Jewel Bako is one of those restaurants that we've been hearing about for a while now, mostly from East Village residents who never leave the neighborhood for anything. Ever. You have friends like that. People who act like Third Avenue is the Korean DMZ, and would sooner commit ritual suicide before getting in a cab to go have dinner somewhere outside of the 'hood. So we sort of assumed this was one of those cult favorite, BYOB, cheap sushi joints, possibly with a scrolling digital marquee in front. Sushi on sale!But once Chromeo mentioned the place in their Friday Fives (one of the best ever), we decided it was time to bump Jewel Bako up a few spots on the hit list. This restaurant is apparently quite serious, and deserves an Infatuation evaluation.
After a few visits, here is the conclusion we have come to - this is about as high quality sushi as you can find anywhere in this city. As Chromeo mentions, fish is FedExed in daily from Japan. And it's actually not as expensive as you might expect when you see how nice the room is. Think 15 East, but a little cheaper. The service is professional but relaxed, and it appears that tables are relatively easy to come by. These are all factors that add up to a place that we can get behind. But there is one thing that we felt we had to take note of. Maybe it's the fact that there are no windows in the restaurant, or maybe there was some write up in Maxim For Bankers a few years back, but this place appears to be a hot destination for married fat guys looking to wine and dine their mistress secretaries. We definitely saw three different tables of awkward office romance happening at the dinner table. Fascinating. Now please stop trying to feed her with chopsticks.
The menu at Jewel Bako is pretty limited, so the Omakase (Japanese for "let's do this"), is your best bet. For somewhere in the neighborhood of $55, you get one each of their nine Large Makimono rolls. This includes live scallop, snow crab, salmon skin, and some other goodness that the chef feels like throwing together, depending on what's fresh. That scallop is incredible - just some lemon zest and sea salt. Don't be scared.