The Upper east side of Manhattan is going through a culinary resurgence with millennials moving into the neighborhood and the opening of the Q subway extension that now connects the area to the rest of Manhattan. Part of this change is the opening of Sushi Ishikawa, a 23-seat restaurant helmed by executive chef, Don Pham. Chef Pham’s sushi pedigree includes positions as the former executive sushi chef at O Ya, executive chef at Geisha, sushi chef at Morimoto and head chef at Kitaro. Sushi Ishikawa offers two omakase menu priced at $85 for 12 courses and $125 for 15 courses. The restaurant has a lot of buzz as the hot new “affordable” omakase in Manhattan. Did the restaurant live up to the hype?
I made a reservation for two through Resy, their online reservation system. A credit card was required to confirm the booking as the restaurant has a very strict cancellation policy. You have until two days prior to the reservation to cancel without incurring a $85 per person fee. Upon entering a simply decorated 500 square foot restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice the massive sushi bar that took over half of the room. The restaurant adds a bit of whimsical humor with its cute collection of chopstick holders. I was very tempted to take one home…especially the lounging panda holder.
We were lucky to sit in front of Chef Pham as he whipped up creative sushi, one after another. Sushi purists may be put off by the ingredients that Chef Pham uses such as fish sauce, caviar, fried shallots, etc. The creative combination melded together and elevates the simple nigri to another level. This is inventiveness that is also a joy for your taste buds. Furthermore, Chef Pham is very personable and likeable. He explained each nigri and its ingredients; however, the acoustics in the restaurant made it hard to hear clearly at times. Despite that, we were happy to stuff ourselves with the delicious sushi for 3 hours.
My favorite dish of the night was the two types of toro (tuna) with caviar and gold leaf. Who can say no to caviar and gold? Joking aside, the texture of charred and raw toro contrasted beautifully and the lingering hint of smokiness took the nigri to the next level. It was so good that I ordered a second one after eating 15 pieces of sushi.
Sushi Ishikawa deserves the buzz it is getting for the freshest sushi expertly prepared with a dash of whimsical imagination. I would put Chef Pham’s omakase on my top list of omakase in Manhattan for price and quality.
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Author: Chau Hoang
Feature photo courtesy of NY Post