Sushi's a tough one. Most of the places everyone says are the best are completely unaffordable—even the "bargain" omakases jump well north of $100, and then leave you searching out a slice joint afterward so you don't go home hungry. And those neighborhood "half-price-Tuesdays" spots are usually so bland and bad you might as well get cold grab-n-go from, like, Duane Reade. What happened here? I feel like in the 1980s we ate decent sushi all the time and it didn't cost that much, but that could be my nostalgia talking.

Anyway, attempting to bridge the gap, and mostly succeeding, is the brand-new Nami Nori on Carmine Street that specializes in inventive temakis that are structured like mini-tacos and pack a huge amount of flavor into a lovely little two-bite package. It's not exactly cheap—most of the temakis are $6 a pop—but this is vibrant, expertly prepared fish served in a fun, elegant environment, and if you go easy on the sake your bill won't be too shocking.

It's not surprising that Nami Nori serves very good food: chefs and co-owners Taka Sakaeda and Jihan Lee worked for many years at Masa, as did co-owner Lisa Limb, who manages the operation. At a press dinner this week I got to try a good chunk of the menu, and almost everything seemed exciting and new.

The temakis arrive as prepared, one by one, but the pacing is steady and I never felt abandoned, or wondering when my next bite would come. The delivery system is clever, too, as each piece is served in its own little wooden half-pipe and placed on a platter that remains at your place setting for the duration of your meal, next to a small pile of pickled ginger which you can replenish upon request.

If forced to rank my temakis, the Spicy Crab Dynamite would be right at the top, the crustacean salad laid on thick, a wonderful combination of heat and sweet, with crunch coming from a salty crust on the nori. When Lee was a boy his father made a similar dish at his restaurant in Portland, Oregon, so it's a bit of an homage, and likely to become one of Nami Nori's signature items.

Other top-notch temakis included the intensely earthy Maitake Truffle, one of three vegan choices, and the potent X.O. Scallop with flying fish roe and a zing of lemon. The Spicy Sea Bass with chojang and the creamy Salmon Tomato pieces carried a nice complexity with them, and in the Classics department, both the Spicy Tuna and the Yellowtail Scallion satisfied long-dormant cravings from days of old.

There are also a number of snacky, non-temaki dishes available, though overall these were less successful. When I asked Lee for a suggestion she said, without hesitation, the house salad. Which, seeing all those plates of festively-bright-red Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice being delivered to other tables, struck me as a rather dour choice—it was okay, the chilly lettuce and tomatoes covered in a rich buttermilk nori dressing. The roasted Shishito Peppers were underdone, and I couldn't taste their promised companion, "smoked miso honey." If you want something with snap, get the pile of amusingly oversized, pleasantly greasy Nori Chips.

For dessert, there are a pair of ice cream temaki that look like tacos, with their sweet cone shells, one Choco Hojita, the other Fior di Latte topped red bean paste and matcha cream posing as salsa and guacamole, respectively.

As for the space, you'll find three tables by the front window, but most of the action at Nami Nori happens at the chef counters. There's also a small, semi-enclosed room in the back where a single large party can get loose. About 40 people total can be seated at once.

Nami Nori is located at 33 Carmine Street, between Bleecker and Bedford Streets, and is open Monday through Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., and from Thursday through Saturday from 5:30 to midnight. Closed Sunday. (646-998-4588;