Just opened: omakase and warmth at Otaru in New Haven

I go through sushi kicks once in a while, spending time watching those lovely Youtube videos and daydreaming about toro, perfect rice, and Jiro. I was delighted to hear that a new sushi joint had opened up in New Haven, and rumored to host an omakase to rival those of NYC. Of course, we had to check it out. We thought a snow day would be our best bet of getting seats, and everything from the warm welcome we received to the humor and playfulness and genuine welcome we felt from the restaurant was amazing. The sushi bar is small, seating about ten, and three chefs stand solemnly, a collection of incredibly fish before them. The hot sake was cheap ($5) and the ginger is real and the wasabi is actually ground from the root. Classic renditions of pop songs echoed through the background. Chef, who has worked at Nobu in NYC and other fancy places, joked that he got everything ‘from Costco’ and while serious about his craft, had a friendly demeanor that is often lacking in high end dining. Every piece was perfection. Octopus, which I don’t normally like (was very chewy at Sushi Seki in NYC), was the most tender I had ever had. The scallops shocked me with how delicious they were, and I was speechless. Of course, toro is always amazing, but what really elevated the omakase was Chef’s use of a blow-torch to highlight smoky characteristics and fascinating topping choices such as banana pepper puree. Tomato dessert was delightfully refreshing (though I’d not complain if it were tamago). Overall, a hidden gem in New Haven and probably better than the city deserves. I can’t wait to come back. Check them out on Yelp or at their website.

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