Hold up. Did The Busboys suddenly stop smoking weed, drop out of college, and become master sushi chefs? Because that's the vibe we got walking into New York Sushi Ko, a new 11-seat, omakase only counter/restaurant on the LES. Hip-hop on the sound-system and tattoos behind a sushi bar that's open until 2AM. A quick google image search later, and it's confirmed; accomplished itamae John Daley (left) is the sushigame BusBoy Charlie.
We've gotta hand it to Daley, he's got an impressive pedigree, earning his stripes slicing fish at 15 East and Masa, and then doing time training out in Japan. He's a student of the game, and we respect his commitment and passion for nigiri. However, we don't love his restaurant. There's a lot of potential here, but right now, the overall experience at New York Sushi Ko for the price point - $75 (three courses + sushi), $125 (five), $175 (seven) or $200 (seven + bonus action) - leaves much to be desired.
First off, this room doesn't reflect the quality of the fish they're serving. Daley is flying rare fish in from Japanese markets every night, so you'd think this might be a pristine sushi temple to enjoy such delicacies in. Not to say that we aren't familiar with an excellent, no-frills sushi restaurant, but this place feels ill-assembled, with chairs that are probably from Ikea and some sort of storage closet bathroom in the back. Secondly, the service isn't world-class either. Three people work here. Daley entertains everyone from behind the bar. He's friendly and engaging, but a little rough around the edges. You can tell he wants to be the star of this show, and he definitely has the personality to be that, but he's not there yet. His buddy, who we assume is his business partner, mills about looking grumpy, not bringing anything hospitable to the table. And then there's a lone blonde haired, European-looking waitress who looks brutally out of place in her Japanese outfit. She knew nothing about the wine list and every interaction we had with her was painfully awkward. So yeah, this place could use some help on the hospitality front.
The good news here is that the food is top notch. That's the best part. If you're an uni lover, you will love New York Sushi Ko. They put it in pretty much everything, and come up with creative ways to serve it, like with scallops and fish roe or in a raw tuna wrap known as a B.U.T. (Bacon, Uni, Tuna). They also serve some of the better tuna we've had in these parts, by the flight. Still, the execution on many of the dishes felt a bit sloppy. This meal lacked the perfect execution and extreme refinement usually displayed in this craft, especially for those kind of dollars.
Criticisms aside, it's very possible that New York Sushi Ko can right this ship in no time. We like the fact that they are inventive and adventurous. That being said, big money can buy some pretty obscene omakase meals here in New York City, and at this point in time, we can't suggest splurging on this one.
Photo Credit: Jessica Lin/Time Out NY
Food RundownRaw scallops, Uni and Fish Roe
As the first dish of the meal, we were ready to have our socks blown off. That didn't happen. This conglomerate of uni, scallops, fish roe, and other action just didn't come together the way it should have. As discussed above, this dish was a good example of one that seemed to lack refinement. It looked like a blobby mess, and came off sloppy and not manicured well enough to be the lead item on an expensive tasting menu.B.U.T.
A clever play on BLT. Inside a wrap of raw tuna is "bacon" (actually a cooked piece of tuna), uni, and some shredded greens. We could have eaten 10 of these, even though they're tricky. It's nearly impossible to take a bite, because everything falls apart. Then you just end up trying to shove it all in your mouth at once. It isn't pretty.Tuna Tartare with Extra Fat
This tuna tartare had an extra layer of fat rendered on top of it via blowtorch, and was therefore pretty damn tasty. The extra fat is a nice touch, but also added a greasy element to it that we weren't totally in love with. Pork Belly Chawanmushi
This was good, but not great. This is allegedly supposed to be more of a custard-like bowl, but it more closely resembled a soup. The flavors were nice, but overall it wasn't on the level as Chawanmushi we've eaten at places like Brushstroke and Kyo-Ya. Tuna Flight
We've all done tasting flights of beer, tequila, and cheese, but tuna? That's some hot sh*t. Props to the chef for imagining such a fine trip. Served sashimi style, there are five different varieties of tuna in this flight, all of which need neither soy sauce nor wasabi to enjoy.Sushi
Once the composed dish portion of the meal had finished, the sushi started rolling out one piece at a time. Memory can't retain exactly what types we ate; that's what happens when you hit an omakase hard at 10pm and there's no menu. What we do remember is that each piece was labored over by hand, marinated, and blow torched quite nicely. Chef Daley tells you over and over, almost too much, of said fish's far-off origins. Also, the rice wasn't our favorite. It was overly saturated and resulted in a few disintegration mishaps on the chef to diner hand-off, which is never a good thing.