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Oct 16, 2013 01:50 PM

Sushi Nakazawa – How Does It Compare To Jiro? I Don’t Know Or Care, But This Is Some Of The Best Sushi In NY

**For full post and pics**:

Sushi Nakazawa was recently opened by Daisuke Nakazawa who is famous for being the apprentice in “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” who made tamagoyaki two thousand times before Jiro finally said it was good enough quality to be served to customers. Naturally before he even opened up there was a lot of buzz about him, how he compares to Jiro, how his experience in Seattle might have shaped him and many other permutations of that conversation. Well I’ve never been to Jiro (and neither have 99.9% of the people asking how it will compare), but I can tell you this he’s making some of the best sushi in NY right now and is solidly in the top tier sushi level with places like Sushi Yasuda and 15 East.

The restaurant is located in the West Village. The space is a long narrow space with a sushi bar upfront and tables in the back. The window facing the sidewalk is floor to ceiling and gives the restaurant a more open feel versus most sushi restaurants which feel enclosed. It is a beautiful space and I really like how it feels more casual than other sushi restaurants. The service was excellent and attentive. Daisuke Nakazawa is a very nice guy. While his English is not great he’s always smiling, laughing and is engaging with customers which is rare in NY.

We got the sushi omakase which is $150 for 21 pieces (a lot of people asked me about that).

I’m going to comment on the sushi rice here since it is a commonality amongst all the sushi. It was excellent and on par with Yasuda which has the best sushi rice in NY. The texture was great, perfectly al dente and the flavor of the vinegar was nice and not overpowering or too weak. The flavoring is a bit different than Yasuda, but it’s a tossup as to whose rice is better.

Another thing I’ll comment on is he uses way more locally caught seafood than other places and I’ve heard some complaints about that because of the price of the meal. My view is that the seafood was excellent and I don’t care where it’s from if it’s really good although I understand the price vs where the food is from argument, but I’ll let other argue over that.

Here’s what we had:

Wild King Salmon
This was from Alaska and was served with sea salt and yuzu. The meat was very light colored and quite delicate tasting. I thought the sea salt and yuzu really complimented it nicely. 8.5/10

Alaskan Sockeye Salmon
This had a slightly stronger salmon taste although again it was excellent. 8.25/10

This was from Maine and was live. They brought the whole shell out to show us before serving it to us. It was sweet and bit briny, a really standout scallop. 8.5/10

Seared Geoduck
The searing gave the geoduck a very smoky flavor and the soy sauce complimented it nicely with some saltiness. While it was not super tender it also wasn’t tough like some geoduck. I thought it was good although not amazing. 7.75/10

Steamed Abalone
This was from California and was steamed for 4 hours. This was good for abalone although abalone is not my favorite sushi as I find it a bit hard and not that flavorful. That said this was better than most abalone you get in the US as it wasn’t that tough. 7.75/10

Pike Mackerel
This was from Japan. It was really great and was the best piece I’ve had in the US. 8.75/10

Pickled Mackerel
This was from Japan and pickled for 5 days. The pickling killed any fishy flavor and I thought it was a really nice tasting piece of mackerel. 8.25/10

Trigger Fish
This was from Long Island and served with liver. The fish was quite light tasting with a good firm texture. The liver was a nice touch as it gave the fish an extra bit slight liver flavor which made it a much fuller taste overall. 8/10

This was from Long Island and served with yuzu. This was a standard, but good piece of fluke. 8/10

Spear Squid
This was from Long Island and it was quite tender actually. Squid itself does not have a ton of flavor, so the soy sauce is definitely necessary. 7.75/10

This was from New Caledonia and while I normally don’t like ebi all that much this was definitely the best piece I’ve had in the US. It had been recently cooked, so it was slightly warm. 8.25/10

Shima Aji
This was from Japan and it was a really great piece of fish. Tender and just had great flavor. 8.5/10

Skip Jack
This was from Japan and was smoked. It was nice with a very slight smokiness to it. 8.25/10

Blue Fin Tuna
This was wild caught from Boston. It was interesting because all of the tuna was from one fish from Boston which I’d never had tuna from Boston. I thought it was surprisingly good, nice tuna flavor with pretty good texture. It’s not like the best stuff I’ve had in Japan, but it was actually very nice. 8.25/10

Chutoro (Medium Fatty Tuna)
This was wild caught from Boston. It was nicely marbled and buttery. 8/10

Otoro (Tuna Belly
)This was wild caught from Boston. It was also nicely marbled and buttery. 8/10

Uni (Sea Urchin)
This was from Santa Barbara. I was a little worried because it looked bit weird, but once I took a bit it turned out to be excellent. It was sweet, briny and creamy. It was definitely a respectable piece of uni. 8.25/10

Salmon Roe
This was from Alaska. Wow this was a standout; this was by far the best ikura I’ve had in the US. It wasn’t fishy at all, nicely salty with just generally good flavor. 8.75/10

Anago (Conger Eel)
This was from Japan. It was a nice piece of anago with good texture not too mushy and the sweet sauce was not overwhelming. 8/10

Tuna Handroll
This was a tuna handroll that had a bit of liver in it. While tuna handrolls are not my favorite, this was very good for a tuna handroll with a good ratio of fish to rice to nori. 8.25/10

Here is the infamous tamago from Jiro Dream’s Of Sushi. This was different than most as it’s the kind that is more of a cake as opposed to an omelette, so the texture is more spongy. It was fairly sweet and delicate tasting. I thought it was good although I think I prefer the traditional tamagoyaki more. 8/10

Overall, I really liked Nakazawa across the board. I thought the food was some of the best I’ve had in NY this year, the service and setting were great and Nakazawa was a really nice guy. I highly recommend coming here as soon as possible.

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  1. Great review. I actually didn't like the ikura quite as much, and I still prefer Yasuda's rice, but your take is, as always, well-informed and fair. I really hope they start taking solo diners at the counter someday.

    Was he still doing the mustard thing?

    6 Replies
    1. re: sappidus


      i was kind of surprised bc ive always been kind of ho hum on ikura except when i was in japan when i was like holy crap this is so next level, but this time i actually really enjoyed it

      they do take solo diners, my friend ate there by herself

      what mustard thing are you referring to? id assume not since i dont know about it?

      1. re: Lau

        Nice in depth review Lau. As far as tuna goes, some of the best tuna comes from the "Canyon", which is about 100 miles off Montauk. Boston boats fish there for tuna as well. I used to watch the Japanese tuna buyers wait at the Montauk dock and buy the best , and biggest tuna and ship to Japan.
        I haven't been to Nakazawa yet but I hope I get there soon. I like the tamago at 15 East, it sounds like the tamago here is similar in style.
        Again thanks for a great review

        1. re: foodwhisperer


          i was very pleasantly surprised about the quality of the tuna particularly the maguro which was quite nice

      2. re: sappidus

        Yasuda's gets half of his rice from Sacramento.

          1. re: lexismore

            50% of the time it works all the time

      3. Great report. Nothing deserved a 9?

        I just realized that I have dined at the place he worked at in Seattle a few times. It was very good especially with all that freah PNW seafood.

        7 Replies
        1. re: MVNYC


          basically for something to be a 9+ it has to be:
          a) a dish i love
          b) its pretty close to as good as its going to get for that respective dish

          So while this is very good and meets the (a) criteria, it doesn't meet the (b) criteria. The absolute best stuff i've had is in Tokyo, so hence it wouldn't meet criteria (b). Also its not that he doesnt have the skill, but you can't get the same level of ingredients here that you can there.

          speaking of that i should write some posts about Japan, i have so many pics. I ate a ton of amazing food.

          1. re: Lau

            I hear you, most pacific fish is better than Atlantic and its much better closer to the source (as well as the choice fish going to the home market more inclined to appreciate it ). It even works for the PNW as well as most versions are better out there as well. That said some Atlantic fish is very good and getting the freshest stuff out here can rival a great piece of Pacific fish. Herring from Scandinavia and the Baltic is one of the my absolute favorite eating experiences there is.

            I have never been to a stellar sushi place near the Mediterranean (not sure how it would fare in the markets) but I bet it would be excellent. Some of the fish out there is extraordinary and does not travel well, especially crustaceans.

            Side note, the Shrimp was from New Caledonia? As in the French island by Vanuatu? I have never heard of shrimp being sourced there in NYC. Were these the live ones others have posted about?

            1. re: MVNYC

              yah i agree. The fish is better in japan, but the shellfish is like way way better in japan. There was a huge differential there. But i agree there is good fish to be had in either ocean, the thing is japan gets first dibs of the pacific fish and the top japanese sushi places get first dibs on that fish. But for example i prefer santa barbara uni to any other uni ive ever had. I've had uni in the US i would probably rate a 9.

              yah it was from new caledonia, I had to actually look up wth that is bc i honestly didnt know. first time ive heard of shrimps from there as well. Im not sure if it was the same shrimp others were posting about although i dont think it was?

              1. re: MVNYC

                if anyone happens to go there and gets that New Caledonia shrimp now that i know more about it, would be interesting to see how and why he decided to get shrimp from there? seems kind of a crazy far place to get shrimp from (it was quite good though)

                1. re: Lau


                  If you search for New Caledonia Shrimp a lot of hits come up. Apparently they are pretty impressive. Were yours live?

                  1. re: MVNYC

                    hmm i can't remember if they were live or not, but it was very good for ebi since i normally think ebi is pretty whatever

                    1. re: Lau

                      If they're still cooking 'em the same way, in that steamer thing, the shrimp aren't live. They were prepped in advance and stored in those fridge/drawer things.

          2. I've been having a hell of a time trying to get reservations for the sushi bar. Any suggestions? Is calling better than using the website? Is it basically 30days before at 9AM?

            3 Replies
            1. re: strangemd

              hmm i cant remember bc i made the reservation like the first 5 mins they were allowed. try giving them a call and they can explain the website

              1. re: strangemd

                Reservations don't open at 9am, they open at 12am (midnight) for 30 days in advance. The website is most likely your best bet.

                1. re: laurie0225

                  Finally scored 2 spots for early December. Very much looking forward to it. Those of you who've been, did you explore any hidden options after the omakase? Does he offer odd things to try for those who are still feeling peckish and curious?
                  I've seen varying styles among sushi chefs on this issue.

              2. Your picture are incredible. If you had to choose between 15 East and Nakazawa, which would you choose and why?

                1 Reply
                1. re: topeater

                  id give the slight nod to nakazawa. i like nakazawa's rice better and i just generally really liked the preparation and flavor profile of the sushi at nakazawa

                  not a knock on 15 east whatsoever as i really like that place and i think its just slightly below nakazawa and yasuda, def one of the best in the city still

                2. Thank you for the great review, I dined at Sushi Nakazawa back in August and thought it was excellent as well. I found his preparations to be very consistent from piece to piece and his cheerful personality to be very inviting. Did they serve you a slice of honeydew melon for dessert? I agree that Nakazawa is serving some of the best sushi in NYC.

                  I was actually fortunate to have dined at Sukiyabashi Jiro recently. I have to admit that there's a significant gap between the two but Nakazawa is getting there! I found every comparable piece that Jiro served to be superior in balance and taste (tamago included which was a surprise) except for the shako, which perplexes me as to why Jiro prepares it to be of a tough/grainy texture while Nakazawa prepares it to be tender. Perhaps it's a difference in palette that I won't be able to understand. I did show Jiro a picture that I had taken with Nakazawa and he smiled and joked that the restaurant no longer has a relationship with him because he betrayed them by leaving.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: nycsushihunter

                    he did give us honeydew at the end

                    very cool you got to eat there, the one thing about comparing US places to Japan places is that the Japan places do have better relationships / access to the best stuff, but nonetheless its interesting to compare. None of the places ive eaten at in the US are as good as the good places i went to in tokyo, not to say they're not good just not as good

                    1. re: Lau

                      The restaurants around Tsukiji are not better than the top tier in NYC. They have long lines but really not even close to the best Tokyo has to offer nor the best NYC has to offer. IMO

                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                        I absolutely agree but I think Lau and I are just speaking in general about comparisons. I ate at Sushi Dai in Tsukiji (after a 2 hour wait) and was disappointed but I wasn't surprised as I knew going in that it'd be nowhere near top tier and would probably fall somewhere close to very average for Tokyo standards. But with that said, Dai is better than what would be considered an "average" sushi-ya in NYC. There's no doubt it's nowhere near the best that Tokyo has to offer (besides Jiro I did eat at Mizutani and Sawada).

                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                          im not talking about tsukiji, i think anyone who knows about tokyo knows those are way touristy....last time i ate at sushi yoshitake and dai san (thanks silverjay!)

                          1. re: Lau

                            Oh sorry. When you said "Japan" places have better relationships etc, I misinterpreted that as "all" Japan is better than US. Yes Tsukiji is very touristy and not on the highest level. I will have to try the two places you just mentioned.,, I liked a place that gets hammered as too touristy Kyubey a couple of times. It happened to be excellent, but I found the annex more personal and better than the main one. I liked Sawada also. I totally enjoyed Sukeroku, kind of outskirts of Tokyo. A low key, old school, no tourist place. It is where Masato Shimizu trained(15 East). The chef speaks no English, i was with a Japanese friend , so I had no problem. This chef is a good friend with Jiro and almost as old as him. He had a huge variety of shellfish, which was quite a highlight. Interestingly, his neta were 50% larger in size than what 15 East serves and his shari a bit more vinegary,

                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                              the sushi place i ate at in tsukiji was one of the weakest meals i had in japan, we had a chirashi bowl that was just kind of whatever...although i ate at this famous ramen place outside of the market that was pretty good

                              yoshitake is very highly rated and dai san is highly rated although not as much so as yoshitake, both were really very good. dai san has to be one of the more reasonable sushi places, it was like 120 per person and was def better than anything in NY particularly the shellfish

                      2. re: nycsushihunter

                        wow, according to this
                        Nakazawa left on amicable terms.

                        I guess that's why Jiro never replies back to him.

                        1. re: PorkyBelly

                          Lau, you pretty much summed it up, they're good but just not as good.

                          PorkyBelly, you're right, he did leave on good terms. I said that Jiro was just making a joke. He's got a great sense of humor.