550 madison ave
Butterfish is a Japanese eatery known for its omakase-style (chef’s selection) sushi plus sake & other beverages nestled in an upscale space inside the SONY Atrium on Madison avenue. My wife and I decided to try out the restaurant on a recentThursday night on the premise that it features a well respected master sushi chef, is styled in contemporary decor and has a tranquil atmosphere, though sparse.
Our experience was decidedly mixed. First- the bad: the atmosphere was so tranquil that it was depressing- we were practically the only ones there, there was no music, and it was dimly lit. Also, just our luck, the night we went there was no omakase option which was disappointing as we were expecting an unscripted dining experience, but ended up ordering a la carte. Finally, the service was underwhelming- the servers could not make any recommendations, and were decidedly slow to service requests considering we were literally almost the only diners in the place.
However, on the bright side, the food itself was on the whole healthy, fresh, and robust. We started with the seaweed salad. I actually try to make a habit of eating seaweed, as it contains iodine, which is an essential mineral that is hard to find in many foods. The seaweed salad tasted bland. We also ordered the seared sashimi salad, which contained tuna, salmon, yellowtail, mesclun, and sesame ponzu dressing. The fish was fresh, but the salad combination was uninspiring. Next we ordered the Porcini Mushroom Veloute, which contained caramalized onions and white truffle essence. The soup was much too flavorful- meaning much too salty.
For appetizers we ordered the Tuna Tartare, which contained sliced onion, avocado, olive oil, and soy sauce, the Salmon Toro Carpaccio, containing scallion, daikon sprouts, ponzu sauce, and olive oil, and the Grilled Farmed Vegtables, which were served with garlic olive oil. These dishes were the highlight of the evening- especially the Salmon Carpaccio. I honestly don’t think I have ever tasted ponzu sauce before, and I cannot believe I have not. I loved it! These appetizers were amazing. Each item contrasting with the others. The depth of flavors were so intense, complex, and soulful. The fishfelt as if it was melting in my mouth, delicate and with a suggestion of vinegar and a hint of soy. The fish, we were told, was locally sourced as well as imported from abroad. I try not to eat too much fish, because I am told that there are concerns with respect to mercury content in tuna and other large fish and certain carcinogens associated with farm raised fish. However, if one sticks to wild fish on a regular basis and only eats other fish occasionally, there should not be a problem. In fact, fish is an excellent source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids, both essential to a well balanced diet.
Next we ordered the Crunchy California Roll, which had fish cake, avocado, tempura, and sweet sauce and the Salmon Lover Roll, containing seared salmon, avocado, and sweet sauce. The rolls were really just not good. I honestly have eaten better sushi rolls from my local grocery store sushi bar. Also, the rolls were Tiny Tiny Tiny. We were shocked at the minuscule amount served. We were still hungry so we also ordered the vegetarian option, which consisted of pickled daikon radish and shiitake-mushroom ponzu. This dish was fine, probably due to the fact that it was drowned in yummy ponzu sauce, which by the way should also be eaten in moderation because of its salt content. Finally, we ended with a piece each of the Blue Fin Fatty Tuna. You can’t go wrong there. It was pure- melt in your mouth- delicious.
The verdict: Overall, I would only recommend the restaurant to those who can be patient with lackluster service and underwhelming ambiance, in order to experience a rich sushi dining experience. My experience was likely worse due to the lack of the Chef on site that night, but I was hoping for more and Butterfish unfortunately did not deliver.