Wow. This is my new top choice for sushi in Manhattan.
The restaurant is an unadorned set of two rooms on the Upper East Side (east of First) blessed with the best fish and Japanese-style service I've experienced this side of the Pacific. While you can order from a menu at tables, Omakase is the way to go at Sasabune (and it is compulsory at the sushi bar). You'll be served eight or so dishes, each with either two or three pieces of unique sushi. This is not about shrimp tempura or spicy tuna, but rather fairly uncommon - and delicious - cuts including pink scallops, monkfish liver, orange clam and extremely fresh sea urchin. The compulsory toro and abalone are on the menu as well, along with octopus and other treats.
Sushi Bar at Sasabune
I'm not an urchin fan in general - but I had a good feeling that I would like it here. Indeed, their urchin offered a very different taste and texture sensation than you find in similarly-named offerings at most other sushi restaurants.
Certain of the sushi pieces were served heated warm (but not cooked through or even much at all); that preparation brought out some very rich flavors. The salmon roe was a collection of individual eggs, each almost a little crisp. The eggs were not scooped out of a bucket - nor packed in corn syrup like most sushi eggs are!
The staff at the sushi bar were engaging, and kept the pace moving at a comfortable rate. Takahashi-san, their head chef, was stationed behind the sushi bar, and tended to most of our plates. The waitress was also very attentive to our needs.
Soy sauce is provided, but they advise which specific pieces to use it with (very few). Remember - when you do use the soy sauce, flip the sushi over and touch the fish to a small pour of soy. Don't fill the dish with sauce or dip the rice.
Decor is "limited," at best. It felt like neighborhood restaurants in Tokyo that I've been to in the past. Nothing fancy whatsoever, but perfectly clean.
Omakase dinner for two, with beer and sake, including tax and a particularly generous tip came to $400. While not inexpensive, compared to places like Masa, which would have been over $1,000 for a comparable meal, this is a downright bargain.
I've been to Masa, Karuma Zushi, Sushi Yasuda, Soto and Nobu each multiple times over the years; without question Sasabune was a notch ahead. I've passed on coming here due to the rather inconvenient location. I'm now over any location issues I may have had!
This was a business dinner, so I didn't bring my regular camera. Thankfully, my guest was a few minutes late, so with the approval of the chef, I did take a picture of the sushi bar.
401 East 73rd Street (east of First)
New York, New York 10021
Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday; Closed Sunday