Sitting at the bar at Sushi Ishikawa can feel a bit like waiting to be picked for a dodgeball team in middle school gym class. You’re deep in anticipation, taking stock of every detail, seeking out clues to indicate whether you might be chosen. Of course, at this Upper East Side sushi bar, you’re not waiting to find out if you got picked to have dodgeballs pelted at you on a basketball court. You’re waiting to see if a piece of sushi covered in gold flakes is going to be placed in front of you, or handed off to the guy a few seats down. That guy probably loves dodgeball.
At many good sushi bars, you’ll watch with some anticipation as pieces of yellowtail get topped with jalapeño and as pieces of fatty tuna are seared with a blowtorch. Maybe you’ll see some ocean trout get sprinkled with citrus salt, or some sea urchin paired with wagyu beef, as seems to be a trend these days. But at Sushi Ishikawa, you’ll see a bit more than that.
The creations here involve everything from truffles to caviar to gold leaf, sometimes all at once. And by the time you’ve watched a chef blowtorch a piece of fish, reach into a bunch of different containers, and fastidiously place one or more toppings on a piece of sushi, you’re really going to hope it’s yours. Omakase is the only option here, and each set of diners seems to get a somewhat different selection of pieces, which keeps things exciting and interesting. And just ever so slightly competitive. Sort of like dodgeball.
Once you do get your pieces, you won’t be disappointed - the fish here is of excellent quality, it’s beautifully presented, and caviar on top of sushi is always welcome. That said, as the meal progressed, we also found ourselves getting fatigued at times by the excess of flavors going on in some pieces. Did that blowtorched piece of fish also need truffle shavings? Did that handroll also need little rice puffs? This is not a sushi place for purists.
It is, however, a lively, enjoyable place to have a meal, with overall tasty and unusual sushi, available at a price point that’s lower than many similar spots. You can either order 12 courses for $85, or 15 courses for $125 - both options involve primarily sushi, with a few small plates mixed in. It’s certainly not affordable, but given the long list of high-end sushi places that start their menus at $150 and up, it’s a better deal than many others.
Definitely a better deal than getting “chosen” to have a bunch of rubber balls thrown at you in a gym. If anyone can explain why dodgeball is supposed to be fun, please get in touch.
You can do 12 courses for $85, or 15 courses for $125, and you can expect your sushi to be blowtorched and truffle-topped. There will be more gold leaf and caviar if you go for the $125, but know you’ll still leave reasonably full with the $85 option. In addition to sushi, you’ll get a few plated dishes that might involve anything from uni to monkfish liver, possibly all on the same plate.