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Best sushi in NYC
At this 20-seat sushi counter, the omakase chef's selection of exceptionally made edomaezushi is served in its purest form, each lightly lacquered with soy and nestled atop a slip of warm, loosely packed rice. Luscious, marbled toro boldly arrives first, even before sweet Spanish mackerel with barely there shreds of young ginger or sea bream dabbed with plummy ume shiso.
It's difficult to impress as a sushi restaurant in a city full of competitors luring in customers with fresh seafood. But at this Upper East Side restaurant, the $300-a-person, edomae-style sushi joint is one of the priciest in the city that actually backs up its hefty price tag. But the Michelin star and ancient aging techniques from chef Abe Nozomu makes the wallet-gouging bill worth it.
Reserve a seat at the bar of this bamboo-clad space to watch the chefs dispatch purist renditions of nigiri onto wooden trays in elegant, efficient movements. You won't find over-the-top combos, letting the primo seafood and the chef's superior knife skills shine. That top-shelf sourcing doesn’t come cheap, and reservations are booked out far in advance, but this storied sushi den is still worth the price of admission.
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, three-Michelin-starred destination for sushi devotees.
Last we saw Daisuke Nakazawa, he was toiling over egg custard as the modest apprentice in the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, humbled by the rigors of an 11-year stint under the world’s most distinguished sushi chef, Jiro Ono. Now, the pupil has emerged as the teacher at this sleek West Village sushi bar.
After decades of New Yorkers’ sushi shrugs, Ginza flips that script, and its revenge is a nigiri best served cold—and aged (Ginza hews to edomaezushi). The seasonal omakase is not just freshly flown in from Tokyo’s prestigious Tsukiji market, nor is it dependent on exotic varieties. The understated service here feels like exquisite art form.
Oona Tempest, one of the very few female sushi chefs around, treats her guests to a 15-course, 90-minute omakase experience that's highly personal. At a six-seat counter, she serves everything from fresh sea urchin to pristine cuts of seabass. There are three seatings a night from Tuesday through Saturday.
When you arrive at Sushi Azabu’s address, you’ll initially curse Apple Maps for steering you astray. Alas, you’re at the right place—hidden in a Tribeca basement lies this Michelin-starred sushi speakeasy. The subterranean lair rightfully prides itself on its adherence to Japanese sushi standards, like how more than 70 percent of the fish is imported directly from Japan, four times a week.
At this glossy downtown spot fitted with a nine-seat dark wood bar overlooking an airy high-ceilinged dining room, first-rate seafood is flown in from Japan. Creamy Hokkaido uni 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 books to show where the exceptional cuts of fish are from, the chef schools novices and aficionados alike.
“Trust me” isn’t exactly what you want to hear when you’re about to nosedive into the oft-sketchy world of raw fish, 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.
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. The late hours lend a boozy, jovial atmosphere you won't forget.
After shuttering for three months, the rave-reviewed Lower East Side sushi counter reemerges, with chef John Daley buying out his business partner to assume majority ownership of the 10-seat operation. In this simplified iteration, the three-tier-priced dinner service is stripped down to just one omakase featuring seafood sourced from Japan’s famed Tsukiji and Fukuoka fish markets.
Although the East Village has plenty of reliable, fuss-free sushi joints, Hasaki is one of the originals. All of the fish is fresh, reasonably portioned and promptly served, whether you order à la carte or from a bento box combo. The restaurant strikes a nice balance between your favorite neighborhood joint while also feeling like a special night out, especially when you sit at the bar and watch the chefs slicing and serving you piece after piece of sashimi.
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.
Score a place in one of the three omakase-only seatings and you'll be dining on nigiri turned out by a Morimoto alum. They're not as dainty and refined as the ones at other premium fish houses, but Toshio Oguma isn't serving run-of-the-mill California rolls, either. The quality will please purists, even if the Adele and J-pop soundtrack won't. New Yorkers looking for an intimate alternative to hush-hush sushi dens should sit in on these nightly dinner parties.
Dapper power couple Jack and Grace Lamb 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, the sushi omakase gets you a dozen of sushi maestro Yoshi Kousaka’s raw-fish marvels.
Perched on the second floor of a dingy midtown building, Toshihiro Uezu’s 12-person sushi bar turns out jaw-dropping nigiri in its purest, most traditional form, delivered from his hands to yours. 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 quality of the seafood, the masterfully tempered rice and the fresh wasabi.
Following a 17-year stint at Nobu, chef Toshio Tomita went solo with a tasting-menu-only restaurant in the former Kajitsu space. Omakase options include a sushi menu of 15 pieces or a seven-course chef’s tasting, highlighting seasonal ingredients in dishes like house-made soba noodles, kappa-style appetizers and hot dishes, alongside sushi and sashimi made using fish flown in overnight from Japan.
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 turns out top-notch nigiri that stands toe-to-toe with some of its pricier counterparts. Do yourself a favor and 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.