Shimizu (NYC): Good for Sashimi, Skip the Omakase

There’s nothing quite like a dependable sushi joint just around the corner from you. While it doesn’t quite offer the plethora of deliciousness that East Village boasts, my neighborhood aka Hell’s Kitchen does have a few solid go-to’s like Sushi of Gari, Nippori, Sushi Seki, Blue Ribbon, etc. Shimizu is another such restaurant, where I’d been for a few meals before but never the omakase. Until this past Friday that is, when a friend from out of town and a search for a lower cost omakase option brought us here for the evening.

Our chef hard at work scooping glorious spoonfuls of uni.

Priced at $55, the omakase at the Shimizu sushi bar included 10 pieces of sushi, a starter, and 6 pieces of maki (3 different types) – so, a total steal in any book. While the quality of the fish was excellent, however, I didn’t exactly love the meal for a couple reasons:

  • Anyone who’s an omakase regular knows that sushi pieces typically come dressed – i.e. a perfect mixture of soy sauce and wasabi, a light ponzu, zesty marinade, etc. – based on optimal tastes as determined by the chef. However, at Shimizu, approximately 7 out of the 10 sushi pieces were literally just the fish on top of rice and we were expected to add the soy sauce/wasabi ourselves. Totally normal in any other regular sushi meal but as part of an omakase I was a bit thrown off by the lack of innovation and flavor profiles.
  • Most of the pieces also came with a lot of rice…like, too much rice. And since so many pieces weren’t dressed when served, this resulted in several bites that were a little too dry and rather overwhelming to chew.

Not to write off the entire dinner, of course, since a couple pieces were truly delicious. Surprisingly, my favorite bite wasn’t the uni but the fluke fin, which was one of the few dressed pieces and incredibly savory. With a firm glossy texture, light tangy soy marinade, and refreshingly minty shiso leaf finish, it was definitely the tastiest course of the evening.

The engawa aka fluke fin at Shimizu – yum.

Snapshots of the other courses from the evening:

UniDiaries_Shimizu_Maine Uni
The Maine uni, generously overloaded with at least two whole urchins aka ten pieces of creamy goodness…but, hidden underneath was a whole lot of rice so the bite was kind of overwhelming.
The hama hama oyster was complex and tasty.
Love ebi and sweet shrimp, plus this one came with a perfectly deep-fried shrimp head as well…but was one of the do-your-own-soy-sauce bites.
The yellowtail – good, but also relatively plain.
One of the few dressed bites aka raw octopus with a citrus wasabi marinade. Hard to resist that glossy crunch.
The chutoro aka medium fatty tuna could have been really tasty but instead, came across as just okay given lack of dressing and an influx of rice.
I mean…kind of hard to go wrong with king salmon.
The Japanese red snapper was smooth with a hint of wasabi.
The silky flavor of the gizzard shad was overpowered by the plain white rice.
This was the first course…tuna sausage, Japanese potato salad, and fish bone. It was kind of meh, to be honest.

Shimizu – Pros:

  • The service was really great and why I’m giving them 3 stars instead of 2. The sushi chefs were professional and friendly and the wait staff could not have been nicer. Really pleasant atmosphere and vibe.
  • Omakase aside, the serving sizes at Shimizu are huge. I couldn’t stop staring while our chef put together plate after plate of sushi for other patrons that included some of the biggest and freshest pieces of fish I’ve ever seen. It was when he was carefully slicing glorious slab after glorious slab of the otoro that I secretly wished I could “return” my omakase and order a regular plate of sashimi a la carte instead.
  • Had the quality been better, the price point really would have been great. Again, $55 option for 10 pieces, a few rolls, and a starter dish. Not bad.

Shimizu – Cons:

  • Ultimately, however, I wouldn’t recommend Shimizu because of the issues mentioned above. Too much rice resulting in overwhelming bite sizes and undressed courses lacking in flavor led to a very subpar omakase overall. (That said, I’m planning to give it one more chance as I’m very curious to order off the regular a la carte sashimi menu.)

Rating [out of 5]: ★★★

 318 W 51st St, New York, NY

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