You know I am on my search for a new favorite sushi place, so I was excited when I got some emails about the opening of a new place in Ironworks, which is conveniently located near my house. I have been twice since they opened. They may still be working on some kinks with consistency, but I am pretty sure this is a place that I will return fairly regularly based on what I have had so far and the its proximity.
On both trips we had the tuna tataki ($13) and the truffle salmon ($11). These are both sashimi style presentations—or like a crudo. They were both thin slices of the fish. The tataki was seared with pepper on the edges, crispy garlic chips on top, and in a light sauce. The first time we had this, we really enjoyed it. The second time, while we enjoyed it, it was much more peppery, almost to the point of making it not enjoyable. Almost. I’m not sure which is the way they intend it to be, but I am hoping it was the first version. I am sure we will try it again and find out. The truffle salmon is really good—and unique. Again, thin slices of fish, topped with hot sesame oil, salmon caviar and sitting in ponzu. These are both also on the happy hour (HH) menu—you can get them for $10 and $8.50 during that time.
On both trips we also had the crunchy rice cakes with spicy tuna ($11/$8.50 HH). Again, they were a little different on each visit—the first time the rice cakes on the bottom were a little over fried and overly crunchy, but we really enjoyed the flavor of the spicy tuna. So we wanted to try them again. This time they were perfect and probably my favorite thing we had. These will be a regular thing. Basically, they are fried bits of rice cakes, topped with spicy tuna, scallions and ponzu sauce. They were definitely a favorite at the table with our friends. The first time we also ordered the blue balls ($7/$4.5 HH). This was one of the items that made us realize we do not care for their spicy “crab” mixture. It was a tofu skin stuffed with spicy crab and deep-fried. Now, the fry on these was so good, and I love tofu, but the fishy taste of the spicy crab was not good. Again, it was the classic problem of a place calling something crab that was decidedly fishy.
So I guess this didn’t bode well for our luck with the “thriller” roll ($11), which was shrimp tempura inside and spicy crab mix, creamy “thriller” sauce and ponzu. It was broiled on top with the spicy crab and creamy sauce. The heat did not add to the already questionable taste of the spicy “crab.” However, a friend told us you could substitute real snow crab, which we did the second time (for an upcharge) and I really enjoyed it the second time. It had a touch of heat on the top of it, and the fresh crab was much tastier.
That second time we also had a couple of other rolls. Probably the most popular one at our table was the “spicy gringo” ($8/$5.50 HH), which is salmon, tuna, white fish, ginger with garlic chips and a barbeque wrap and shallots on top. It had interesting flavors and texture and like I said, everyone enjoyed it. We also enjoyed the “beach,” ($13+ $3 for snow crab substitution). It was albacore, spicy tuna and in our case, snow crab (normally spicy crab), burdock root, and avocado on the inside. It had ponzu and Serrano peppers on top. It was also tasty, although again, we subbed out the spicy crab for snow crab. I didn’t really care for the burdock root, as it was really hard—didn’t add to the texture component to me. So, it’s weird because the spicy tuna is really tasty, but the spicy crab is too fishy. Finally, we also tried the maguro tuna nigiri, just because it’s a good way to see the quality of the fish in comparison to other places. It was excellent.
The service was good on both visits, and I like the atmosphere of the place. There are people of all ages, and the restaurant has a modern feel. The wine and drink list is decent, and like I said, it’s close to my house. They also take reservations through yelp, so that’s always a plus in my book.
It’s solid, and easy, and will probably go into my regular rotation, even though I wish it wasn’t a chain. But it’s a pretty small one anyway. I also wish that it was a little more consistent, but hopefully that will come with time. There are a lot of interesting things to try, and lots of good happy hour specials. The menus are a little overwhelming between the happy hour menu and the regular menu (if you are there during happy hour). And the print is so small; it makes me feel like I need to remember to bring some reading glasses, which just makes me feel old. Boo. But overall, I enjoyed the food and experience.
Blue Sushi Sake Grill
2413 East 86th Street