By refining how I save for and prioritize eating out, it is no longer
painful to see unusual for my tab to creep closer to the $100 mark before tax and tip. As much as I like a cheap bowl of noodles, I also like reservations, bread service, and access to someone who will pick out nice glasses of wine for me. Comfort. I accept that there is a price for that. I have not, however, felt confident in taking that mindset into New York’s sushi scene beyond a handful of lunches. It is not because I don’t want to pay, but I feel like such a rube when it comes to sushi. I don’t think I know very well what I like or how to describe it, and I feel like I should be much more knowledgeable before making plans to spend $150 for an omakase.
That makes no sense. I have failed to see that I can enjoy a good sushi experience the way that I enjoy a good glass of wine that a server/bartender/sommelier has recommended: Just enjoy it and their lead. The what’s and the how’s and the why’s do matter, and I admire those who are passionate about them. I’m comfortable in someone else’s hands, and for now, I’m happy to stay that way. (And it’s why I barely talk about the wine I drink on this blog.) With wine, I’m trying to learn more about the tastes that I like so that I can help my guide, but I’m miles away from being able to decipher a wine list on my own. I like being surprised and taken care of in this way. After my experience at Tanoshi Sushi, I’ve realized that this is how I want to experience and explore sushi, with no fear of ignorance and complete openness to the lead of an expert.
There are the $150 guides, but I’m so smitten with Tanoshi, that an $80 one is much more my speed. The teeny tiny sushi bar has been on my radar since it first started getting some press a few years ago, but I just never made going a priority. When a coworker brought it up as a favourite place of hers, I was all over getting her to go with me. Based on what Krista wrote, I requested for us to sit on the side of the restaurant that was served by Oona Tempest and head sushi chef Toshio Oguma (worth spending time getting to know them), and we ended up being served by Chef Oona, which was awesome.
I took pictures, but not notes, so I cannot identify things for you. In addition to the omakase, I ordered a few more pieces at the end to be chosen by Chef Oona. I do know there was fluke, seabream, big eye tuna, king salmon, spicy lobster, a spicy tuna hand roll, black throat, uni, cherry trout, anago, an intense miso soup, and the XXX—the Instagram hit composed of uni, ikura, and quail egg. One piece came topped with a cherry blossom leaf, which we then were encouraged to add to our sake. The swift rhythm of the presentation, my conversation, and the chatter of other diners all distracted me from paying close attention to each piece. And the “loosey” technique for nigiri preparation at Tanoshi means you can’t linger. Eat when the piece is presented or else you risk it falling apart.This would not be a night where I would learn what kinds of fish I liked. But I didn’t care because each piece seemed to taste better than the last. One bite and it was over, but in one bite my mouth was filled with seasonings, sweetness, and a smooth richness like butter that my eyes blinked slower to try and relish the moment longer. More more more. Admittedly my sushi eating has been limited, but it’s hard for me to imagine there could be better. I’ve never had nori produce an audible crunch, and I nearly screamed with glee when my friend bit down on her handroll. I think back to those scenes of nori being toasted in Jiro Dreams of Sushi and can only imagine that’s the perfection Jiro was after. As I lifted mine to take a picture, I could feel Chef Oona’s eyes gently encouraging me to hurry it up because that crunch is so special, yet so fleeting. Her silent pleading demonstrated her attention and passion for her craft without arrogance or ego.
I already have plans to return. I have a craving for the quick tastes and the rhythm to their service. I want more of those near-crumbling wads of rice. I want to try and learn. I want more of that perfect crunch. There will be no pictures of the handroll, obviously.