The sushi at Natori is pristine in its freshness, and cheap, too.
Abby S. asks: I’m hoping you can help me. I’m taking my niece out for a birthday lunch Friday; she’s turning 14 and requested sushi. I need a place that’s nice but not overwhelmingly so (she’s a fairly sophisticated eater, but lives in the suburbs). Her birthday tends to get overshadowed, so I’d like lunch to be a sort of special affair. I was thinking something along the lines of Blue Ribbon, but it’s a bit out of my price range. A tall order, probably, but any recommendations? Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Dear Abby: Accustoming a curious adolescent to expensive sushi is a mistake, since no other sushi will taste good after that, and a penchant for the high-priced stuff becomes such a drain on the pocketbook, she’d have to take two jobs just to eat it occasionally.
So, while keeping the quality mid-range (it’s also important to discourage kids from eating sushi at salad bars, unless it’s cucumber tekkamaki or California rolls), what’s wanted is a good-quality place with a little flash and theatricality. Given the age of your daughter, I’d suggest an East Village spot.
On the higher end, there’s Hasaki (210 East 9th Street, 212-473-3327), a walk-down place with some of the best sushi in the city, where you can get a deal on an omakase (sushi chef’s market combos) anywhere from $30 to $60, and it comes with with soup or a salad and green tea.
On the lower end, you’ve got Natori (58 St. Marks Place, 212-533-7711), a small and almost shabby spot that has lots of East Village flavor. When the sushi arrives, you’ll realize that the rickety decor is something of a pose for Japanese expats who are into the terroir of the historic neighborhood, where Allen Ginsberg and W.H. Auden — along with punks, hippies and Beats — once wandered the streets. Several sushi assortments are available at prices under $20, with one as low as $13!
Good luck, and tell your niece happy birthday for me!
Some friends enjoying the sushi at Hasaki.