For those who love to talk about how badly we suck at sushi here in NYC, discovering a hidden treasure like Kura might make some think otherwise. A tiny 13-seat omakase counter in the East Village, the only people who seem to be aware that this place exists are those who are extremely serious about their sushi. There's no Instagram account, no Facebook page, not even a website or a damn sign. Let's just say self promotion isn't their thing. Fresh fish on rice? That's another story.
Here's what you need to know about Kura: It's tasting menu only, and you can get a very high quality omakase at $65, $85, and $105 price points. Even the $65 menu satisfies, and may be one of the best omakase meals for the value in NYC. Our suggestion would be to stick with the straight sushi - we've now been a couple times, and the sushi is infinitely better than the cooked dishes. Also, unless you're rolling solo, you should probably make a reservation. Being that it's both awesome and small, Kura is booked most every night. We've walked in spontaneously before, but we've just had to wait for a while to get a seat. They did, however, pour us free Sapporos while we hung around, and that's a gentle touch you know we appreciate.
Kura is a tiny operation with a lot of personality. It's intimate, clean, and approachable. Sushi Chef Ishizuka is the star of the show, and he's one of the more animated sushi artists you'll ever find. And even though his sushi is serious, the man himself is not. We didn't provoke this photo, it just happened. I also have one of him flipping me off.
Marinated Tuna with Japanese Yam
A super tasty way to kick off your meal. Big pieces of raw toro come topped with a thick horesradish-y sauce that has the consistency of whipped cream. It's like a tuna sundae.
A little brick of tofu, jiggling around in a pool of soy sauce with a kick to it. Nothing not to like here.
Monkfish Liver with Ponzu Sauce
This is where the cooked items started getting interesting. Monkfish liver is not something we've eaten before, and it was certainly tasty. But I would have traded this in for another hand roll in a heartbeat.
Japanese Tilefish with Uni Sauce
See aforementioned note about hand rolls. This is totally fine cut of white fish with a totally tasty uni sauce on top. That said, we would have rather gone in on some more fresh raw fish.
Seasonal Crab, Fried Scallop, White Fish, Shishito Pepper
An amalgamation of things from the sea, mostly fried, all tasty, and with a bunch of different sauces.
For the $85 tasting menu, this is how our sushi lineup rolled out: Belly Tuna, which was flawlessly buttery and insanely delicious. Sushi chef loves him some tuna. Then came torched Red Snapper, followed by torched Scottish Salmon, which were both excellent. Scallop a la Plancha may have been my personal favorite piece of fish, and the cute Cherry Blossom Shrimp was definitely the most interesting. The sushi portion of the menu was wrapped up by a delicious Seared Sea Eel, and then last but not least, the Uni. A strong showing all around.
Toro Hand Roll
As a reward for the work you just did on all that sushi, the chef then hands you a beautiful hand roll, overflowing with sticky rice and toro. Let's all stop and appreciate the hand roll.
Miso Soup with Clams
A very strong clam flavor overwhelms the soup here, which, if you're me, you enjoy, because clam flavor is one of your favorites. But if you're someone else, you probably have one sip and decide it's a bit much.
They had two sorbets: Pear, and Pistacio Honey. Both were fine. Neither gave the meal a closing exclamation point, but whatever. We were still thinking about hand rolls.