The star of Japanese cuisine, not just in the U.S. but all around the world, has to be sushi. As beloved as it is these days, ubiquitous sushi only made it on American land in the 1960s, initially on the west coast, in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo. There, about a decade later, the California Roll was invented, replacing those slabs of glistening raw fish with crab and avocado.
It didn't take long for cosmopolitan places like New York City and Chicago to start longing for sushi, and by the late 1980s, this dish was among the most craved meals by their adventurous eaters. The Japanese-American blending of sushi continued, and the Philadelphia Roll appeared–that tasty combination of Philadelphia cream cheese with smoked salmon into seaweed-rolled maki sushi. Suddenly, rolls could be filled with anything, from flavored mayonnaise to cooked fish and even fruit.
Towards the end of the decade and into the 1990s, the population's huge appetite for sushi led to a massive rise in the number of Japanese restaurants. Healthy and nutritious, sushi's popularity continues to grow, and today it's sold not just at Japanese restaurants, but also in grocery stores and strip malls.
New York City has long been enamored with sushi, and the sushi scene in the city is very different from elsewhere in the US, with nigiri sushi and more traditional omakase (Japanese for "it's up to you," meaning the chef's selection) being favored over American-style maki sushi, by the city's many connoisseurs. For the uninitiated, the best way to experience a sushi restaurant is by sitting at the bar, ordering omakase, and interacting with the chef.
Located at 461 Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, Sushi Ginza Onodera holds two Michelin stars for its excellent cooking, serving omakase-style sushi prepared by a sushi master. Its elegant setting is ideal for a romantic evening or a special occasion. Each dish, prepared with the highest-quality ingredients, is uniquely tailored to the diner, so you'll never have the same meal twice at their place. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and only for dinner on Saturday, but you can also pre-order carry away; just make sure to call in advance.
Located at 244 West 72nd Street on the Upper West Side, the 12-seat Sushi Kaito features the classic omakase-style sushi with a focus on nigiri served in a serene and tranquil ambiance. You can choose from the 12- or the 16-course menu and explore a wide variety of fish, from tuna and yellowtail to Spanish mackerel and barracuda, as well as some rare types that are flown in from Japan. They don't have a drinks menu, but you can try their green tea at no extra expense to you. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday, with seating from 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm.
Sushi Seki operates in three separate locations, at 1143 First Avenue on the Upper East Side, at 208 West 23rd Street in Chelsea and at 365 West 46th Street in Times Square. The birthplace of Sushi Seki is the Upper East Side location, which opened in 2002 and is renowned for its haute cuisine that hosts NYC's elite until 2:30 am nightly. In 2014, Chef Seki opened the second location in Chelsea and paired its exquisite dishes with a classic style and expensive sake and wine. The flagship spot is in Hell's Kitchen on the historic Restaurant Row. Here, sushi lovers can sit at the sushi bar on the main floor, with 12 seats that offer an interactive dining experience with Chef Seki and his team. The second floor can be used for private events and also features three private Tatami rooms for more intimate gatherings, as well as a whiskey bar and lounge perfect for pre-dinner cocktails. Being so close to the Theater District, this location also offers a pre- and post-dinner menu.
Open since 1984 at 210 East 9th Street, this sashimi and Edomae-style sushi place has aged well into an institution, with an authentic and casual ambiance. Furthermore, adding to the great variety of fish and skilled kitchen, it's one of the restaurants with excellent value, keeping it on the affordable side. Hasaki serves lunch Friday through Sunday and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
On the lower level of the building at 14 Christopher Street in the West Village, your undivided attention will be set on the chef's Omakase-style dishes. As a third-generation chef and with more than 20 years of experience, Tatsuya Sekiguchi uses tradition as his guide, and personalization is at the core of his philosophy. The 10-seat restaurant is open since 2017, and unlike traditional sushi chefs, he tries to use local fish as much as possible, and currently, this happens in about 60 percent of the cases. This choice doesn't just help him serve fresher fish but allows him to keep prices affordable. He has also published a book about his philosophy and the essence of Edomae, available only at the restaurant. You can go here Monday through Saturday.
This popular 20-seat restaurant at 47 East 12th Street is the result of Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau's joint passion for sushi. The full mini-omakase feast puts in front of you up to 16 pieces of sushi with a few non-sushi items on the side, and unlike most omakase spots, the chefs at Shuko will also prepare gluten-free and kosher-style menus upon advanced request. Their accommodating nature, however, cannot cater to vegans and vegetarians; upscale, quality fish is king here. The place is open Monday through Friday from 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm.
It's been two decades since Sushi Yasuda has been delighting the palates of its customers. Located at 204 East 43rd Street in Midtown Manhattan, the one-star Michelin restaurant is among the top ranks of sushi in the city. It features a minimal design, where bamboo slats are more than enough to give the restaurant a warm vibe. The fish is brought from all over the world, but the chefs value local and regional varieties, too. The chefs here prepare meals based on each person's taste, experience with sushi, as well as energy levels and moods, and as a result, some meals are spirited and energizing, while others are calming and regenerative. Sushi Yasuda is open Monday through Saturday from noon until after 10:00 pm.
Sushi diehards already know this: chef Daisuke Nakazawa was Jiro Ono's apprentice at Sukiyabashi Jiro, and customers at his restaurant at 23 Commerce Street attest that he lives up to his reputation. The place has a contemporary 10-seat counter, as well as a back 25-seat dining room, but the majority stand in line for the bar service just to see Nakasawa in action. The Michelin Guide awarded a star to Sushi Nakazawa in 2019, and last year the chef opened a second location in Washington, D.C., which received the same distinction.
The restaurant at 181 East 78th Street on the Upper East Side is probably one of the most stylish NYC high-end sushi places, reminding us of an ancient Kyoto temple. It stands out with its stucco facade, while inside, it flaunts the delicate artistry of Sukiya-style architecture, with multiple types of cedar joined through the traditional method that doesn't use any nails. The centerpiece is a 200-year-old hinoki wood sushi bar, complemented by a traditional hinoki ice-chest refrigerator. In addition to the sushi counter–which can accommodate eight guests per seating–Sushi Noz has a sushi-only six-seat Ash Room. The restaurant serves two seatings per day, Monday through Saturday, at 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
When the Japanese paired their culinary art with Peruvian practices, the Nikkei cuisine came to life, and Sen Sakana is the embodiment of this intercultural exchange, right in the heart of Manhattan. The venue is located at 50 West 44th Street, and its name stands for ‘one thousand fish,’ referring to the 1,000 different species that are said to swim in Peru's waters. It's open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, and only for dinner on Saturday. In addition, they have a pre-theater menu option, an impressive selection of drinks, as well as catering service.