Restaurant Review: Sugarfish
I’ve dined at both Sugarfish NYC locations and while they shouldn't be terribly different from each other there was one very obvious and jarring distinction: the service.
I visited the Sugarfish Flatiron location in February 2017. It still had its “new restaurant smell” and a casual 3 hour wait. We waited it out though and OH BOY it was worth it. This was my first experience of this type of sushi eating style. You pick one of three “trust me” sushi packages (or you can do a la carte - not recommended). They start serving you asap and you are encouraged to eat as soon as the sushi arrives. The rice is hot and they will not serve you your second piece until you’ve finished your first. The first time dining at Sugarfish was flawless and exceptional. Paired with good company, I would be back all the time had it not been for the ghastly wait.
My second dining experience at the new Sugarfish in Soho a couple of weeks ago was less than thrilling. Not as horrible as a wait - 1 hour, plus being in the Soho area there were many shopping distractions to keep my friend and I entertained. Once we got seated, we quickly ordered because we had somewhere to be in 45 minutes. I ensured my friend it was as quick as a dining experience as you wanted to make it. The sooner you eat, the quicker you move through the trust me courses. The edamame came out right away. We enjoyed it, though noted it’d be better if it was hot. If the rice is not, why not the edamame? My sake came out. I started patiently sipping as we waited for the sushi to begin flowing. Once the 20 minute mark went by we knew something was up. We also noticed that there didn’t seem to be any food at all coming out of the kitchen and many seats left unoccupied despite a lengthy waiting list. Or maybe we were so hungry we were seeing things (or in this case, not).
Our waiter came by to ask the diners next to us that had recently concluded all their courses if they wanted to order anything else. Then the same waiter came back over to us and asked us if we wanted anything else. At this point my friend was hangry, and impatiently rebutted, “we ordered, we haven’t gotten any of our food yet!” An awkward and embarrassed looked appeared on the waiter’s face as he dashed away mid-apology. Soon after the exchange we got our first piece of sushi. The common theme among all the sushi was that the rice was not sticky enough. It kept falling apart and was very difficult to consume in one bite. Then another prolonged wait, then some more sushi, a wait, sushi, and so on and so forth. There was never a consistent and smooth flow such as my first Sugarfish dining experience. We also had to interrupt the waiter to correct a special order my friend put in place -- she wanted the bay scallop roll as a sub -- the salmon roll was still brought out. She ended up getting both rolls. The manager also came out to apologize for our less than delightful experience and offered up the most delicate piece of tuna belly on the house. The tuna belly almost made the whole episode worth it until we saw it still on the bill when we finally concluded our meal. Another awkward moment, asking to remove the “on the house” tuna belly. After that, my sake was comped too.
I’d like to imagine that Sugarfish Soho is just going through some growing pains. Though you’d think once you’ve expanded to your second location in NYC and thirteenth location overall, shouldn’t you have your process down to a science? Especially at a restaurant where the menu doesn’t change. I’d go back to the Flatiron location if I was in the area and there wasn’t a wait. But for now I’m going to stick to the New York born version of Sugarfish - KazuNori. Much better, more affordable and no kinks in your dining experience. Some things in LA don’t translate to NYC. Sorry.