30 June 2008

Yama, 49 Irving Place (at E. 17th St)

Greetings fellow Forkers, I'm sorry it's been so long...between moving, various trips, and work taking over my life, it's been a little hectic here - but I hope you'll excuse the brief hiatus for a few super entries coming up....

A few days ago, work was getting me down so Dave suggested we go to "the best sushi place in New York." How could you possibly quanitfy that, especially considering we have greats like Nobu and Ninja? We went to Yama, a little sushi joint right across from Gramercy Park, which seats a maximum of maybe 100 people, and someone on a recent trip (I now forget where), told me he frequents often with his son who lives a few blocks away. This fellow traveler also stated that Yama is "the best sushi in New York."

Despite having eaten 6" of a chicken terriyaki Subway $5 sub for lunch, and the other 6" of it around 6pm, I found a wave of hunger hitting me as we walked into Yama. We walked in and placed our names to be seated. The host said it would be "about 15 minutes." We were seated about 45 minutes later (and I thought I had a hard time managing expectations), and while I normally would have complained (Dave may argue that I did a little), I felt as though I was treated with a Broadway style show before being seated. Watching the sushi chefs artists work was near magical - I feel as though they were cutting pieces of tuna, salmon, eel that were flown in THAT morning like they were butter. LIKE BUTTA.

Wow. I knew I'd be in for a treat as my jaw hung on the floor watching them work.

After we were seated, we were recommended an appetizer special by the guys sitting at the table next to us, after they harassed Dave for a while, asking if he was Hawaiian. I don't quite remember the name, but it was salmon, tuna, a whitefish and scallion wrapped up in a sticky rice paper and sweet peanut dipping sauce. It was unreal how fresh the fish was, and how I couldn't get it into my mouth fast enough. I love my Vietnamese spring rolls, but frankly...this outdid them by 10fold. I'm not sure how I'll ever be able to go back.

Soon after, our sushi arrived and I thought we'd never be able to finish it. Dave got an extra piece of both scallop and wasabi-infused flying fish roe, and we shared the I Like Eel special roll, Tuna Naruto, and the Salmon roll.

Let me just start with the bad - the Salmon roll was nothing special at all. It was a small piece of salmon (albeit extremely fresh and tasty) in a huge roll, and almost drowned out with the rice and avocado. Dave would probably disagree but the I Like Eel roll was probably my second favorite (I've kind of strayed away from eel in my past sushi ventures, I think of myself a little bit like the prodigal child....I need to stray before I come back to truly enjoy and become fulfilled by the eel again), but was good because instead of seaweed, they wrapped the roll in cucumber.

I didn't try the scallop, but Dave said that it was the best piece on the plate. I tried some of the flying fish roe which was actually wasabi-infused (it was green instead of red), and fellow forkers - let me tell you something, I don't even like flying fish roe, the consistency is weird and I don't like that popping on my tounge, and the thought of eating fish eggs creeps me out a little, but wow. This was something completely different.

And these are all fine, well and good, but let's get something straight. The naurto (I had to be taught when we sat down because I had no idea what it was) was by far the best on the plate. It is a "no-rice" roll with just fish wrapped in seaweed. Normally, I would be skeptical as sometimes the fish isn't the freshest, and you need the rice to counter balance the fish - you know, an "everything in moderation" type of thing. But wow. as previously mentioned, this fish was "double o-c" (out of control) tasty and fresh. The naruto ambled over my tastebuds, smoother than a New Yorker dodging tourists at 34th St. The combination of the tuna, salmon, a white fish of some sort was absolutely incredible. I might have made Dave sleep on the couch for taking the last piece (just kidding!) , but wow. To die for.

My recommendation: Don't get anything but the naruto, don't be turned off by the waitstaff's rudeness, and expect to wait a while for a table.

Yama gets 4 forks out of 5:

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