Stark, simple, stripped-down to the point of austerity: that's how I would characterize the city's best sushi restaurants. There should be hardly any decoration, no music, and nothing on the menu besides sushi -- if there even is a menu. And, it goes without saying, cost will be an issue. Does this sound like your approach to sushi? Then read on.
Although not as widely known, or loved, as some of the city's big-name sushi restaurants, Toshio Suzuki's Sushi Zen is a true purist's palace, as its nearly all-Japanese clientele will testify. You won't get dragon rolls, and you won't get away cheap, but what you will get is great sushi.
As I always warn when writing up a sushi restaurant here, ignore all the negative reviews. An overwhelming majority of diners know nothing about sushi, and are conditioned by strip mall restaurants. Sushi Yasuda is one of the best sushi restaurants in America. Pure, stripped-down, expensive, and not disposed to currying favor with dragon roll-loving yahoos, you go there, put yourself in their hands, and say thank you afterwards.
My suggestion, with Sushi of Gari as with any other high-end sushi restaurant, is to ignore all crowdsourced reviews. The average customer is put off by price and maddened because s/he can't tell the difference between it and their local sushi joint. Which is a good argument for not going. But true sushi savants, and a great number of Japanese gastronomes who are in a position to know, number Sushi of Gari as being one of the best in town -- at least those among them who are not purists. (They like Sushi Zen the best.)
Sushi savants tend to have wildly varying opinions on what is great and what consitutes a mediocre rip-off. I'm no expert on the subject but Sushi Seki was the only sushi experience I can say really blew me away. The depth of umami, the orignalitiy, the presentation, are all unlike anything else in New York. Sushi Zen is the best for pure, no-frills, traditional sushi (with 15 east maybe a close second) but this place is the bomb.
Very small, very spartan, very obscure, and very good, this small sushi restaurant on a desolate stretch of west Houston street is considered a well-kept secret by neighborhood gastronomes and Manhattan sushi purists, who find its dedication, quality, and -- best of all -- its unflashy, downscale appearance to be the makings of a true downtown gem, one of the few such places in an area regularly overrun by tourists.
Stark, sparse, austere, monastic: those are the kind of terms you generally see 15 East described with -- so pared down is this no-frill sushi temple that it doesn't even have a name! There is literally nothing here to distract you from the business of eating very, very, very good sushi, that costs much, much, much money. It's really not for dabblers and dilettants. This room is for people who care about sushi to the exclusion of everthing else -- whether they own restaurants or eat in them.
Super delicate, super stark Soto takes an especially high-minded approach to sushi: a combination of the characteristic stripped-down vision of perfect sashimi on the one hand and an almost kaiseki-like approach to small, exquisitely composed and plated dishes. The combination is a huge winner, and more than worth the considerable cost.
1 or 8 is one of the very few first-rate sushi restaurants in Brooklyn, and like most of the best sushi restaurants, it is spartan and plain almost to the point of austerity. While you can get a dragon roll there if you insist, this is a place for omakase sashimi and sushi, to the exclusion of anything else, and like all good sushi it comes at a price.