REVIEW #67

15 East

Brazilian-born Marco Moreira, the chef and co-owner along with his wife Jo-Ann Makovitsky of the refined, Greenmarket driven restaurant Tocqueville, was originally trained as a sushi chef.  And thus it came to pass that in 2006, Tocqueville was uprooted from its home at 15 East 15th Street and moved next door to its current luxurious location, while 15 East was born in its place, a restaurant widely considered by sushi connoisseurs to be among the very finest in NYC.  Architect Richard Bloch, the designer of Masa, created an understated, contemporary interior with simple wooden tables, a well-lit sushi counter, sheered windows, and oversized lantern chandeliers.

The gifted, engaging Masato Shimizu was recruited from Jewel Bako to man the sushi counter.  Shimizu apprenticed for seven years with Rikio Kugo at Tokyo’s Sukeroku before moving to NY.  In addition to being an eminently skilled craftsman, he is also gregarious and is prone to pulling out tattered books to display particular varieties of fish to diners, something that actually happens a surprising amount at the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo too.  Needless to say, it is vastly preferable to dine at the sushi counter (which requires a reservation by phone), and the omakase is the best option.  There is also a tuna flight consisting of 5 different cuts and grades of fresh bluefin and a variety of cooked dishes, including handmade soba noodles and smoked magret duck with hojicha tea.  

Shimizu has garnered much deserved praise for his tender, meltingly soft slow-poached octopus, sprinkled with sea salt.  The octopus is repeatedly massaged, a technique brought to wider awareness by the mesmerizing film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about the legendary restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro located a Tokyo subway station that premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.  There is also an outstanding braised Spanish octopus; creamy, mild Santa Barbara uni along with brinier, complex Hokkaido uni; and one of Shimizu’s specialties, Anago (poached sea eel).  The cuisine is highly seasonal and driven by availability.  Although 15 East, like Tocqueville, sources many ingredients from the Greenmarket, Moreira is fond of saying “no fusion, no confusion.”  Shimizu is a purist, and this sophisticated, contemporary Japanese restaurant is one of the best in the city.

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INFORMATION

Union Square
15 East 15th St.
New York (nr. Union Sq. West)
212-647-0015
Mon-Fri, noon-2pm and 6pm-10:30pm; Sat, 6pm-10:30pm; Sun, closed
    Masato Shimizu, Chef
    Marco Moreira, Owner
    Jo-Ann Makovitzky, Owner
    Richard Bloch Architects, Designer

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