top 100: sushi yasuda

sushi yasuda

The conundrum of sushi in New York City is that it covers the waterfront, so to speak: from an exorbitantly priced kaiseki degustation to an all you can eat chop shop or chain, the options very often exist cheek by jowl. For many fish lovers the sushi experience in this city has been both dumbed down and made uncomfortably pretentious, leaving little precious middle ground. Behind a Mondrian-style glass facade on a nondescript block near Grand Central Station, however, there’s an antidote: Sushi Yasuda, an airy interior composed almost entirely of butter-colored bamboo planks. Slightly different finishes and a geometric pattern on a few of the walls, creates a sense of dimension and calm. This is most definitely not Haru. Nor is it Masa. And while the service is tolerable, if just a little brusque, I’d gladly chalk that up to the vagaries of cultural difference for Chef Naomichi Yasuda’s empyrean expertise. His sushi is simple. It’s delicate balance reduced to the selection of impeccable raw ingredients treated with respect. A starter of morokyu is the perfect example. What could be simpler than cucumbers with soybean paste? Yet these cukes are like none you’ve tasted before. Blanched to draw out a bit of the excess moisture, the translucent knobs become sweet, almost creamy, and an ideal foil for salty, piquant soybean paste. Yasuda is renowned as a tuna specialist – he typically offers seven or eight options for tuna fattiness – but the hagashi toro, the super high-fatty tuna taken mainly from the top of the tail, drops like rain onto my tongue. I’ve never had sashimi like this before. So, too, the giant clam, often tough and chewy but here as sinewy and delicately fibrous as young artichoke. King salmon, in both red and white varieties is so silken and pure of flavor that I wish I had ordered more. In fact, I wish I hadn’t made theatre plans and could – as tradition dictates – move on to a course of sushi with rice. (I’ve eaten all my fish without pausing to dip into the chef’s special shoyu, or soy sauce!) When the bill arrives – with a pristine box of bamboo toothpicks – I appreciate that I’m paying to have eaten something special without the guilt that comes from seeing a comma in the total. On one hand, Sushi Yasuda isn’t your quotidian fish bar, but on the other, it shouldn’t be restricted solely to special occasions or expense accounts either. Three cheers for the middle ground; it’s the closest you’ll get to an authentic Tokyo dinner in the Big Apple: refined, informal, wonderfully sublime and worth every penny.

morokyu - cucumber with soybean paste

sashimi like butter



textile thursday

It’s not every day I get excited by a new handkerchief. Today is one of those days.


it’s the thought that counts

I’m a luxury hotel junkie. If I had my druthers I would live in one permanently. Some people find it impersonal – I think it’s heaven. The friendly faces, the room service, the myriad little extras designed to be  not-so-surreptitiously slipped into an outward bound valise. Once upon a time a good hotel was heralded by two essentials: intuitive staff and bespoke toiletries. (To this day if I close my eyes I can instantly recall Claridge’s in London, the bars of Floris soap sensuously wrapped in a wax-coated paper. Tokyo will forever be associated with the Park Hyatt in my mind - and miniature bottles of a then-unknown Molton Brown, as exotic as the ingredients inside.) It holds true today, for the most part. Yet at the same time more and more hotels are falling over themselves to lure back guests with in-room trinkets and takeaways. Some of them are practical, like the personalized business cards on my desk at the Washington, DC Fairmont. Some are fanciful, like the monogrammed robe that was waiting for me at The Plaza. What’s impressive, ultimately, is the thought that goes into each – elevating a run-of-the-mill hotel stay into something memorable. My pick for this month’s best of the best comes courtesy of the DC Fairmont. An elegant and portable solution for gentleman: credit card collar stays.


the finest of fine art

When a city finds itself wet with wealth the way Houston is dripping in it, there’s often an eagerness to be ostentatious about its display – as if somehow all that money can mask a lack of taste or instill some fragile sense of self-worth where none exists. Yet contrary to any preconceived notions, The Bayou City – despite the highest concentration of Fortune 500 HQs outside of New York and all that Texas tea – is downright demure. (Amongst Houstonians I learned that in the Texas hierarchy it is, in fact, Dallas that is looked down upon as the vulgar upstart) To my surprise, Houston has more in common with New York City than I could have anticipated:  a dazzling city skyline, civic pride bolstered by a confident sense of its own superiority, and most notably a cultural cup that overfloweth with expensive good taste – and even more, great art. Much like our own Museum Mile, Houston boasts an area where the chief museums reside. The creatively named Museum District is home to Rice University Art Gallery, the Holocaust Museum, Houston Center for Photography, and Houston Museum of Natural Science among a handful of others. First among equals is The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which consists of more than 60,000 works of art from the Stone Age to the present day spread over two main-campus buildings. If 60,000 sounds like a lot, consider this: there are 380,000 items in the Louvre Collection and more than two million at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What MFAH lacks in quantity, however, it more than makes up for in quality. Like a high-end Tokyo fruit shop, nearly every piece on display is an example of aesthetic perfection. The small room of Greek and Roman antiquities holds maybe two dozen items, yet I found myself in there for over an hour admiring the figure of Gorgons intricately carved into handles of a perfectly preserved krater, a jug used for mixing water and wine in Ancient Greece. Who needs an exhaustive show of ten thousand pottery shards when you can have one idealized object? The Egyptian collection is displayed in an area at the top of an escalator to the second floor. There are maybe seven objects in total but each is a wonder: the intricately decorated sarcophagus of Pedi-Osiris, an astonishingly unblemished wood and bronze funerary Ibis, a delicate headpiece of myrtle, hammered out of gold. This ethos continues throughout the museum, most notably when it comes to American and European paintings; Church, Eakins, Cassatt, Singer Sargent, O’Keefe, Seurat, William Merritt Chase, Remington, Picasso, Pissarro, Courbet, Turner, Motherwell all are represented by style-defining, textbook images. A real discovery are the canvases of Remington, better known for his agile bronzes. He paints a harsh and unforgiving portrait of the American frontier, in studied contrast to the inherent romance of his sculpture. Wealth turns out to be a great public benefit: MFAH is the most civilized of civic institutions. Instructive yet efficient, it will sate you – not exhaust you. That’s the kind of leisure only lots and lots of money can buy.


Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.