photo credit: PHOTO CREDIT: GAB BONGHI
Royal Sushi & Izakaya
Bars have regulars. Spin classes have regulars. Even the heavy metal karaoke spot down the street has regulars. Restaurants that serve $160 omakase menus, in our experience, don’t have regulars.
That’s the big difference between Royal Sushi and pretty much every other omakase sushi place we’ve ever been to. The same regulars still hit up Royal Sushi over and over again because, even though it’s pretty expensive, it’s an experience worth paying for.
We first need to say that Royal Sushi & Izakaya is technically two different places, both hidden behind a very plain blue door with a Japanese lantern hanging next to it on a quiet street in Queen Village. In the front you have Royal Izakaya, which is mainly a bar with a few booths and tables surrounding it and you can usually get seated here within a few minutes. It also turns into a pretty rowdy spot on the weekends, and we wouldn’t be surprised if when you come in for the omakase, you look around at the izakaya and think, “Oh wow, yeah I’ve been here before” while recalling a particularly long night. The real show, however, is in the back room.
Royal Sushi is an eight-seat omakase counter that’s separate from the rest of the restaurant and in here, it’s pretty much a one-man show. The chef spends almost as much time talking to you as he does putting together the fish and rice combos that make up most of the meal—which are simply done, usually with just a dab of wasabi and a squeeze of lime juice or a wash of soy. It’s pretty obvious that the majority of the people you see at Royal Sushi have been here before. You can tell by the way they know what fish is coming up next, how they notice when something shows up on their plate that they haven’t had before, and how at the end of the night, they call over the server to make their next reservation.
It’s famously hard to get a spot at the sushi counter, so if you can find an opening, take it. You’ll probably make a few friends when you’re here, and you might even get invited to the person sitting next to you’s daughter’s eighth birthday party the following weekend. You’ll also almost definitely end your night with a drink at the izakaya up front, and maybe with some heavy metal karaoke afterwards.
At Royal Izakaya, you can get sushi by the piece, as well as hot dishes from the kitchen, but you really come here for the omakase in the back. There's one main option: 17 pieces for $160. Which one you get really just depends on how hungry you are, but if you just waited two months for a reservation, you should probably come hungry and get the 17-piece.