Sushi of Gari
You can’t debate the best sushi on the Upper East Side without mentioning Sushi Of Gari, a small spot on 78th Street that was first opened by a man named Masatoshi “Gari” Sugio in 1997. Especially because the original Sushi Seki chef learned everything from Gari himself.
While Gari is no longer handing you glorious pieces of fish today, a lot of his original ideas are still incorporated into the omakase experience. The best and most legendary of which consists of a sauteed tomato over perfectly chilled, buttery salmon. Even if you don’t personally understand what “umami” is supposed to taste like, you will after this bite. The sauteed tomato turns the whole thing into an acidic, hot-cold experience.
The tomato piece is one of a handful of absolute stand-outs in the omakase (another is the tuna with tofu), but some of the other pieces are slightly overdressed. All of Sushi Of Gari’s pieces are brushed with sauces, and most are topped with additional garments. For the money you’re paying for an omakase (around $120 for 12-ish pieces), you should be able to taste the quality of the pure fish. You certainly won’t taste anything bad, but you might taste fish sauce and a fried slice of taro instead of the beautiful yellowtail it came with.
Is the fish here better than what you’ll get at Seki? We don’t think so. But Sushi Of Gari is the institution that Sushi Seki (and many other notorious omakase places in the city) needed to borrow from in order to achieve greatness. If you live in the area or you want to better understand the omakase scene in NYC, spend your money here.
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This is why you come to Sushi Of Gari. Sure, you could go ahead and order pieces a la carte, but it’s going to be more expensive and less incredible than the chef’s selection. The rotation of fish changes every day, and there isn’t necessarily a set number of pieces or fixed price for the omakase experience. Think of it as the wild west of sushi omakase in that respect - but you can expect it’s going to cost well over $100 including tip and tax.