Our daughter was on a birthday sleepover, so my wife and I found ourselves with a few hours of freedom on the cold, cold Saturday night of the long holiday weekend. We live in Manhattan's tourist district, which makes it hard to find a good place nearby or dinner that isn't crowded, expensive or bad. Or all three. After fiddling around with a few restaurant finders, I came up with Sugiyama, right around the corner. We must have walked by this place hundreds of times since moving here nearly nine years ago, but our focus has always been on child-friendly places. Oh, my, what we have been missing. The Yelp reviews were promising, with Japanese people claiming that the Kaiseki dining here -- basically Japanese small dishes, in several courses, some cooked on hot stones -- reminded them of home. (This was all new to us.)
Reservations are definitely recommended. Thanks to the cold weather, we were able to make one for two at the last minute. Business was steady. We dressed casually. Don't expect to come here and have it your way. There are a handful of multiple-course dinners. We had no idea how much food to expect, so we each opted for the five-course dinner, seafood only. My wife is lactose intolerant, and neither of us eats land critters, but they were able to accommodate us easily.
The courses were a monkfish liver-tofu pate, a salad, incredibly fresh sashimi, a seafood and vegetable entree, a light miso soup, Japanese pickles, rice, a grapefruit jelly dessert. Everything was delicious. Amazing fish, especially the fatty tuna, squid and octopus. Real wasabi. Attentive service. The pace was perfect for a leisurely night out. We did not leave hungry, and I think we might have been in trouble had we ordered the six- or eight-course dinners.
Including a bottle of sparkling water, two glasses of wine and a tip, the bill was $178. Pricey, but I've paid more for worse in Midtown. It's not a price I'd care to pay too often, but there is an economy option. Get there before 6:30 or after 9, and order the least expensive, three-course dinner, which isn't offered during the pre-theater rush. The bill before tip will come in well under $100 if you skip the alcohol. (That may be hard to do if you're a sake fan.)