After 11 years learning from revered sushi master Jiro Ono, subject of the exquisitely beautiful documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, a disciple has begun the ascent to his own fame on a different island over 6,000 miles away. Daisuke Nakazawa, the cherub-faced apprentice seen in the film struggling to perfect tamago, the deceptively difficult egg sushi, opened his eponymous restaurant several months ago. Word travels fast among sushi seekers who'd yearned to visit Ono's legendary Tokyo restaurant; they may not be getting the original, but they're getting something pretty damn close.
Every visitor so far has been quick to point out the differences between the Ginza subway station restaurant and Nakazawa's venture on a quiet, tree-lined block in the West Village. Where Ono's restaurant favored hushed reverence, Nakazawa's ebullient personality cannot be contained behind the counter. The interior has a sleek, contemporary design that fits with the city's aesthetic, down to the black leather barstools equipped with arm rests, like the world's most elegant captain's chair.
Prime seating means front row at the large marble bar, where you can watch Nakazawa and his apprentices mold each piece of sushi and remove wriggling shrimp from steaming pots. Those seats are the most coveted, however—in general, the restaurant is booked through December—and the fish tastes just a good at one of the tables in the dining room and it's slightly less expensive, as well.
Aesthetic differences aside, the quality of fish and exacting technique show Nakazawa's training and discerning palate. In the chef's omakase, each piece of sushi gets lovingly tended to by one of the many gentlemen behind the counter. Depending on the freshest catch, you might be treated to Atlantic salmon, which the crew hay smokes on the roof; another night, scallops with yuzu pepper and New Caledonia blue shrimp. After all the time spent perfecting the dish, you can be sure Nakazawa will offer his version of tamago: delicate, sweet and bathed in a satisfied glow.
Don't let the $150 omakase price tag shock you; the meal unfolds over 20 courses, from single sushi pieces to the occasional hand roll, all using the highest quality fish and seafood from New England to California to Japan and beyond. Though there's an a la carte wine and sake menu, you'd do well to add the sake supplement to your meal, which includes eight glasses for just $40. At the end of the day, it's still significantly cheaper than a pilgrimage to Japan and, from all reports, might be a little more fun as well.
23 Commerce Street, (212) 924-2212; sushinakazawa.com