New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Lunch at Kintsugi Omakase is simple yet magnificent

Tucked away in SoHo, Kintsugi Omakase provides an intimate $60 lunch omakase experience in traditional Japanese style.
Matt Petres
(Matt Petres for WSN)

Kintsugi Omakase is a small space with minimalist decor, decorated by colorful Japanese alcohol bottles and pottery that fill the room. Behind a sleek countertop, chef Victor Chen prepares four distinct tiers of omakase experience for both lunch and dinner, serving 10 patrons at a time. For $60 per person, I enjoyed “The Lunch Rush Omakase,” the restaurant’s sole lunch option. Featuring 12 courses of seasonal appetizers and handmade sushi, this menu is a great take on high-quality omakase at a relatively accessible price point.

In Japanese, omakase translates to “I’ll leave it up to you,” and this phrase undoubtedly summarizes my dining experience. Chef Chen and the waiting staff gracefully cared for and served their customers, with their faces expressing joy for every bite I took.

As an appetizer, I had a small portion of a brightly colored potato salad, topped with three crunchy pieces of soy shrimp originating from the Arctic Circle. The potato was surprisingly light, possessing hints of citrus and setting the meal off to a pleasurable start.

Three shrimp on top of a potato salad in a fancy seashell bowl.
Potato salad topped with soy shrimp. (Matt Petres for WSN)

The sushi courses began with a Greek orata nigiri, beautifully scored and topped with soy sauce, bits of wasabi and orange zest. The fish was mildly flavored and slightly fatty, but carried strong touches of wasabi which caught me by surprise.

Man garnishing a sushi roll with a brush tool.
Greek orata nigiri topped with soy sauce, wasabi and orange zest. (Matt Petres for WSN)

Next was the hotate, or scallops, from the Hokkaido region in Japan, served as a nigiri with soy sauce rice, which complemented the soft scallops very well. Though it didn’t melt in my mouth, it was still quite an enjoyable bite.

White fish covered in brown sauce.
Hotate nigiri with soy sauce rice. (Matt Petres for WSN)

The scallops were followed by a razor clam nigiri sourced from Massachusetts, and it stood out in both flavor and appearance. Topped with some soy sauce, the somewhat oblong clam was chewy yet soft, but certainly saltier than the others. The heavy salt, however, was perfectly balanced by the tones of citrus.

Razor clam over rice in brown sauce.
Razor clam nigiri. (Matt Petres for WSN)

The Arctic char nigiri sourced from Iceland was perhaps my favorite part of the meal. Arctic char could be described as the fattier cousin of the Atlantic salmon, and this nigiri blew my mind. The moment I took a bite, it melted in my mouth like butter. The somewhat numbing sensation was balanced with an unexpected spice.

Salmon sliced over rice with brown sauce.
Arctic char nigiri. (Matt Petres for WSN)

In contrast to the Arctic char, the following dish was a gorgeous and lean Akami Zuke, or soy-marinated tuna nigiri. Although it had a pleasurable acidic and wasabi-like taste, what stood out the most was its deep crimson hue, and it made me realize that the aesthetic is just as important as the flavor in omakase.

Red fish sashimi over rice.
Akami Zuke. (Matt Petres for WSN)

Another standout dish was the mixed two soy-cured egg yolks with rice, served with a small piece of sablefish originated in Alaska and topped with a bit of wasabi in a beautiful bowl. Unlike the other dishes, this one was quite warm, especially upon the first bite. The fish had a smooth buttery texture and the rice blended perfectly with the fish. Though it was a very small portion, the dish was slightly heavy due to the high-fat content, but it went above and beyond my expectations.

A piece of soy-cured yolk topped with fish and wasabi in a bowl.
Soy-cured egg yolks with rice topped with sablefish and wasabi. (Matt Petres for WSN)

With this next dish, rather than a slice of fish, chef Chen prepared two small monkfish liver rolls, and I was joyfully surprised. Monkfish liver is a delicacy in Japan, and honestly, it didn’t sound quite appetizing at first. However, it was extremely creamy and rich, and despite its texture, it didn’t feel heavy like some of the fattier fish earlier in the meal.

Two sushi rolls with rice and monkfish liver covered in a yellow sauce.
Monkfish liver rolls. (Matt Petres for WSN)

Finally, to finish the savory portion of the meal, chef Chen prepared a tube-like hand roll with fatty tuna and sweet onions. In all honesty, after the delicately crafted and sense-stimulating dishes I enjoyed before, it was disappointingly underwhelming. It didn’t stand out in any way and felt out of place, especially considering what chef Chen has shown he is capable of. If it had been placed somewhere in the middle of the meal, I wouldn’t have minded as much, but since it was the last dish, it was a somewhat unexciting way to conclude such an enjoyable lunch.

A hand holding a roll of seaweed with red fish and rice inside.
Hand roll with fatty tuna and sweet onions. (Matt Petres for WSN)

I was offered a complimentary Hojicha tea, or roasted green tea, to wash down the meal, and it was served in a decorative cup decorated with drawings of various sushis often served in omakase meals. Though not included in “The Lunch Rush Omakase,” chef Chen kindly offered dessert — a tamago, or egg, creme brulee, which resembled an egg custard with a layer of burnt sugar on top. It wasn’t too dense, nor was it too creamy; it had the perfect level of sweetness, a common attribute of most Japanese sweets. It was the perfect ending to the fine meal I had enjoyed, and very kind of the chef to include it in the meal.

A white cup with illustrations of sushi and their names.
Hojicha tea. (Matt Petres for WSN)

Without a doubt, I am comfortable with saying that I would leave it up to chef Chen again to prepare my meal and I would gladly return whenever I’m craving an exciting yet equally calming omakase experience.

Compared to most omakase restaurants, Kintsugi Omakase isn’t ridiculously expensive and inaccessible to the point that it feels pretentious. It’s a humble establishment most interested in making sure its guests feel welcomed and have an experience similar to, if not better than, other high-class omakase eateries.

Contact Gabriel Giacomelli at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Matt Petres
Matt Petres, Photo Editor
Matt Petres is a first-year studying Economics. He is from Chicago, Illinois and likes to bike and kayak. You can contact him on Instagram @matt.petres

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