We picked New York City’s best sushi restaurants—now meet the fish-slicing masters behind the counters.
1/11Any 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
2/11Photograph: Filip WolakChef: Toshihiro UezuRestaurant: Kuruma ZushiHometown: Gifu, JapanIn the sushi game since: 1963Style: 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.”
3/11Photograph: Filip WolakChef: SekiRestaurant: Sushi SekiHometown: Fukin, ChinaIn the sushi game since: 1998Style: ModernDropping 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.”
4/11Photograph: Filip WolakChef: Kenji TakahashiRestaurant: SasabuneHometown: Yokohama, JapanIn the sushi game since: 1998Style: Traditional edomaeDropping 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.”
5/11Photograph: Filip WolakChef: Masatoshi “Gari” SugioRestaurant: Sushi of GariHometown: Fukuoka, JapanIn the sushi game since: 1967Style: ModernDropping 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.”
6/11Photograph: Virginia RollisonChefs: Jimmy Lau and Nick Kim Restaurant: NetaHometowns: Southern China and Los Angeles, respectivelyIn the sushi game since: 1995 and 2001, respectivelyStyle: Modern/seasonalDropping 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.”
7/11Photograph: Virginia RollisonChef: Eiji IchimuraRestaurant: Ichimura at BrushstrokeHometown: TokyoIn the sushi game since: 1975Style: Traditional edomaeDropping 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.”
8/11Photograph: Filip WolakChefs: Tatsuya Sekiguchi and Mitsuru TamuraRestaurant: Sushi YasudaHometowns: Hasuda, Japan, and Matsuyama, Japan, respectivelyIn the sushi game since: 2005 and 2003, respectivelyStyle: 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.
9/11Photograph: Filip WolakChef: Masato ShimizuRestaurant: 15 EastHometown: Takasaki, JapanIn the sushi game since: 2006Style: Traditional edomaeDropping knowledge: “My favorite customer is one that is curious, engaging and willing to learn.”
10/11Photograph: Caroline Voagen NelsonChefs: Daigo Yamaguchi and Nobuyuki Shikanai Restaurant: KanoyamaHometowns: Yokohama, Japan and Utsunomiya, Japan, respectivelyIn the sushi game since: 1998Style: Traditional edomaeDropping 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.
11/11Photograph: Julia GartlandChef: Yoshi Kousaka Restaurant: Jewel BakoHometown: Toyohashi, JapanIn the sushi game since: 1980Style: Traditional edomaeDropping 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.”