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Interview of Suppoter Stores Sushi Nakazawa

"Omakase" only. What is the dream in America for sushi artisan Nakazawa?

New York / USA

'That apprentice' of Jiro's makes it in New York

Daisuke Nakazawa, who appeared in the world-famous documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011), opened his own masterful sushi restaurant in August, 2013. The restaurant is quietly located in a corner of historic Greenwich Village, a neighborhood in southern Manhattan. On weekends, the area is bustling with out-of-towners and tourists from overseas; on weekdays, it is a luxury residential area filled with wealthy intellectuals. The uniformly monochrome interior of the restaurant 'Sushi Nakazawa' (14 lounge seats, 10 sushi bar seats, and 25 table seats) matches the cityscape. "We started the restaurant with the aim to combine traditional Japanese sushi with the Western-style service of American restaurants," according to Chef Nakazawa.

The Menu: Omakase Nigiri Course Only

The sushi menu only features an omakase that changes daily. There are no rolls (makimono) that are usually popular at American sushi restaurants. "We do not offer appetizers, palate cleansers, or even miso soup," laughs Chef Nakazawa. "Our goal is to provide customers with sushi, sake, and good service throughout a special session that lasts two hours." Chef Nakazawa, who always speaks with a smile, leads the world's best sushi staff (comprised of cosmopolitan talent) that extends a level of skill and commitment that can only be described as 'suna-kaburi' (up-close experience) – one of the great charms of the restaurant.

The Omakase Course, at $150 per person, is not the type of price range that allows you to visit on a daily basis, but as a result, customers are individuals who also understand sushi very well. These customers, who are especially accustomed to eating sushi, say they come to Nakazawa because they "desire the taste and ingredients of Japan."

Japanese ingredients that arrive 5 days a week

Unsurprisingly, the restaurant that champions the finest sushi uses the best available Japanese ingredients. Fresh fish and shellfish, essential for sushi, are delivered by air – five days a week - from the markets in Tsukiji in Tokyo and Fukuoka in Kyushu. During this season, most of the lineup is of Japanese origin, starting with Hokkaido sakuramasu (cherry salmon), madai (red sea bream), ishidai (striped beakfish), buri (amberjack), shirauo (icefish), hirame (fluke), and hotaru ika (firefly squid). However, tuna is typically American, because Japanese harvesting regulations are so strict. Also utilized are local products such as raw scallops (Maine), raw uni (sea urchin), and botan shrimp (both from California).

"We talk to our suppliers extensively about what we want and do get as much as we can, but it's still not possible, for example, to get Japanese akagai (ark clam that is seasonal and indispensable for sushi) because of import restrictions. Moreover, I don't think you need to choose ingredients in relation to transportation time or details like 'so fresh that it is still moving'. Thus, I don't design a menu of 'subtraction' as I did in Japan, rather, I am reaching for an idea of 'addition' that adds something to the ingredients that I get and is delicious," said, Nakazawa. "For example, even with scallops, we'll add elements like dipping it into roasted sake and treating it with yuzu pepper, or smoking benijake (red salmon) with straw. "It's fun because it becomes sushi that's unique to New York."

Rice and seasonings from Japan

The 'shari' (sushi rice), is just as important as the 'neta' (the main ingredient) to forming the backbone of sushi. Rice is ordered directly from farmers in Ibaraki Prefecture that cultivate rice specialized for sushi. The cost is higher, but the increase in quality is staggering. All the seasonings that complement the flavors of sushi are also made in Japan. The salt is "Salt of Suzu" from Ishikawa Prefecture, the soy sauce is Kikkoman's highest class "Honzen" brand, and the sugar, mirin, kombu and bonito flakes are all from Japan. "When we opened, we even planned to use mineral water from Japan, but the import process was too hard as the mineral content changes for each of bottle water, so eventually I gave up," laughs Nakazawa. But behind the laughter, there is little doubt that the boss' meticulousness, which may verge on maniacal, is the foundation that has built the taste and reputation of the restaurant.

The sake is also imported from Japan. Among the nearly 140 selections, there is also rare luxury sake that costs more than $3,000 per bottle. The sake menu is almost 5cm thick, but the American sake sommelier provides careful guidance. In addition to winning the highest possible four stars from The New York Times, the restaurant is acclaimed all throughout the media, prestigious gourmet guides, and gourmet websites. "I am confident that it is in the top 3 of sushi restaurants in America," says a heartfelt Mr. Nakazawa, who aims to spread this quality gradually throughout the United States. This coming April, the long-awaited second restaurant will open in Washington DC – located inside a hotel owned by Donald Trump! Suddenly, a battle with government lodgings. The 'dream' of Sushi Nakazawa's American domination is close to being realized.

Sushi Nakazawa
23 Commerce Street New York, NY 10014
(212) 924-2212
sushinakazawa.comExternal site: a new window will open.