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. The pupil has emerged as the teacher at this sleek West Village sushi bar. 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, like pike mackerel, featuring a gentle brininess that gives way to unctuous 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 askew. At times, delicately flavored creatures like scallops or fluke are outstripped by pungent wasabi or yuzu. But the meal at Sushi Nakazawa is like a wave, its gentle lulls rendering the crests all the more thrilling.
Long-vanished are the days when mainstream America recoiled at the thought of ingesting raw fish: today, even heartland supermarket delis stock spicy tuna rolls. Discerning diners, though, pass over such mass-market items for top-tier, pristine sushi and sashimi at the best sushi restaurants in L.A., the best sushi restaurants in New York and all across the country—putting themselves in their chefs’ hands to experience an interactive, often open-ended feast. Where once date night might have meant getting cozy over a pepperoni pie (“It’s the best pizza in America,” he said as he wiped some cheese from his chin), today it might mean settling in for a night of non-stop, Edomae-style nigiri (emphasizing local species and warm vinegared rice) fueled by junmai daiginjo sake. If you’re especially lucky, it will be at one of these extraordinary shrines to the art of Japanese seafood: The best sushi restaurants in America.