23 Commerce Street
New York, NY 10014
My first visit to SUSHI NAKAZAWA! FINALLY!!! You have no idea how long I’ve been trying to get in. Try, THREE YEARS, as in, since it opened in the summer of 2013! Pretty much every morning, once I’m online, the first thing I check, is availability at SUSHI NAKAZAWA. I would periodically find a middle of the week reservation at 5PM or at 9:30PM. I would think, I’m not doing the early bird special, and there’s no way I can hold out on eating until 9:30, so I will be sure to spoil my appetite by chowing down beforehand. That stubbornness resulted in a three year wait, and ultimately, a 5PM reservation. Dumba*s!!! At least it was a Friday night, and not middle of the week. Want to hear the secret? Reservation slots are released nightly at midnight! Yes, checking at 9 in the morning means you’re at least 8 hours too late!
Want to hear another marvelous revelation? They now have a lounge/bar! While the East Village is swarming with bars that serves Sake and Sushi, the West Village, not so much! In February of this year, their previous direct neighbor, a handbag merchant decided to move on, and SUSHI NAKAZAWA seized the opportunity to expand. Ingenious! You can’t order the Omakase, and Chef Nakazawa won’t be the one preparing the fish (note that he isn’t the one preparing it if you eat at the restaurant tables either), but they offer pretty much the all the same fishes as the do at the sushi bar and restaurant tables, and will have some additional options on sushi “flights”. Their fish is certainly pricey, but not out of the world expensive, so it’s a really good alternative. And if we weren’t doing the Omakase tour of NYC’s finest for the sake of this blog, I probably would prefer to order a la carte, have exactly what I want, and can soy-sauce-dip, heaviness-of-my aburi-request, salt/no-salt-request, and discard rice when provided too much, to my heart’s content without offending the chef! Talk about the sacrifice, the selflessness!
If you’re a sushi lover, you’ve probably watched “I dream of Sushi” with Jiro Ono, and probably, more than once. Chef Daisuke Nakazawa was one of Jiro’s right hand men at the original Sukiyabashi Jiro, one of the very few 3 Michelin Star sushi restaurants in Tokyo. While Chef Nakazawa stays true to Jiro’s Edomae-style sushi, celebrating the freshness of the fish, and dressing it minimalistically, the atmosphere, both overall experience and décor, are worlds apart. Jiro believes that fish should be served and consumed quickly, so that the diner does not recognize they are getting fully, and are able to truly appreciate each piece as though it is they are on an empty stomach. For this reason, most of the meals at Sukiyabashi Jiro is complete within 20-30 minutes. At SUSHI NAKAZAWA, they do three nightly seatings at the sushi bar, 5, 7:15 and 9:30. They allow for a 2 hour window for food, and a 15 minute window for turnover. This is the perfect amount of time! Ah-hem – TANOSHI!!! While I try SO hard to NOT compare restaurant to restaurant in my reviews, it is really hard not to. Our last restaurant on our Best of the Best Omakase tour of NYC was TANOSHI. While I loved their food, their BYOB, their hole-in-the-wall style, their 90 min window which includes the turnover time, is nowhere near enough. More to my self-inflicted-taboo-comparisons? The experience! While we eat, drink and tip lavishly, we really dress like hobos. Well not total hobos, but NYC people like to dress fancy, we don’t. Looking at us, you might wonder whether or not we are able to pay our bill. Ok, I’m just being dramatic, it’s not that extreme. When I think TANOSHI, I think I should fit in perfectly, and be super relaxed given its seemingly super chill atmosphere. Not so! Chef Toshio Oguma does not drink, does not like to chat, and their one and only host/bus boy was snooty to the max! On the contrary, when you walk into SUSHI NAKAZAWA, the space, curtains, the marble, the onyx, the overwhelming amount of staff and sommeliers, it can be intimidating! The experience was anything but. Chef Nakazawa and his full staff, everyone from the host & hostess, to the manager, to the sommelier, to the bus boy, they were all incredibly friendly. I almost wanted to give my sommelier a hug when we were leaving!
So was it everything I dreamed it would be and more? YES! It was!
- SHIRO SAKE – Chum salmon from Japan, topped with a tiny bit of salt. This was a peculiar first piece. It’s very rare to find SHIRO SAKE in omakase of fancy sushi-ya’s. Chum Salmon is the most inexpensive varietal of salmon, also known as the “dog salmon”, salmon that fishermen serves to their dogs. Yea, sounds bad, doesn’t it? I am not a salmon lover/ connoisseur. It’s entirely personal preference, but it’s just not a fish category I prefer, so I don’t have much knowledge of it. In my opinion, this tasted fine. My boyfriend, the tall, dark and handsome Italian gentlemen sitting next to me was in love. Clearly, we have widely differing opinions on this fish category.
- BENI-ZAKE – Hay Smoked Sockeye Salmon, server with a touch of soy and nothing else. OK, I am simply not a fan of smoked fish. I’ve said this before, but unless you plan to give me a bagel and some cream cheese, please do not present to me any smoked fishes. To me, again, another personal opinion, this was not only my less desired fish category, it was my least preferred preparation. Again, to be fair, the good looking man next to me loved it.
- ZUKE MASU NO SUKE – King salmon, slightly ABURIed, with a tiny touch of soy. You’re thinking, blah blah blah, she hates salmon, blah blah blah, make her shut up. Here’s where I turn the tables! I LOVE ZUKE MASU NO SUKE. I think it’s the only time I am ok having salmon in my omakase. This was delish!
- HOTATE – Live scallop served with a tiny bit of Yuzu pepper between the fish and the rice. Fan-F-ing-Tastic! He touched the bottom of the scallop to demonstrate that it’s still squirming, meaning it really is “live” scallop. It was so fresh, so light, and the yuzu pepper was such a great touch. I don’t typically have yuzu dressing my mollusks, typically only my white fishes, so this was an unexpected, but much appreciated touch!
- AORI IKA – Bigfin Reef Squid served with a tiny shiso leaf between the fish and the rice, and a small dollop of ume paste atop. AORI IKA is my favorite of the IKAs. It’s the most prized fish within the IKAs. I really only had this at a handful of sushiyas in NYC. I love this!
- SUZUKI – Japanese Seabass topped with Yuzu zest. I LOVE Suzuki in general, and I love Yuzu. This particular fish was so delicious, so marvelous. I forgive the first two salmons!
- KURO MUTSO – Black Gnomefish, with the skin ABURIed, topped with a sprinkle of lemon, and a tiny bit of salt. White fish is my favorite of the fish categories. This was so delicious.
- IWASHI – A Japanese sardine. This is one of my favorite of the silvers, right after KOHADA. Look how beautiful this was. It was fantastic. I failed to mention, around piece number 4 or 5, chef noticed that I don’t ever eat all the rice that comes with my sushi. With every piece, I leave some on the plate, and my wonderful boyfriend would be kind enough to eat it off my plate so that I don’t piss off the Chef. He noticed around piece 4 or 5, and asked, “you want small rice?” I humbly replied, “yes, sorry, I don’t want to get too full too quickly.” Ugh, chefs take such pride in their rice, I hate making this request! Since the interchange, chef successfully provided me the subsequent pieces with much less rice. On the IWASHI, he forgot. After serving me my sushi though, he quickly remembered, and said to me, “small rice”, took the fish off my plate, and reset the sushi with new, smaller amount of rice. How awesome is he? Ummm take a lesson SHUKO! And this was JUST rice, I can just leave this rice to the poor boyfriend, but he fixed it for me anyway! I like him!
- SAWARA – Spanish Mackerel served with a mustard pepper leaf. This was unrecognizable as SAWARA to me. I have never had one so good, so fresh, so not fishy. I Never!
- BOTAN EBI with caviar – Spotted sweet shrimp prawn topped with caviar from I don’t know where. Looks thin, doesn’t it? This was a HALF of a Botan Ebi. He paraded around the live BOTAN EBI, letting us watch it squirm for its last breaths, ripped off the heads with his bare hands, and then sliced each one of these wonderful shrimps in half. He kept saying “Sayōnara shrimp”, that was really funny. It means, “Goodbye shrimp”. It was funny that he thought it was so funny.
- Stone crab – Stone crab served with its innards and a little bit of scallion. You can’t tell, but the innards has ginger mixed in. I love ginger on my silver fishes, but for this, it overpowered the crab innards a bit. None the less, this was still fantastic.
- BURI – Wild Adult Yellowtail served plain with just a little bit of soy. Chef presented the fish and said “BURI, aged 7 days.” I dared ask him wild? I don’t know what possessed me to ask that, I never ask that question, I rarely care! He made it clear to me that he does NOT do farm raised anything, other than caviar of course. Opps! It was good. One of the few BURIs I enjoyed.
- KATSUO – Skipjack Tuna. No friends, not all Tunas are created equal. I love the regular Bluefin Tunas, the HONMAGURO. I’ve never been a fan of the Skipjack Tuna. This one was not bad, it was ok. But again, purely on preference, this fish is category itself, is just not my thang.
- AKAMI – Our Tuna flight! AKAMI, the lean tuna on the very bottom, was decent. While I normally like AKAMIs, this one was a little bit bland though.
- CHUTORO – CHUTORO, medium fatty Tuna, is one of my favorites of the Tuna family. This one did not disappoint!
- OTORO – OTORO, super fatty Tuna, is a highly prized cut. For me, I prefer the CHUTORO, as the OTORO is a bit much for me. Usually so fatty that I want to wash the oils out of my mouth after consuming. This particular OTORO was a little chewy too. Which makes it even less desirable.
- HADATE UNI – Purple Sea Urchin from HOKKAIDO. I haven’t been having fantastic UNI lately. This one was superb! Look how beautiful it was. Look at the glorious brightness in color!
- MURASAKI UNI – Purple Sea Urchin from Miyagi. Another fantastic UNI. Clearly, they look different, but if I was in a blindfolded taste test, I definitely could not tell which is which. Whatever the chef says, yup, that’s it. They were both delicious!
- TORO HANDROLL – I already took a bite. This was very good.
- ENGAWA – Fluke fin, served scored and with a small touch of soy. This was very good. I do prefer my engawa with a little bit of lemon and a touch of salt instead though.
- TAMAGO – Egg. This was fine. And no offense Chef, I know you had to make egg like 400 times for Jiro before he okayed it. BUT, egg is really not my cup of tea. Now that we’re 20+ pieces in, at the end of our omakase, and two bottles of sake in, I’m getting brazen. I took a bite for taste, but just left it!
- LYCHEE SORBET & TEA – I’m not a sweets person. I’m the only girl in the world who don’t ever crave ice cream. This sorbet was SO GOOD though! So light, so refreshing. Fantastic dessert, and could double as palate cleanser. DELISH!
- MURASAKI UNI – Purple Sea Urchin from California. You’re probably wondering at this point, you just had 20 pieces of sushi, AND dessert. How are you still eating? Remember? I had less rice! Actually, I didn’t order this, my man did. He’s a true, TRUE lover of UNI. When presented the a la carte menu, for options on add ons, we found two UNIs that was not part of our omakase. So of course, he had to try. He thought this was fantastic.
- EZO BAFUN UNI – Shortspine Sea Urchin from HOKKAIDO. Boyfriend said it was equally as good.
- AINAME – Greenling served with a pretty peppery Ume paste. Delish!
- ISHIDAI – A barred Knifejaw, served with some dried seaweed and sesame seeds. Honestly, I don’t like the crap on top, it drowned out the fish some. The ISHIDAI is a fancy fish, it’s expensive, and pretty hard to find. I wished he dressed it more simply, so I get to enjoy the delicious freshness and slight chewiness of it.
- AOYAGI – Yummy yummy surf clam! No complaints, super delicious.
- KINMEDAI – KINMEDAI is one of my top three favorite whitefishes. It wasn’t part of my omakase, so of course I’m going to order it! It was marvelous. Wish I had a little bit of salt on it though…
- IKURA – This was our last piece, we each had one of this guy. It was a fantastic IKURA.
We will be back again, and again and again. I’m happy I got to do the omakase with Chef Nakazawa, but I will likely just lounge it in the future. Chef Nakazawa will never customize my omakase for me, I’m just too specific. Or as boyfriend likes to describe me, “she’s a real pain in the a*s.” We are a very loving couple. Kidding aside, having one chef serving 10-12 patrons at a time, he couldn’t possibly? For the rest of the world though, the omakase at Nakazawa is super well balanced, you really do get a little bit of everything, salmons, whites, silvers, yellowtails, tunas, and shellfishes (shrimp, scallop, clam, crab, and UNI), you get rare and super high end fishes, and every piece is super fresh and well put together. They get a fantastic overall rating of 31. Their only ding was the Sake markup, where they only got 2 out of 5 points. Tsk Tsk!: