Sushi bosses: New York City’s top sushi chefs

We picked New York City’s best sushi restaurants—now meet the fish-slicing masters behind the counters.

1/11

Any sushi aficionado knows the way to get the best nigiri is to make your reservation at the sushi bar with the head chef. Get to know the top toques behind these Japanese standouts. Ichimura, Takahashi, Uezu, Kim, Lau and Seki—say hello to the sushi masters of Gotham

2/11
Photograph: Filip Wolak

Chef: Toshihiro Uezu
Restaurant: Kuruma Zushi
Hometown: Gifu, Japan
In the sushi game since: 1963
Style: Traditional edomae (Tokyo-style nigiri sushi)
Dropping knowledge: “Don’t soak your sushi in soy sauce. That’s a big mistake a lot of people make. You should only use a drop or two—you want the flavor and the quality of the fish to come out, not the soy. That’s why I always tell my guests when to use soy and when not to—it makes it more delicious for them.”

3/11
Photograph: Filip Wolak

Chef: Seki
Restaurant: Sushi Seki
Hometown: Fukin, China
In the sushi game since: 1998
Style: Modern
Dropping knowledge: “Tuna is the most important to a sushi chef. There are so many different types, many different tastes and textures—bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin. You can always tell—if the tuna is not good, the whole sushi meal will not be good.”

4/11
Photograph: Filip Wolak

Chef: Kenji Takahashi
Restaurant: Sasabune
Hometown: Yokohama, Japan
In the sushi game since: 1998
Style: Traditional edomae
Dropping knowledge: “I like customers that talk to me. Even though we do omakase, which is my choice, I try to customize the menu to every person. Over the years, I’ve noticed that different people lean towards different types of fish—Americans like one type, the Japanese like another—and the only way I can customize it best for you is if you talk to me. We don’t just try to serve the best fish, we try to serve the best fish for each person.”

5/11
Photograph: Filip Wolak

Chef: Masatoshi “Gari” Sugio
Restaurant: Sushi of Gari
Hometown: Fukuoka, Japan
In the sushi game since: 1967
Style: Modern
Dropping knowledge: Don’t let the fish sit too long, says Sugio. “The best way to enjoy sushi is to eat it as soon as it has been served to you.”

6/11
Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Chefs: Jimmy Lau and Nick Kim
Restaurant: Neta
Hometowns: Southern China and Los Angeles, respectively
In the sushi game since: 1995 and 2001, respectively
Style: Modern/seasonal
Dropping knowledge: Toro may be the king of the sushi world, but Chef Kim is giving some love to sawara (Japanese Spanish mackerel) at Neta. “Sawara’s my favorite fish,” says Kim. “It’s popular in Japan, but it’s very underrated here in the States. It’s such a fresh, beautiful fish.” Lau’s pick? “Scallops, always.”

7/11
Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Chef: Eiji Ichimura
Restaurant: Ichimura at Brushstroke
Hometown: Tokyo
In the sushi game since: 1975
Style: Traditional edomae
Dropping knowledge: A huge proponent of shime (curing, pickling and aging fish), Ichimura says, “Curing fish for a few days can change and enhance the flavor. I love using kohada [shad], seeing the changes in it throughout the year, and adjusting my marinades and curing times based on that.”

8/11
Photograph: Filip Wolak

Chefs: Tatsuya Sekiguchi and Mitsuru Tamura
Restaurant: Sushi Yasuda
Hometowns: Hasuda, Japan, and Matsuyama, Japan, respectively
In the sushi game since: 2005 and 2003, respectively
Style: Traditional edomae
Dropping knowledge: The chefs recommed going easy on the condiments. Too much soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger will throw the flavors of the fish off balance.

9/11
Photograph: Filip Wolak

Chef: Masato Shimizu
Restaurant: 15 East
Hometown: Takasaki, Japan
In the sushi game since: 2006
Style: Traditional edomae
Dropping knowledge: “My favorite customer is one that is curious, engaging and willing to learn.”

10/11
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

Chefs: Daigo Yamaguchi and Nobuyuki Shikanai
Restaurant: Kanoyama
Hometowns: Yokohama, Japan and Utsunomiya, Japan, respectively
In the sushi game since: 1998
Style: Traditional edomae
Dropping knowledge: Shinkanai and Yamaguchi always serve tamago, a sweet egg omelette, as their first piece of nigiri. The reason: “If it’s good, then you know the rest of the sushi will be high-quality,” Shinkanai says.

11/11
Photograph: Julia Gartland

Chef: Yoshi Kousaka
Restaurant: Jewel Bako
Hometown: Toyohashi, Japan
In the sushi game since: 1980
Style: Traditional edomae
Dropping knowledge: “It is customary to eat both sushi and ginger [gari] with only the hands at the sushi bar. Chopsticks are used to eat at the table.”

 

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