NYC eats :: sushi nakazawa

Get ready for a truly special feast – it was the ultimate highlight of our NYC food adventures, and such a memorable evening. 

If you’re a foodie of any measure, you’ve probably seen that incredible documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (it’s on Netflix!), and therefore probably know about Sushi Nakazawa, the New York hotspot of Jiro’s apprentice, Daisuke Nakazawa. It’s a ridiculously popular, high-end sushi restaurant, where getting a reservation is notoriously difficult – particularly for the counter seats, of which there are 10. The reservations open 30 days in advance, and they get booked up in the blink of an eye, but if you are patient and check their online Opentable page frequently, cancellations do come up and you may be able to snap one up.

So, why all the fuss about this place? Firstly, because Nakazawa trained with one of the best, and thanks to the documentary, possibly the most famous sushi master of Japan. It’s also New York, so people know food there, and the place itself is beautiful and an absolute pleasure to dine in. But only after my experience there, did I really understand why there 10 counter seats are so coveted.

I, being Japanese, have eaten some incredible sushi in my life. I have possibly had better, or at least more traditional sushi, at tiny sushi bars in Tokyo. So although I was excited and impressed by Sushi Nakazawa, my biggest joy that night was seeing E’s face as he tried “real” sushi for the first time – none of that Wasabi & Itsu stuff! He said it was like he was discovering a completely new and different food all together.

We walked in at 5pm on the dot (although I checked the cancellations frequently, not once did I see a 7/7:30pm slot open up – we were quite happy having an early dinner though), and the service was impeccable. The chefs were all at work already, their first step being the grating of fresh wasabi, and the 4 chefs we had in front of us at the counter were all so very friendly and smiley. 

And with no fuss or frills, our “omakase” course of 21 pieces of sushi began. 

The first half were different types of salmon, white fish and seafood:
Cherry Salmon with sudachi and Hokkaido sea salt
Chum Salmon smoked with hay
Live scallop with yuzu pepper and sake sauce reduction
Big Fin Leaf Squid with shiso and ume

Red Cornet with yuzu salt
Cutlass (seared)
Pike Mackerel (seared)
Spanish Mackerel
Spot Shrimp with white sturgeon caviar
Snow Crab

I can’t even describe to you how completely different the sushi of this level is to what you might think of as sushi, if you’ve never tried it before. The rice is the perfect, lukewarm temperature, the ratio of fish to rice is far bigger, and there is no dipping it in soy sauce – they brush just the right amount of it onto each piece before plating, and there is no wasabi going up your nose, ever. 

Every piece was created to perfection, and served with such precision and care that it truly becomes an art form. I made sure to try and take photos as quickly as possible, as the pieces should be enjoyed within 30 seconds of plating for maximum quality – which is what makes is so worth the extra $30 you spend to sit at the counter, rather than at a table, where they serve you multiple pieces at a time.

I think E and I had a unanimous favourite out of the first half, which was the Spot Shrimp – E was pretty much speechless after that one!

The second half was richer, with the tuna flight, sea urchin and roe:

Yellow Tail
Tuna 3 ways – lean, medium (soy marinated), fatty from the belly

Uni from California
Salmon roe, soy cured in house
Tuna maki
Anago (conger eel)
Egg custard tamagoyaki

Everything, as expected after the first half, was outstanding – the tuna was out of this world, and the salmon roe so delicately seasoned that you could taste the roe itself, which is not always the case. The Anago just melted in your mouth, and the tamagoyaki was a lovely sweet end to wrap up the delectable journey.

We were also served some Japanese tea and lychee sorbet to finish, which was just divine.

I’m sure you can tell by now that this is an experience you do not want to miss if you are in NYC and are a sushi enthusiast. At $150 per person (before service and tax), it was definitely our big splurge of the trip, but I honestly would say that it was worth every cent. It’s still about a third of what you would pay at Jiro’s in Tokyo (where you would get fewer pieces), and something worth saving up for in my opinion. 

The atmosphere between the counter area and the back room where the tables are seemed markedly different – the room was full of chatter and noise (not in a bad way! just busier), and the counter was very serene as our eyes were fixated on the chefs at work. I would 100% recommend trying to get a reservation at the counter, as it is a completely different experience in quality and ambience from what I’ve heard, and there really is nothing like watching some of the best in the business navigate the subtle art of sushi. 

Jiro, we’re dreaming with you!

Sushi Nakazawa
21 Commerce St.
NY 10014
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