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. It looks like something out of a luxury car commercial, with black leather swivel chairs, sake sommeliers in tailored dark suits and a soundtrack of classical strings.
Whereas his master was stoic, Nakazawa is a jokester who places a live squirming shrimp on your plate just for a laugh. But his pranks don’t undercut the seriousness of his nigiri.
For his daily changing omakase, Nakazawa swiftly sets each of the 20 or so pieces on your plate in succession, drifting back to his post like Kobe Bryant swishing a fadeaway. The fewer the embellishments, the better, as with pike mackerel, featuring a gentle brininess that gives way to unctuous maritime fat as you chew, and wild yellowtail from Hokkaido, with fatty tails that tantalizingly overhang rice so tenderly packed, it would fall to pieces if you looked at it funny. At times, delicately flavored creatures like scallops or fluke are outstripped by pungent wasabi or yuzu. But the meal is like a wave, its gentle lulls rendering the crests all the more thrilling. One peak was a strip of hay-smoked skipjack, licked by the salty sea and haunted with smoke redolent of the finest ham.