Omakase Room by Tatsu – 09 April 2019

I visited New York earlier this year for a totally epic holiday. Of course, it was all about eating, and sushi was on the list of things to try.

There are lots of sushi places in New York, and Japanese food overall does seem pretty popular. There are tiny ramen joints every few blocks and all of them looked good. However, I was after something specific by deciding to try a sushiya in New York. I was hoping to try out ingredients that are abundant on this side of the world, and not to have the same things as I would in an Australian sushi restaurant. I had a few choices, and my original one was a place called Gaijin. After browsing and doing a very small amount of research, I settled on Omakase Room because it felt more like what I wanted out of a New York sushi experience – I didn’t actually want a crazy New York experience like Sushi on Jones, and I certainly didn’t want to fork out a stupid crazy 600USD at Masa. Omakse Room seemed to be the perfect price point with the kind of atmosphere I had in mind.

This was the only restaurant that I didn’t scout out prior to the reservation itself. It has an address, I have a hipster sense, how hard could it be to find? Well, it turned out it’s only the second restaurant that I’ve been completely baffled by the entrance of (the first being Waku Ghin even though the door was 100% obvious)! I’d spent the whole time looking up for a sign, that I didn’t think to look down for a sign! And finally we went through the curtains into a wonderful, very traditional looking sushiya.

I believe this is only an 8-seat counter, but nevertheless, I was impressed that the staff greeted me by name! It was very much like Waku Ghin, the only other place that’s done that. It makes me wonder though, does that mean you could walk in pretending you were someone?

This is chef Tatsu, and his sous-chef. We were offered a choice of drinks, and I chose sencha, even though normally I don’t like Japanese green tea, but hey, I was at a Japanese restaurant. It was kind of a must! The good thing is, the one drink cost does include all refills during your meal (I’m always worried that I’ll accidentally end up at a place where they charge per cup)!

I asked the chef if photos were allowed, and he was okay with it. However, when I took out my camera, it was the waitstaff who spotted this and let me know that cameras weren’t allowed, but phone cameras were. She seemed a bit apologetic but I thanked her for letting me know! I think that a full camera was probably intrusive and wouldn’t have really been respectful to the art of sushi anyway, unless you’d specifically contacted them for a photoshoot, so I was definitely understanding of why she said it! As a result, the photos here aren’t as good as I was hoping to take, but it’s not the images here that count, it’s what actually happened in the restaurant, that made the best memories; the photos really are only a way to trigger those memories!

Right at the beginning, the chef started grinding fresh wasabi into paste, and I was already excited! I can get quite gushy and vocal at restaurants (in hopefully a very polite and ladylike way), so he explained that this was wasabi from the Shizuoka prefecture in Japan.

Our first course was yellowtail from Japan. The thing that I noticed from our first piece of sushi, was the rice! Red rice vinegar is used here, which is cool since I’m pretty sure all my other experiences involved white rice vinegar. For the first time, I also chose to eat all these by hand instead of using the chopsticks, just to make the experience even better!

Aji came next, and I love mackerel! I liked this one better than the yellowtail.

Oh yeah, scallop! I love Japanese scallops cause they’re massive and sweet!

The first locally sourced piece was this fluke nigiri. Not too bad, but a lot of white fish taste the same to me haha.

I took a few general shots too, just because I could. By this time, other diners had entered. I believe it was a group of four men. I think they initially came in as a group of three, for a reservation of five. Then, one more came in so that they’d fulfilled four out of their five person reservation, but that last person couldn’t make it? Whatever they’d done, it’d confused the two waitstaff a lot, and chef Tatsu didn’t look happy when they were all trying to figure out exactly what was going on and how many people to expect. I wasn’t very impressed either, mainly at the way the guests had let it all unfold – no advance notice, no apology, they just kind of treated it in such a way that didn’t reflect the place they were dining at! It pains me because of how much I appreciate restaurants as a business, not just a place of eating.

Service continued for us, and it was tuna time! Spanish bluefin tuna, marinated in soy to give it that cured-ness on the outside. This wasn’t my favourite piece of tuna, I think that still belongs to Tetsuya’s all those years ago, though I’m pretty sure I have a close second from one of the omakases I’ve been to recently too. Also, this is specific to akami tuna and does not cover otoro, for hopefully obvious reasons!

Whoops, I think my list got messed up sometime between the visit and now. I seem to be missing a piece somewhere, but I’m going to say that this one was the kinmedai.

My records don’t seem to have this bite listed, but I’m pretty sure it’s prawn, and on this side of the world, most likely a langoustine of sorts. Not quite as crazy good as Minamishima’s scampi trio, but also still very tasty!

Woah a smoker! Yeah! I was very excited to see this come out because I love just… seeing things lol.

And behold, the smoked spanish mackerel nigiri! While I couldn’t get too much smokiness from the sushi itself (I have a really bad sense of smell), there was still a very light waft of smoke lingering around, so I closed my eyes and kind of just took a big sniff in the air and just enjoyed the thought of the smokiness when eating the fish.

When I opened my eyes, I saw the lady waitstaff laughing! I’m pretty sure she was giggling at me! I didn’t mind if I looked silly, I just smiled because she probably knew I was enjoying the experience a lot!

Yes! That’s right, it’s springtime! This is the season for hotaru ika!!! Woah! I’d totally forgotten this is a super seasonal treat, so this was super exciting! Sadly, it didn’t have the cutesey eyes that I totally adore looking at before popping the whole thing in my mouth, but this was seriously the best (and only) firefly squid I’ve had! I know I ate a similar baby squid in my last trip to Japan, but I just feel it wasn’t THE type of firefly squid I was after, as it was a different colour and shape, so I consider this the first time I’ve properly had it. I actually had a disastrous attempt at tasting this squid when I bought some frozen stuff from my local Japanese shop but had no idea how to prepare it, and it was just unpleasant fishiness as a result. However, this had a great flavour, no gutsy/squid innard thoughts formed in my head while eating it, it was just a nice savoury oceany goodness, with a lovely burst of shiso!

Otoro! Yep, I’ve been spoilt. My favourite two otoros are still from Sokyo (not the omakase version) and Daiwa Sushi, but it’s a really high bar to clear! This was actually super delicious too, especially once it started melting in the mouth, but for some reason the impact/memory of the others was a lot stronger.

What’s this funkly ugly looking blobby thing? Wait, is that what I think it is? Oh, it’s an oyster! An oyster from Washington! I didn’t recognise it in its “naked” form because 99% of my oysters are eaten when they’re cosy in their shells! It’s weird, I have this perception that oysters taste better when they’re in their shell, and this bite totally proved me wrong! It was big, it was sweet, and tasted like the pacific oysters we get here in Aus!

I felt like my tastebuds on this were correct because I wasn’t the only one who mentioned to the chef that this was great, the old men dining next to us did the same! Yay my opinion was validated by random rich men who just talked about Hudson Yards and sounded like they had money to throw around and sort of ate at a few restaurants which I could tell from the vocabulary used but were quite clueless with some things I was used to, like they mistook scallop for clam and I’m like how do you even do that???

More tasty treats. Nice, my shima aji is served “millefeuille” style! Three thin slices piled on top of each other so elegantly, I never get enough sushi made in this style! Also, I’m pretty sure this was an accidental shot, but I gotta change up the angles and keep it interesting, right?

It was squid time! Oh no it’s the thin squid that I don’t like. The cutting on this was super cool though, because both sides of the piece were scored! I’ve only ever received single-side-scored squid before, so that was actually a really nice thing to watch the chef do! That being said, yep, I definitely like chunky squid better than thin squid. I’ve just come to accept this as a fact of life and that no sushi chef can change my mind about this haha.

Yes! Oh my goodness yes! It’s uni time!!! Three morsels of sea urchin from Maine, tidily arranged on a bed of rice. This was super nice, sometimes I get worried that the species chosen for a meal is the iron-tasting kind, but these were the sweet kind, so i was really happy!

WHAT WOW OH MY GOODNESS A DOUBLE WHAMMY but this was a MASSIVE tongue of urchin that was so big that it’s actually chopped in half to fit the nigiri hahahaha. It wasn’t until after I finished my meal that I learned that chef Tatsu actually watches your reaction when eating the sushi to determine what to serve next. That means my face must have really kind of said “I love uni” on the previous course! This was a californian sea urchin, so I feel like I just did a sort of east coast to west coast uni adventure! I liked this one a lot more, I feel like there was just more oomph in the sweetness and creaminess of this one!

Actually, him reading the reactions of us diners makes sense. I couldn’t figure out why the old men dining next to us received different items, but this now makes sense! Also, I’m really glad that we didn’t receive the salmon nigiri because salmon is such an Aussie thing and I’m all Aussied out – I don’t want that stuff while in New York!

Salmon roe on the other hand, yes! I can’t get enough roe. It’s so good, so tasty!

Ah, this tuna hand roll must indicate that I’m getting close to the end of my omakase session!

A lovely miso soup served as a good, warming break from all that sushi. I had to ungracefully use my chopsticks at this point to pick out the tofu that ended up being stuck at the bottom of the bowl though, because I always seem to not be able to slurp up the tofu when drinking the soup, so they end up getting left over in the bowl.

And our lovely sous chef person pops into action! He helped out a few times during the course of the meal, but I felt like most of the time he was just standing there. My friend noticed that he was leaning against the wall at times, so we were wondering exactly how Japanese-culture-like it would be if he stood to attention the whole time we were there! It still takes a lot of self discipline as he was attentive, since his job was to do things like heat up the miso soup at exactly the right time so that we were served this without needing to wait too long between courses, and here, he’s grilling up one of our final bites.

Anago was the last piece in our omakase, and it was cooked perfectly! I really liked this, and I’m glad it wasn’t unagi because that’s everywhere. This was nice for a change!

I also didn’t realise this until after we’d finished our meal, but tamago, which I was used to being the actual final bite, is available on request, but he doesn’t seem to provide it by default. If only I’d knew at the time, or decided to foolishly ask! But now I know for next time, always ask for tamago if it isn’t served, as it’s likely that you’ll get one. I also think we were asked if we wanted any other custom pieces, but I was pretty full at this point, and couldn’t think of anything I really, really wanted to repeat, since I knew I had plenty more crazy good tasty things to eat during this trip.

This is definitely a lovely place to experience Japanese sushi. Sometimes I crave sushi but I can’t fulfill it, and it wasn’t until the days leading up to this trip that I realised why I couldn’t bring myself to go to any sushi shop when I wanted to eat sushi. It’s because the craving I had was for the artform, not just the ingredients. That’s what makes all the difference for me, so this definitely hit the spot!

Hooray for a wonderful experience!