22. April 2009 Japanese, Upper East Side 0

1410 First Avenue between 74th and 75th Streets
$105 for two, with drinks, with tip
♥ ♥

I have to be honest with you here: I’m not one hundred per cent sure I was at Tsuki. I’m pretty sure it was Tsuki because it’s one of the restaurants I have noted on my iPhone, but I have so many pending reviews I think I might have some of them mixed up. It wasn’t that the food was forgettable–as far as omakase sushi goes that won’t break the bank, the selection was pretty fresh and pretty good. There was nothing stunning about the interior because there was hardly any decor, and really, only this photo survived that night:

I’m a little embarrassed that I’m showing my age here, but I’ve racked my brain and I still can’t confirm that it’s Tsuki I’m supposed to be reviewing. Help me out and I’ll edit later, but let me continue and tell you about the place anyway.

We walked in around 930pm on a weeknight. Everyone else decided to stay indoors because it was cold out, but we were hungry after attending a retail store party with free sparkling wine. There were already two couples and a single diner sitting at the short bar, and because we always prefer to sit by the chef, we waited for our turn to sit there. Everyone left at the same time and we were able to move after only ten minutes. For the rest of the night, there were only three people with us inside: the chef, who also doubled as the dishwasher; the waitress, who could have been the chef’s wife and who also answered the phone; and a white guy in chef’s whites who returned from a food delivery but settled behind the bar after he had removed his coat.

It certainly looked like a family business with, perhaps, the white guy as an apprentice, but they seemed like they needed an extra hand or two to make things run smoothly. We ordered our sushi piece by piece from the chef because he looked like he couldn’t handle more than two orders at once. He fulfilled orders that were called in and he ran back and forth from the kitchen to get clean serving plates. Meanwhile, the waitress picked up the phone, cleared the tables and packed deliveries while also refilling our water glasses.

It took us two hours to go through a dozen sushi pieces each but we killed time by drinking Sapporo and cold sake. Although some of them fell apart while I tried to eat them, the restaurant had a varied selection that included hokigai, or red clam. The mackerel was great and the uni was fresh. After a while, eating there felt like we were in the Japanese couple’s dining room: we waited to be served; they waited for our feedback. We spoke in hushed tones and bowed every time plates were exchanged. We were comfortable and an inconvenience at the same time, staying after every guest had already left. I’m not sure if the frail couple reminded me of my parents but I felt very melancholy the whole time I was there; watching them work so hard to keep the night, and their business, alive. Sadness and sushi don’t make a good combination and maybe that’s why I’ve blocked the restaurant name out of my head.

Related post/s:
Le Bernardin was excellent, but it felt very stuffy