet and savory brine before wrapping them around his nigiri.
Peeling the leaf back reveals a slice of hamachi (yellowtail) belly that has the aroma of the cherry blossom impregnated on its surface.
Rich and buttery sablefish was made famous by Iron Chef Morimoto in his Saikyo Miso-marinated cod (see our version here). But the rich fish makes for some fantastic sashimi as well, with a mild flavor and texture similar to hamachi belly.
Wild diver-caught sea scallop that's butterflied lengthwise to fit on top of a nigiri without any of the awkward lumps and folds you get with a more traditional cross-wise butterflying.
Though pale-fleshed albacore normally finds its way into cans and jars, its firm, meaty flesh makes great sashimi as well. It comes simply, with wasabi and soy.
Lean tuna scored against the grain for tenderness, marinated in light soy and yuzu kosho, a Japanese pepper and citrus rind paste.
Like caviar, Ikura, cured salmom salmon roe, can be very strong depending on how it is cured and aged. At Tanoshi, they go for the fresh approach. The beads here have a very mild flavor and a firm texture that pops under your tongue.
Sea Urchin and Quail Egg
An even fatter tongue of sea urchin roe with raw quail egg in a ship-shaped gunkan-maki.
Grilled Salt Water Eel
Sweet, tender, and smoky, grilled salt water eel (anago) is one of my all-time favorites. It has a cleaner flavor than its larger freshwater relative (unagi), but with mildly seasoned, barely-sweetened rice and just a tough of kabayaki glaze, it shines through nonetheless.
The regular (non-seasonal) menu ends with a slice of torched hamachi brushed with soy.
The inside is about as run-down looking as the exterior. Warm foods are cooked in ancient-looking toaster ovens. There's exposed piping in the area leading to the bathroom in the back. A map with hand-drawn signs of fishery locations near Japan hangs on the wall behind the ten-seat counter that makes up the only seating in the house.
But the fish preparation and service area is spotless. It better be, because you don't even get plates to eat off of.
Tuna and Salmon Rolls
Maki-style sushi gets a reputation as being more pedestrian, more "beginner" than nigiri, but in the right hands, when tender fish, lightly seasoned rice that breaks apart into moist grains, and properly toasted crisp seaweed come together in harmony, it can be a transcendent experience.
A incredibly intense soup based on a stock made with the bones of the fish used for the sushi, along with rich red miso. This is what all miso soup should aspire to.
Add another tick to the "oh, so that's that it's supposed to taste like" box with Tanoshi's hand rolls. Mine was stuffed with spiced spooned tuna, a bit of rice, and nothing else. The crisp toasted nori, handed to you directly from the chefs hands with the instructions to "eat quickly" are all it needs.