Perhaps you've heard that the East Village location of beloved sushi chain Kotobuki was taken over by the people behind Sushi of Gari, and renamed Saki. Or perhaps you haven't, because there never seem to be more than three people in this restaurant.
For the uninitiated, Kotobuki is essentially the Avicii of sushi - bold, loud, appealing to the masses, and particularly popular among recent college graduates who grew up on Long Island. Kotobuki has three locations on Long Island, and for many years, also occupied a space on 3rd Avenue in the East Village. The Kotobuki menu is huge, and full of absurd but actually kind of delicious things like spicy tuna pizza and rolls called The Rich & Famous or The Beach Monster. The East Village location was constantly packed, due to a holy trinity combination of reasonable prices, quality fish, and lots of spicy mayo.
So imagine if this sushi Avicii were to be suddenly taken over by someone like... Adele. Or... Arcade Fire. Also beloved, but totally different, and way more serious. Now imagine trying to fuse together those acts. Sounds cool for a second, until you realize it's probably going to be a mess.
That's where we find ourselves at Saki. We love Sushi Of Gari, so a cheaper version in the East Village actually sounded great. But what's going on here - some kind of harebrained attempt to fuse Gari's inventive (and expensive) yet refined sushi pieces with Kotobuki's all-out crazy rolls, ends up feeling like a far lesser version of both.
If you came looking for Kotobuki and ended up here, we recommend sticking to your spicy tuna roll staples. The plain items are not great - the fish we've had was all pretty cold - but they're forgivable.
The newfangled menu items, however, seem like someone read a little too deep into the cronut equation of thing people like + thing people like = success. This leads to creations like a perfectly nice spicy scallop roll ruined by slices of raw fish and eel sauce, and nice pieces of sushi randomly placed on flat round pieces of rice. I mean, circles ARE cool. But there's a reason that Avicii/Adele mixtape never came out, you know?
Spicy Tuna Roll
If you're going to eat here, stick to the basics. The fish tends to be cold, but both of Saki's parents know how to do a spicy tuna roll.
A $40 omakase deal sounds like a good one, but this is a pretty basic 10 pieces of sushi and tuna roll.
Special Salmon/Tuna Roll Platter
For $14 (salmon) or $16 (tuna), Saki does what is basically the cocktail party hors d'oeuvre version of some of the sushi pieces that Gari is known for, like tuna with tofu sauce. You get four different pieces, all served on a little circular thimble of rice (why?). Not only are they not very good, they're also challenging to eat. And they look silly.
Here's an idea: take a spicy scallop roll that's perfect in its simplicity and top it with cold slivers of tuna and salmon. And avocado. And a lot of sauce. In a nutshell, why this place doesn't work.