NYC’s 12 best sushi restaurants: Top spots for Japanese food

TONY trekked all over town checking out the top toro-touting dens in the city, both old-school joints and big-ticket temples. Here are the city's best sushi restaurants.

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As Sakura Matsuri blossoms in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, we’ve got Japan on the mind, namely its most delicious export: sushi. Weeding out the less-than-best competition, these are Gotham’s best sushi restaurants, from no-nonsense sashimi spots nestled in nondescript office buildings to shiny toro-touting palaces helmed by Michelin-starred toques. Sushi fanatics, you’re welcome.


RECOMMENDED: Best Japanese food in NYC


  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Ushiwakamaru

  • Photograph: Courtesy Masa

    Masa

  • Photograph: Courtesy Masa

    Seki aji at Masa

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Sushi Sasabune

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Salmon roe at Sushi Sasabune

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Butterfish at Sushi Sasabune

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Sushi Sasabune

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Spanish mackerel tataki at Neta

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Kanpachi at Neta

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Salmon at Neta

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Spanish mackerel at Neta

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Toro at Neta

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Neta

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Neta

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Neta

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Kumamoto oyster at Sushi Seki

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    King salmon at Sushi Seki

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Baby squid at Sushi Seki

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    King salmon at Sushi Seki

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Toro at Sushi Seki

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Yellowtail at Sushi Seki

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Seared tofu at Sushi Seki

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Fluke tempura at Sushi Seki

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Sushi Seki

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Kuruma Zushi

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Squid at Kuruma Zushi

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Spanish mackerel at Kuruma Zushi

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Uni at Kuruma Zushi

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Kuruma Zushi

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Wasabi at Brushstroke

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Brushstroke

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Brushstroke

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Chawan-mushi at Brushstroke

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Brushstroke

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Brushstroke

  • Filip Wolak

    Sushi Yasuda

  • Filip Wolak

    Baby squid at Sushi Yasuda

  • Filip Wolak

    Mackerel at Sushi Yasuda

  • Filip Wolak

    Eel at Sushi Yasuda

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Red snapper at Sushi of Gari

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Yellowtail at Sushi of Gari

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Fluke at Sushi of Gari

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Tuna at Sushi Of Gari

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Sushi of Gari

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Sushi of Gari

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Tamago at Kanoyama

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Jack fish at Kanoyama

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Fluke at Kanoyama

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Kanoyama

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Kanoyama

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Salmon at 15 East

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Shako shrimp at 15 East

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Hokkaido uni at 15 East

  • Baby red snapper at 15 East

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    Jewel Bako

     

     

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    Unagi at Jewel Bako

     

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    Chutoro at Jewel Bako

     

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    Jewel Bako

     

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    King salmon at Jewel Bako

     

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    Namerou at Jewel Bako

     

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    Otoro at Jewel Bako

     

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    Jewel Bako

     

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    Shima aji at Jewel Bako

     

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    Uni cup at Jewel Bako

     

Photograph: Filip Wolak

Ushiwakamaru

Ushiwakamaru

Within Gotham’s sushi-restaurant titans, a state of hushed reverence often pervades. Not so at Hideo Kuribara’s ramshackle subterranean restaurant, where patrons stumble in from Houston Street late in the evening (night-owl ramen is available when the sushi counter shuts down). The affable Kuribara stands over the modest wood counter, a twinkle in his eye, pressing vinegared rice grains so that they barely hold together. Those warm, loose lobes are crowned with superlative seafood specimens: a tumble of velvety glass shrimp, almost obscenely lush slips of fatty red snapper and meaty, soy-lacquered eel, served on a glinting black plate. Regulars send Kuribara titanic mugs of beer, which he hoists in between shaping sushi and earnestly inquiring if patrons enjoyed their last bite. After a visit to this convivial raw-fish rathskeller, you might buy Kuribara a round yourself. Average sushi piece: $5; omakase: $70–$100.

  1. 136 W Houston St, (between MacDougal and Sullivan Sts), 10012-25
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Masa

A transcendent bite of top-grade toro is priceless. But at Masa, that melt-in-your-mouth morsel comes at a cost—a whole meal is a cool $450 before tax, tip and sake, to be exact. Masa Takayama’s extravagant raw-fish emporium has been a once-in-a-lifetime destination for sushi devotees since it opened on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center in 2004. Parked next to the equally ritzy Per Se, Masa represents all-out indulgence: At the bar—made of a $60,000 piece of rare Japanese hinoki wood—Takayama and his acolytes lavishly press shaved truffles into lightly warmed rice beds, before topping them with kingly sea bream; sumptuously enrich risotto with uni and truffle butter; and fill their shabu-shabu pots with slabs of foie gras and fresh lobster. It’s a luxury that few but deep-pocketed whales can afford, but Takayama’s three-Michelin-starred gem is cross-off-your-bucket-list dining at its finest. Omakase: $450.

  1. Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, fourth floor, (at 60th St)
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Sasabune NY

“Trust me” isn’t exactly what you want to hear when you’re about to nose-dive into the oft-sketchy world of raw fish (the tainted-tuna tour of 2012 hit a whopping 26 states), but it’s the well-earned M.O. of this UES sushi nook, opened in 2006. And trust you should—owner-chef Kenji Takahashi rolls out a no-nonsense, at-whim menu of top-tier seafood to rival more highfalutin Japanese dens, without the sucker-punch price. Walk through an unassuming storefront—marked with nay-saying signs warning NO CALIFORNIA ROLL, NO SPICY TUNA—and score seats at the tight-squeeze bamboo counter. There, Takahashi speedily transforms daily market finds into raw marvels: a mosaic of lardy albacore slicked with tart ponzu sake sauce; creamy Scottish salmon hooded with satiny kelp and a nutty pinch of sesame seeds on top of still-warm rice; and a bright ikura (salmon roe) roll, briny pearls popping loudly inside a crisp nori wrap. The spartan decor is definitely wanting, and servers bellowing “No soy sauce!” is the closest you’ll get to mood music, but for dreamy slips of pristine nigiri, in Takahashi we trust. Omakase: $80.

  1. 401 E 73rd St, (at First Ave)
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Neta

In March 2012, longtime Masa disciples Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau conjured up a downtown-cool cousin to Masa Takayama’s high-rolling sushi palace. Sure, their Greenwich Village haunt employs enough rosy tuna tartare and caviar to please a Russian millionaire, but its haute-hip trappings—beanie-topped chefs spooning out gelatinous marrow from a tuna hull; Is This It–era Strokes blaring overhead—give it just the youthful edge to draw in the Brooklyn set. Rather than using Masa’s go-to Tsukiji market in Tokyo, Kim and Lau are more locavore in their sourcing: hirame from Long Island; scallops—stunning in a lush dish of velvety sea urchin, smoky matsutake mushrooms and garlic butter—hailing from Boston. Sushi purists may snub the nontraditional omakase (the meal features Americanized novelties like spicy salmon, and is punctuated with ultracreamy peanut-butter ice cream), but Kim and Lau’s reverential focus on top-notch provisions (neta means “the fresh ingredients of sushi”) rivals even that of the staunchest of sushi classicists. Average piece of sushi: $6; omakase: $95, $135.

  1. 61 W 8th St, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves), 10011
Book online

Sushi Seki

Where do big-league toques like Eric Ripert and Daniel Boulud go to sate their late-night fish cravings? Chef Seki’s cultish sushi gem has served as a sake-fueled second-dinner spot for after-hours chefs and clued-in locals since opening in 2002, plying nonpurist flavor combos until 3am. For five years, Seki trained under Sushi of Gari’s whimsical head, Masatoshi “Gari” Sugio, and the influence is reflected in the inventive menu: Creamsicle-hued salmon topped with scallion sauce and a crispy fried kelp shard; bluefin tuna dotted with oniony tofu crème fraîche; and young yellowtail crowned with slivered jalapeño, a Gari signature. The late hours lend a boozy, jovial atmosphere—maître d’ Koji Ohneda bustles between the sushi counter in front and the rowdier dining room in back, pouring sake into quickly emptied cups, but don’t drink too much—you’ll want to remember Seki’s artful, picture-perfect offerings with more than just Instagram’s help. Average sushi piece: $5; omakase: $80–$100.

  1. 1143 First Ave, (between 62nd and 63rd Sts), 10021-77
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Kuruma Zushi

If there’s a jollier sushi chef in New York, we don’t know who it is—Toshihiro Uezu’s friendly mug has been welcoming raw-fish cognoscenti and rookies alike at this venerable toro temple since 1977, a gaiety that belies the seriousness of his skill. Perched on the second floor of a dingy midtown building, Uezu’s 12-person sushi bar turns out jaw-dropping nigiri in its purest, most traditional form, delivered from his hands to yours: glistening slabs of kanpachi belly, shiny silver skin still intact; buttery otoro melting moments after hitting the tongue; and fluke so fresh you can see through it. This is no-bells-and-whistles sushi—the most adornment Uezu employs is a dash of ponzu or scallion curls, instead focusing attention on the überhigh quality of the seafood, the masterfully tempered rice and the fresh wasabi (more delicate and subtle than the sinus-searing powdered junk, typically just food-colored horseradish). Uezu may just prove your stubborn grandfather right—maybe old-school is the right way. Average sushi piece: $5–$20; omakase: $250.

  1. 7 E 47th St, second floor, (between Fifth and Madison Aves), 10017
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Ichimura at Brushstroke

Fine-dining impresario David Bouley opened this special-occasion Japanese sanctum in 2012, a collaborative effort between the toque and Yoshiki Tsuji of Osaka’s prestigious Tsuji Cooking Academy. Bouley handed the sushi reins over to Eiji Ichimura, who composes clean, elegant plates befitting the sleek, intimate bar, set off from Brushstroke’s main dining room—all blond wood and amber lighting. Lacquered Japanese ceramic ware comes topped with luscious lobes of uni; jewellike morsels of Spanish mackerel, marbleized toro and fluke fin; and shiso-and-salt-seasoned tai (red snapper) over assertive, well-vinegared rice. Throughout the meal, Ichimura gives you the option of ordering from Brushstroke’s main menu—the knockout is the restorative chawan-mushi, a steamed egg custard decadently topped with black truffle sauce and fall-apart hunks of Dungeness crab. Between the first-rate fare, classic Bouley service and dapper Shinto-shrine decor, this Michelin-starred sanctuary earns every dollar of the weekly paycheck you’ll have to fork over. Omakase: $160.

  1. 30 Hudson St, (at Duane St), 10013
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Sushi Yasuda

In 2011, Naomichi Yasuda shocked devotees of his lauded midtown stalwart—open since 1999—when he announced that he would be returning to Japan. Fans breathed a sigh of relief when he turned the simple maple counter over to longtime kitchen lieutenants Tatsuya Sekiguchi and Mitsuru Tamura. Reserve a seat at the bar of this bamboo-clad space to watch Tatsu and Mitsu—as they’re affectionately called by regulars—dispatch purist renditions of nigiri onto wooden trays in elegant, efficient movements. Like the old master, the pair eschew over-the-top combos, letting the primo seafood and their superior knife skills shine. They top rounds of lightly vinegar-moistened rice with beautiful seafood, like a meltingly soft slab of fatty tuna; a milky disk of sweet sea scallop; or baby purple squid brightened with shiso and wasabi. That top-shelf sourcing doesn’t come cheap, and reservations are booked out far in advance, but even without its namesake toque, this storied sushi den is still worth the price of admission: Yasuda would be proud. Average piece of sushi: $6; omakase: $85-$150.

  1. 204 E 43rd St, (between Second and Third Aves), 10017
More info

Sushi of Gari

Masatoshi “Gari” Sugio made waves when he debuted this minichain in 1997, becoming a New York pioneer in avant-garde pairings, such as jalapeño-topped yellowtail and Japanese red snapper with wilted greens, pine nuts and crispy lotus root. Sugio’s fanciful creations continue to draw thrill-seeking Japanophiles to his tony Upper East Side flagship, where they shell out a hefty sum for a pay-per-piece spot at the L-shaped bar. Tiny beds of slightly tart rice come out in quick succession: pepper-oil–slicked tuna tempered by a creamy dollop of tofu sauce; silky truffle-oil-dotted fluke boosted by a quivering poached quail egg; and rich Spanish mackerel offset by earthy enoki and shiitake mushrooms. The decor may be simple—dark red banquettes, black lacquer tables—but at Gari, all eyes are on the plate. Average piece of sushi: $8; omakase: $85–$90.

  1. 402 E 78th St, (between First and York Aves), 10021
Book online

Kanoyama

Don’t let the throngs of college coeds and easy-on-the-wallet prices fool you: This ain’t no sketchy all-you-can-eat sushi joint. The corner East Village eatery, run by laid-back kitchen vets Nobuyuki Shikanai and Daigo Yamaguchi, turns out top-notch nigiri that stands toe-to-toe with some of its pricier counterparts. As a testament to the fine sourcing of the raw materials, the toques sometimes show patrons photos of the day’s catch on their iPhones: The fish, brought in mostly from south Japan and served on plates, includes items like glistening skin-on jack fish and fluke with tart pickled scallions. Mounds of lightly seasoned rice also cut the richness of spongy egg-custard tamago and bring out the crisp sweetness of nearly translucent tako (octopus). You may not be shelling out a small fortune for these pristine pieces, but do yourself a favor and avoid the undergrads in front: Get a seat at the well-lit walnut bar in the quieter back room so that you can bliss out on your meal in peace. Average piece of sushi: $8; omakase: $37, $45, $85.

  1. 175 Second Ave, (at 11th St), 10003
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15 East

At this glossy downtown spot—opened in 2007 by Marco Moreira (Tocqueville) and his wife, Jo-Ann Makovitzky—Jewel Bako vet Masato Shimizu presides over a nine-seat dark wood bar overlooking an airy high-ceilinged dining room. Shimizu employs first-rate seafood flown in from Japan, deftly molding lightly torched golden-eye snapper or luscious soy-lacquered cherry salmon on beds of loose toothsome grains. Creamy sweet Hokkaido uni, seasoned with a slick of soy sauce, is encased by a crisp nori strip, while fall-apart anago (sea eel) gets a light dip in sweet soy. Whipping out fish anatomy charts and well-worn books to show where the exceptional cuts of smooth, deep-red tuna come from, Shimizu schools novices and aficionados alike. Superlative nigiri with a side of education? We’ll happily sign up for instruction. Average piece of sushi: $4–$15; omakase: $65–$120.

  1. 15 E 15th St, (between Fifth Ave and Union Sq West)
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Jewel Bako

Dapper power couple Jack and Grace Lamb (Degustation, Jack’s Oyster Bar) brought a bit of Tokyo cool to the East Village when they opened this intimate sushi-ya—hidden behind a heavy black door—in 2001. Now a neighborhood favorite, Jewel Bako maintains its downtown cred with buzzy young crowds and a stylish bamboo-tunnel dining room. In the back, amiable sushi maestro Yoshi Kousaka skillfully slices imported rarities in between sipping glasses of wine sent over by regulars. The sushi omakase gets you a dozen of Kousaka’s raw-fish marvels, including a remarkably thin sliver of Tasmanian salmon brushed with smoked soy sauce; finely chopped white roe shrimp on a loose lobe of rice; and lush cherry-blossom snapper topped with a dab of tangy plum paste and fragrant shiso shards. The highlight: a cup containing the sea’s most decadent creatures—creamy king crab, pearls of briny salmon roe, brûléed uni and scallop—for one single exquisite bite. Average piece of sushi: $4.50; omakase: $65.

  1. 239 E 5th St, (between Second and Third Aves)
Book online


Users say

7 comments
Jeff P
Jeff P

Any list of superior sushi places in the big apple that doesn't include Hakubai is a joke.  And not a funny one.

Norbu gurung
Norbu gurung

Lobster place at the chelsea market has the best sushi in nyc. No doubt

ela
ela

u better be kidding ... sushi soto is one of the best clearly whom ever wrote it has never been to japan and his knowledge is lucking

maria bianchi
maria bianchi

for me ..... i love 15 east, .... the best !!

AFineLyne
AFineLyne

You missed a really good one. Fairly new, so you may not be aware. Jado Sushi on 8th Ave between 114th St & 115th St. Don't forget to try desert. 2 recommendations from me - Peanut Butter Pie and Mango Cheesecake.

Jeff P
Jeff P

@AFineLyne Right.  Those sound like really japanese desserts.  not.