Pdho and I met up with Ckoh and Mkoh (who usually join but most often lead our food tours through NYC) and his other friend from grad school, LT and his wife DS for dinner. I had eaten at the original Upper East side location of Sushi of Gari back when I lived in NYC, and I was interested to check it out again and introduce it to Pdho. Given where everyone was coming from, we settled on the Upper West side outpost, Gari, which is newer and slightly bigger than the original location.
This location was definitely larger than the original Upper East Side place, but it shared the minimalist ambiance with a slightly hipper vibe. We were seated at a long table which kind of looked like an extension of the sushi bar, but not really part of it. After a little discussion, all of us with the exception of LT and DS decided to order the Sushi Omakase which was supposed to be about 12 pieces of the Chef’s best served in 3 rounds.
The first round (from left to right) consisted of the Fatty Toro with Radish & Ponzu Sauce, Red Snapper topped with some mushrooms or roots, Hamachi with Jalapeno sauce, and Seared Miso & Garlic Black Cod.
The Fatty Toro wasn’t too fatty and the radish and ponzu sauce added a nice tangy flavor to cut a little bit of the richness that is inherent in toro. The Red Snapper was good but probably the least interesting of the round. The Jalapeno sauce on the Hamachi was delicious. It was slightly spicy and added a nice kick to the hamachi which seemed fattier than your average yellowtail. The Seared Miso & Garlic Black Cod was probably my favorite. The miso and garlic flavor was so nicely marinaded into the black cod and the searing gave it a subtle smokiness. It was darn good!
The next round (from left to right) included Seared Fatty Toro, Poached Snow Crab with Yuzu Lime Sauce, Butterfish, and Sea Eel.
It would be hard to image the melt-in-your-mouth goodness of the Seared Black Cod being topped, but the Seared Fatty Toro did it. It was so tender and delicate, and I think the smokiness from the searing really helped balance the rich fattiness of the toro. The Poached Snow Crab was very tasty. It was fresh and very sweet so the Yuzu Lime Sauce was a nice balance. I’ve actually never had crab prepared sushi-style so it was a pleasant change of pace. I can’t recall the specific sauce or preparation of the Butterfish or Sea Eel, but both were very good, particularly the Sea Eel. I’m not sure if it was the preparation or the type of fish, but it tasted similar to the Anago that I had at Sushi Yasuda. It’s not as slimy in texture even with the light bit of sauce that was brushed on.
The third round was highlighted by the Foie Gras (on the left) but the Red Snapper Salad, Mackerel with radish, and Artic Char with Cucumber Sauce (from left to right) added some interesting flavors to the round.
The Red Snapper Salad was red snapper sushi that was topped with lettuce, pine nuts, and fried onions. I think there was probably some light dressing as well. It was tasty. The mackerel was probably my least favorite sushi of the evening, but it’s really because the fish itself is a naturally fishy fish. The Artic Char tasted very similar to salmon, but the cucumber sauce gave it some different dimensions of flavor.
The Omakase menu ended with three rounds, but we weren’t quite satisfied yet and asked for one more round. Up to this point, since LT hadn’t joined CKoh, MKoh, Pdho and I in ordering the Omakase, he was feeling sushi envy and decided to join the 4 of us in the last round. The last round turned out to be a pretty special one. From left to right, it was Tuna with Creamy Tofu Puree, Fresh Salmon with Sauteed Tomato & Sweet Onion Sauce, Okamuno Oyster with Ceviche Sauce, and Chopped Mackerel with Ginger & Scallions.
The Tuna with Creamy Tofu Puree is the one sushi I remember from the very first time I had visited Sushi of Gari. It was just as good and unique tasting as I remember it. Normally, I find regular tuna to be pretty bland and uninteresting tasting, but the Tofu Puree was a smooth and creamy sauce that added flavor without completely masking the taste of the tuna. I really like salmon sushi, so this particular preparation made it even better. The tomato and onion sauce was sweet and flavorful. The oyster sushi was slimy as to be expected from being raw, but the ceviche sauce was good. It was interesting. Lastly, this particular preparation of mackerel was chopped and mixed with ginger and scallions, and I liked it much better than the other mackerel. I think it was because the fishiness seemed masked by the ginger and onions. Nevertheless, it was pretty tasty.
Even though we were all pretty full after 4 rounds of sushi, we decided to still order dessert. Pdho went for the Milles Crepes which he’s absolutely been in love with ever since Ckoh introduced him to the Mille Crepes from Lady M Bakery on the Upper East Side. The cake is made from 20 paper thin, hand-made crêpes layered with ethereally light and creamy custard. It’s very good, I admit.
I ordered the Green Tea Tempura Ice Cream which really wasn’t that great. It wasn’t bad, but there was this funny after taste with the ice cream, and the tempura batter could have been crispier and a little less doughy. It was still a good way to end an excellent meal.
Overall, the sushi was fantastic!! I’m starting to realize that the best way to truly test a restaurant’s sushi is to order the Omakase menu (aka Chef’s menu). I really think they save all the best fish for those real connoisseurs who truly appreciate the art and delicacy of sushi (and who are willing to pay for it). I’m sure that the sushi would be just as good if we had ordered a la carte, because I did see some of the sushi that we had listed on the menu under Gari’s Signature Sushi. However, if you really want to experience the true essence of Sushi of Gari, I would recommend giving the Omakase a go.
370 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10023
PAFO Ratings for Gari:
Price 4½ stars
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 5 stars
Overall rating 4½ stars