From fast-casual to fine dining, from outdoor to minimalist elegance indoor, New York City offers a wide range of locations and price ranges for a sushi celebration on June 18, International Sushi Day.
Omakase and Takeout
Sushi Noz has reopened their ultra-exclusive Edomae-style Japanese restaurant on the Upper East Side. The good news for those of us watching our budget or unable to score a reservation at the Michelin-starred sushiya is that Sushi Noz has also opened Noz Market with sushi and sashimi sold by the piece or set. Taking over the space that previously housed Harbs Japanese bakery, the market offers a daily selection of fresh fish, available for takeout or delivery. Now you can have fast-casual dining with unrivaled quality, customized with just the number of pieces you choose. For a true celebration, book a seat under the tutelage of Chef Nozomu Abe, where you can watch sushi mastery firsthand in a temple-like setting that looks like it came from Hokkaido.
Around the corner, Sushi Ishikawa is a diminutive Michelin-starred playspace for Chef Don Pham. Pham believes in tradition mixed with whimsy, and you can expect the unexpected here. For example, the tray of microgreens sitting next to the fish display hints at some of the flourishes to come, or the “anything-but-usual” seafood techniques favored by Pham, including dry-aging, torching, and architectural creation. You won’t see a menu here—simply choose the extent of your International Sushi Day sushi feast by the number of pieces (12, 15, or 16). Pick a beverage, and that’s it. Now, sit back and congratulate yourself for getting a reservation here.
Across the park on the Upper West Side, tiny Sushi Kaito feels like an unassuming Tokyo sushiya. With only 12 seats and only a choice of two omakase, one a bit pricier than the other, you’ll have fabulous sushi at a reasonable price. You’ll also feel like you’ve entered an elite club, with a place card identifying your seat and a dedicated sushi chef attending to your hunger. Your meal is a quick one with each piece of nigiri placed carefully on the counter in front of you. There’s no dessert, but you can enjoy the flawless tamago and pretend you’re at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo.
Sushi by Bou
Sushi by Bou created a revolution of sorts with their 30-minute sushi concept. You pay a flat (and very reasonable) $50 for an haute dining omakase at the sushi counter (or go a bit crazy for the 60-minute Bougie set) and enjoy the freshest fish prepared with grace and meticulousness. However, suppose you want the authentic Sushi by Bou experience. In that case, it’s the unmarked restaurant in the hotel that holds the key: the secret Sushi by Bou room in Hotel 32 l 32 s, one of the most coveted reservations in town. You’ll need some computer skill and a bit of savvy to book it -- there are only four seats, and there’s no name on the door.
If you’re a fan of Billions, you might recognize the sushi bar at Sushi Nakazawa in the West Village. Created by Jiro Ono protégé Daisuke Nakazawa (Jiro Dreams of Sushi), the sushiya excels at precision sushi taking its pedigree from Tokyo’s Jiro restaurant. Curated by personable sushi master Nakazawa, the sushi quality at the Michelin-starred restaurant is stellar, with a top-notch sake sommelier to help you put together the best combinations. While you could order a la carte, it’s best to leave the selection to the chefs at the counter. Just state whether or not you prefer unusual pieces like uni or orange clam, and enjoy. But please be better behaved than those guys from Billions. Save the ginger for later. And don’t ask for extra soy sauce.
For an Outdoor Twist
Another fantastic spot in the West Village, Nami Nori, offers a different spin on sushi. Served in little wooden holders that you might find in a Mexican restaurant, Nami Nori’s temaki-style sushi is presented in an open taco-like form. Each temaki can be graced with caviar, if you wish, upping the price from reasonable to astronomical. I suggest you try at least one “enhanced” piece as the flavor combinations are pretty remarkable. Happily, the pandemic has allowed more diners to enjoy these unusual pieces – the outdoor café area is as inviting as the minimalist indoor dining room.
Sushi Lab Rooftop
For another lovely outdoor experience, Sushi Lab Rooftop atop The Sanctuary Hotel in Midtown serves up Executive Chef Frankie Chen’s inventive sushi pieces under a canopy under the stars. Order the full omakase (the chef picks your fish) or create your own a la carte meal. Among the genuinely inventive pieces on the menu, the holiday special is the appropriately named Gold Digger. It features Wagyu, marinated tuna, seared toro, uni, and scallop, garnished with caviar and 24k gold flakes. As beautiful as it is delicious, this sushi surf-and-turf creation is anything but traditional.
Ever wonder where sushi chefs go to eat sushi? Sushi Seki on the Upper East Side has been a late-night favorite for years. The owners may be a bit wacky, but that adds to the charm. And you can get a reasonably priced sushi set if you skip the a la carte menu. But the way to go, truly, is to follow the lead from the chefs: let the sushi chefs work their magic.