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15 East, Chef Masato Shimizu's Japanese with Sushi Bar on E. 15th St. and 5th Ave. in Union Square

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I'm not qualified to opine on what the best sushi restaurants in New York are. I am qualified to state that 15 East is my current favorite.

Note to sushi lovers: the best way to experience sushi at 15 East is at the sushi bar, where the menu does not include the cooked items from the dining room menu. If you are willing to eat most anything, go with the chef's tasting menu or one of the sushi omakases. Be prepared for some unusual items, such as shrimp that was alive moments before it hit your plate, followed later by the fried heads. Chef Masato Shimizu is the most engaging, friendly sushi chef I've ever encountered. In fact the entire staff of the restaurant is wonderful, never batting an eye at one of my stupid questions or requests. I find the service formal but engaging and friendly, similar to European-style fine dining. Chef Masato is known to explain what's special about the fish your eating, famous for taking one of his books from behind him to explain something to you. 

And the quality of the fish, rice, and accompaniments are superb. Often I find the flavors subtle, such as in the sashimi and tartare of tuna, but in a way that lets the fish shine.

So last night my wife and I ate there for the 5th time, but this was the first where we ate in the dining room instead of the sushi bar. We just showed up a little before 6:30 PM without a reservation, on a whim. We asked if they had a table for two -- they offered a seat at the sushi bar, but we turned it down because I wanted to try their soba -- and they seated us promptly. The restaurant was empty, but filled up quickly as our meal wore on.

Our meal consisted of:

  • Degustation of 11 varieties of sea lettuces -- for me this was something different to try. Presentation was lovely (I forgot to take a pic), some were pickled, others we were told to dip in the provided soy sauce. I quite liked this healthy, light starter. 
  • Sashimi & Tartare of Bluefin Tuna
  • Risotto with uni, matsutake mushrooms, cabbage and chives. Balanced flavors, again not bold but very creamy. As good as most Italian restaurants produce.
  • Hot soba noodles with matsutake -- most expensive soba ($30) I've ever eaten, worth it if you love matsutake.

Total including a bottle of sparkling wine, tax and tip about $140, which is about as cheap as I can imagine a dinner for two there.

I suggest Don add this one to his dining guide. http://15eastrestaurant.com/ 

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