Kura (NYC): Chef Ishizuka’s A+ Omakase

Nothing compares to the satisfaction of unearthing a ridiculously mind-blowing omakase that you legitimately can’t stop thinking about for days – or even weeks – afterwards. 15 East is one such place and a couple Fridays ago, I discovered another A+ gem: KURA.

Some highlights from one of the best sushi omakases in NYC at Kura.

My childhood friend H.H. aka Samosas & Sunshine was in town from D.C. and specifically on a sushi omakase mission. Having never done one before, she was especially curious to try and compare two different types – one more high-end and well-known, and the other, a hidden gem at a serious value (read: cheap but good). For the latter, I brought her to my favorite go-to steal in the city aka Sushi Yasaka, and for the first, we agreed upon Kura – which has been on my bucket list for ages and after what was a mind-blowing and highly-entertaining feast, is now getting what’s only the second 5-star rating on this blog. One word to sum it up: WOW.

72ish-year-old Chef Ishizuka is EVERYTHING.

Kura is omakase only, and we were treated to prime seats smack in the center of the chic and well-lit 12-seater sushi bar in front of the fantastically eccentric, heartwarmingly jolly, and undeniably talented Chef Ishizuka. We went with the priciest $135/pp sushi omakase that included 3 starter dishes, 15 pieces of sushi, and a soup (other options included 12 pieces at $85 and 15 pieces at $105).

As with any omakase, I was most excited for the uni (duh). Thankfully, Chef Ishizuka served up two different types, one from Santa Barbara and one from Hokkaido. The Santa Barbara sea urchin was thick and creamy with the perfect hint of ocean sweetness, while the Hokkaido was clean and smooth with a light briny punch. H.H. loved both pieces too.

Thick and meaty Santa Barbara uni at Kura aka pure ocean gold.
Kura’s Hokkaido uni is akin to foie gras of the sea.
Chef Ishizuka even served us up an entire tray of Santa Barbara sea urchin! (Just kidding…I wish. But the sentiment was cute.)

Out of all the courses however – even the perfect pieces of uni – H.H. and I both agreed that the big winner of the night aka the mouthwatering bite we cannot stop daydreaming about days and days after the fact was…the torched otoro. Holy crap. This fattiest tuna was so ridiculously juicy and buttery smooth with the perfect hint of smokiness, I’m pretty sure our eyes rolled into the back of our heads midway through. (Not surprisingly, we ordered another piece each after the omakase ended because we couldn’t. get. enough.)

Cannot put into words how insanely divine the torched otoro is from Kura. This picture truly doesn’t do it justice. #bowdown

Other delicious snaps from dinner:

Torching in action and a giant tray of Santa Barbara uni. Best combo ever.
These tiny shrimp had a fun crunchy texture and a pure ocean finish.
Live octopus, which the Chef showed us was still moving before he sliced and served them up. Love the texture pop of tako.
The mantis shrimp was photogenic – and tasty too.
The live scallop with nori was sweet, smooth, and one of my favorite bites.
These were actually the first two sushi courses: tender chutoro aka fatty tuna and the tai aka Japanese red snapper.
Can’t go wrong with torching…so the torched salmon was 10 out of 10 delicious. #torchingmakeseverythingbetter
Can’t say enough good things about the humor, laughter, and overall charm that defines the one and only Chef Ishizuka.
I typically don’t love mackerel, so this torched saba didn’t exactly blow me away but H.H. loved it and deemed it one of her favorite bites.
Another shot of the Santa Barbara uni, yum.
This was actually the very first course – grated yam with marinated bluefin tuna. I LOVE grated yam and its weird slimy texture so definitely a big fan of this starter dish.
This ikura was served alongside the yam and tuna.
Torched. Eel. I repeat: torched unagi. Honestly this meal has made me want to go out and buy a kitchen torch to use at home.
Chef Ishizuka and his Hokkaido uni.
Another one of all my all-time favorites. Love the unique taste, glossy texture, and clean finish of ark shell clam. Not many places here in NYC have it so this was a tasty surprise.
Bluefin tuna, always a sure bet.
Yet another torched delight – the charred golden eye snapper, which was so fatty and juicy it almost reminded me of the richness of otoro.
Our second order of the torched fattiest tuna somehow tasted even better than the first. Unquestionably one of the best sushi bites of my life.
And for dessert? A second order of Hokkaido uni – obviously.

Kura – Pros:

  • Chef Ishizuka! Have I emphasized that enough? His endearing personality truly was the perfect cherry on top of an already fantastic meal. The sushi bar had the most intimate, convivial, and relaxed atmosphere, where we chit-chatted and joked around with him during every course.
  • Overall quality. From the multiple courses of sweet and creamy uni to the unforgettable torched fattiest tuna to the charred golden eye snapper, there were so many pieces that completely blew us away and had us lingering for more. And with the most premium option set at $135 and other more affordable options priced below that, the cost is pretty reasonable. (That said, with two bottles of sake, our total for two came to just under $400…so, kind of a splurge but 1000% worth it.)

Kura – Cons:

  • Honestly – none! Sure, a few dishes were just okay (there was a squid appetizer I didn’t get a good picture of and the mushroom miso soup was fine), but overall, it was a flawless evening and I am already DYING to go back.

Rating [out of 5]: ★★★★★

130 St Marks Place, New York, NY

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