By Dane Feldman
Photo by Dane Feldman.
Located on 23rd and 8th in the Chelsea district of New York City, Asuka is a gem in an area teeming with great restaurants, not to mention that it’s not difficult to find sushi bars in this city. It’s not even all that hard to find decent sushi bars here in Chelsea, but finding one with both a well-rounded menu and affordable prices? That’s worth mentioning.
Asuka’s happy hour is just plain ridiculous in the sense that it’s an absolute steal for patrons. Happy hour begins at 5 and goes through most of the night. Cocktails are 2 for the price of 1 (and one is only $8 to begin with). The restaurant has a full bar and a well thought out craft cocktail list as well. My personal favorite is the Black Collar, which is a whiskey-based drink. Their mojito is also great — they don’t mess with the classic.
Here’s the thing: I’ve had better sushi in my life. With that said, I found Asuka’s sushi to be more than acceptable. The special rolls are creative, the regular rolls are standard, and the fish is consistently fresh-tasting. For me, though, it’s important for a roll not to have the consistency of mush. I know that, at least when it comes to special rolls, combining a lot of flavors with soft foods like rice and avocado often make for a more mushy consistency. In my experience, the best sushi chefs know how to create a flavorful roll without compromising the potentially mushy ingredients. Asuka’s rolls are mushier than I prefer at times. Aside from that, I can’t complain.
The restaurant does a great lunch special (3 regular rolls for $9), but the prices for dinner are also quite affordable. If you’re a bento box person, there are some interesting options there as well. I personally prefer to just order a bunch of rolls so I don’t know how the hot food holds up, but I’ve yet to try something that wasn’t good. I’d recommend Asuka for the food, yes. I’ve been at least 5 times already for both lunch and dinner and I plan to go back.
I love the waitstaff at Asuka. Everyone I’ve come in contact with is friendly, accommodating, and informative. You’ll not go more than a minute without water. They’re quick to take an order and ask if you want a second drink. Despite their speediness, they’re happy to let you sit there all night even when the place is packed, which shows just how seriously they take their bar and lounge vibe. The place is well decorated, the chairs are comfortable, and even when it’s busy, I haven’t felt too close to other patrons. This is definitely something I personally appreciate just because going out for sushi doesn’t usually take very long. Sometimes, it’s nice to be able to relax a bit and Asuka allows for that.
All in all, Asuka is a winner for me. Is it the best sushi place in NYC? No. Is it even the best place in Chelsea? I’ve yet to take my taste tests that far, but the restaurant is definitely worth checking out.