Sushi has come a long way in New York City over the course of the last few decades. The Japanese specialty can now be found in almost every neighborhood throughout all five boroughs, with thousands of sushi spots running the gamut from fast and cheap to the cost equivalent of one month’s rent (in some other, more reasonably priced city). A couple of decades ago, that wasn’t the case.
But along with the rise in availability comes a corresponding increase in mediocrity. Not all sushi-ya are created equally. Fresh fish is imperative. Sourcing, handling, slicing, and presenting properly is not as easy as it seems. These 14 spots take that all into consideration, and are doing sushi the absolute best -- from once-in-a-lifetime omakase (unless you're independently wealthy), to no-frills neighborhood haunts.
Hidden away in the basement of an East Village walk-up, Michelin-starred Kyo Ya specializes in kaiseki cuisine -- intricate, multi-course menus highlighting seasonal ingredients served in stunning, artistic presentations. Under the guidance of chef Chikara Sono, the restaurant offers numerous raw fish options on both tasting and a la carte menus, including a type of pressed sushi called bozushi. The options change regularly: one day, you might see Tasmania trout with oborokobu seaweed. Another day, it could be simmered sea eel or marinated seared mackerel. If you’re looking to try the full kaiseki experience, reservations are required -- but you can easily walk in for the a la carte option.
A newcomer on the NYC sushi scene, Shuko has a rather concise menu: sushi omakase and sushi kaiseki. But what it lacks in options it makes up for in meticulous presentation. The kaiseki, priced at $175, includes a multi-course menu with composed dishes (think pan-seared squab breast) and sushi tastings. The omakase, which is slightly more affordable at $135, is all seafood -- that is, an excellent selection of high-quality seafood intricately prepared by chefs Jimmy Lau and Nick Kim, both alumni of the overly lavish Masa. Look out for creative takes on classics, including a spicy tuna roll filled with toro and pickled red Thai chilies that are so spicy, even the most ardent hot-sauce enthusiast could be brought to tears.
Tokyo native and third-generation sushi chef Kunihide Nakajima has more than 25 years of Edomae experience under his belt, and in 2015, he was recognized as the “Best Sushi Chef in New York” by the Village Voice. There’s a reason: Nakajima serves strictly fresh, traditional Tokyo-style nigiri in both sushi-only and kaiseki omakase at his eponymous eight-person counter tucked inside Harlem’s Jado Sushi. While the speakeasy-style dining experience is somewhat overdone at this point, what really sets this sushi-ya apart from the others is that it only serves wild, in-season seafood. Nakajima talks to the buyers in Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market on a daily basis, which means he gets rare and sometimes esoteric selections, ranging from spotted halibut and Russian sea urchin to crab brain and fermented tuna belly. Plus, his vinegared rice recipe has been passed down through his family for the past seven decades (and you can taste the difference). If you can’t fork over the cash for a full tasting, grab a seat at a nearby table for a la carte sushi and sashimi.
Unlike high-end sushi-ya with $100-plus tastings, Tomoe is the quintessential no-frills New York sushi joint packed with locals who have been going for decades. That means you can prepare for an exceptionally long wait (lines frequently snake out the door and down the block), but what you get is well worth it; it’s consistently affordable, totally unpretentious, and the fish is always fresh. A filling sushi platter costs under $20 to just over $30, depending on the time of the day, and a la carte options range from toro and smoked white tuna, to uni and spicy cod fish roe.
When you want the omakase experience of a lifetime (and don’t mind spending a good portion of your monthly rent), you reserve a bar-front seat at Sushi Nakazawa. Chef Daisuke Nakazawa trained under world-renowned Jiro Ono -- yes, that Jiro Ono, from Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and who often mans the bar at his namesake Michelin-rated restaurant, along with a handful of enthusiastic chefs handing out artfully prepared sushi that highlights the best fish found across the globe. The style here is traditional Edomae, which incorporates age-old techniques for maximizing the flavors of fresh-caught fish. The menu changes regularly according to availability, and items may range from live scallop with yuzu pepper paste to Maine uni, to even wagyu steak nigiri. Again, dinner here is not cheap. Nakazawa’s 20-course dinners will set you back at least $150 per person at the bar ($120 in the dining room), and the sake pairing can really bring the bill over the top -- plus, getting a reservation to begin with is a challenge -- but he’s a living legend, and his fish (and the experience) is certainly worth the price.
East Village and TriBeCa sushi-philes should be counting their blessings for these neighborhood sushi joints, where the fish is fresh, the service is great, and most importantly, a dinner won’t cost you half your paycheck. The menus differ slightly at each location, but both offer supremely fresh fish and creative rolls at reasonable prices. Most of the rolls hover just over $10 apiece, and sushi platters, with glistening hunks of well-prepared fish, run around $20.
It takes at least three weeks of advance planning to book a weekend seat at master chef Eiji Ichimura’s sushi bar nestled inside David Bouley’s Brushstroke. But it’s worth planning ahead: the food is superb, and the zen-like atmosphere makes eating here almost feel like being in a monastery -- where expensive fish is the deity. Only eight seats are available for this Edomae omakase menu, staggered in two seatings, 6pm and 9pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Honoring sushi’s origin as a means of preserving fresh fish, some of the offerings are served aged, cured, or pickled, which only intensifies the flavors and textures. There’s no telling what the menu may be on any particular night, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself faced with fatty tuna, salmon roe, Hokkaido uni, and flights of aged fish.
Having opened in Midtown in May, this upscale outpost of Ginza of Tokyo serves omakase sushi made exclusively from wild-caught fish. Executive chef Masaki Saito (recently of Sushi Ginza Onodera Hong Kong) leads the team at the 16-seat sushi bar, which serves intricately prepared seasonal nigiri like Japanese tiger prawn and golden eye snapper cured with kelp. The chainlet (which also has locations in London, Honolulu, Paris, Shanghai, and an upcoming branch in West Hollywood) maintains close relationships with fishermen based out of ports around Japan, which means the chefs get the best catch throughout the week. The rice is also specially grown for sushi and sourced from selected farmers, and even the pottery is hand-picked! At dinner, omakase menus will set you back at least $300. In comparison, the $70 lunch is kind of a steal.
This casual Park Slope spot offers exceptionally fresh fish, masterfully prepared by skilled sushi chef Yuji Sano. The quality is high, but the prices are low enough to garner a devoted following of regulars. Order the omakase at the bar; those prime seats get you up close and personal with Sano and let you taste his impeccable nigiri as soon as it's ready. Brace yourself for the likes of rich tuna, prime sea urchin, or earthy monkfish liver, gently laid atop warm, vinegary rice.
This intimate (i.e. tiny) Clinton St omakase joint is, in some ways, an unorthodox fit for the Lower East Side. The light wood interior is serene in the vein of traditional Japanese sushi-ya, and the prices are steep. But personable, tattoo-covered, Jersey-bred itamae (chef) John Daley isn’t a conventional guy. He spent time working under Masato Shimizu at Michelin-starred 15 East, then moved to Tokyo to learn from Shimizu’s mentor, Rikio Kugo, at acclaimed Sukeroku. While in Japan, Daley dove deep into the Japanese fishing community, forging relationships that today help him source exceptional fish like goldeneye snapper sushi and mackerel caught off the coast of Kyushu.
This subterranean sushi den holds a Michelin star for its exemplary omakase dishes and spotless service. Fresh seafood is flown over straight from Japan, and prepared simply in the traditional Edomae style. Different multi-course menus are offered at several price points -- some relative values can be found during lunch -- with varying options. The higher the price, the more interesting the selections, with uni and toro tasting courses included in the mix. A la carte options are available, too.
Former Jewel Bako chef Yoshihiko Kousaka opened his namesake restaurant in late 2015, after more than 35 years of sushi-making experience. At a 10-seat L-shaped bar and handful of tables, the gregarious chef offers two fantastic omakase options: sushi-only ($145), and a chef’s tasting with hot dishes, for $175. The fish, which is served in a straightforward, traditional style, is sourced from New York and Tokyo's Tsukiji market, and Kousaka prides himself on having rarer selections that change according to availability, such as giant clam, redeye snapper, and deepwater sea bass.
With two West Side locations, this casual sushi spot is known for having staunch devotees, almost all of which know the go-to order is the spicy tuna crispy rice. Momoya serves hearty portions of magnificently fresh fish for around the same price as a high-end burger. It’s not exactly cheap, but the cost is far below special-occasion-status sushi. Expect to see a little bit of everything, including several forms of tuna, golden big eye snapper, live scallop, and some cooked dishes (which makes it a good spot to fill a raw fish craving while appeasing that seafood-phobic friend everyone has).
Marco Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitzky’s upscale Japanese restaurant is one of the heavy hitters in the NYC sushi game. You’ll need a sizable budget to play, but sushi chef Noriyuki Takahashi’s faultless seafood tasting menu is worth it. While the multi-course is the ideal way to work through Takahashi’s repertoire, less expensive omakase and a la carte choices are available as well. The menu offers dishes from the kitchen -- like fantastic handmade soba -- and a variety of species, including a handful of tuna selections, numerous varieties of whitefish, several types of yellowtail, and more mackerel than you knew existed.
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1. Kyo Ya 94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009 (East Village)
Good news for raw fish lovers -- while this subterranean Japanese restaurant is known for an exquisite kaiseki tasting that requires a strict reservation, the top-notch sushi and sashimi are offered a la carte at any time. The ingredients change frequently, but the quality never wavers (expect the freshest Hokkaido octopus or Tasmanian salmon trout, for example). Pressed sushi is another specialty, featuring firmly-packed rectangles of shiso and ginger-infused rice topped with buttery mackerel or soy-marinated salmon.
Tucked inside Harlem's Jado Sushi, Nakajima is one of the most under-the-radar omakase spots in the city. Third-generation sushi chef Kunihide Nakajima serves traditional, Edomae-style sushi at the eight-seat counter, but that's not what sets this dining experience apart from similar Japanese restaurants in the city. Instead, it's the variety and quality of the seafood -- Nakajima balances his wild, in-season seafood supply between local, tri-state area fishermen and buyers at Tokyo's Tsukiji market. His selections are always changing and range from spotted halibut and Russian sea urchin to crab brain and fermented tuna belly.
Despite its no-frills environment, diners queue up daily to get their hands on Tomoe’s delicious rawness. The monster-sized pieces of sushi and sashimi, plus the skillfully assembled hand rolls (the spicy tuna in particular), are well worth the (also sometimes-monster) wait.
Chef Daisuke Nakazawa’s 20-course omakase features some of the absolute freshest sushi you will ever experience (second to Japan), as well as some of the most interesting (you can expect torches, live shrimp, and lots of rare sakes at this West Village favorite).
Tucked into a small space above underground music club Drom, Takahachi is the place for high-quality, affordable sushi in Alphabet City, hence the wait for a table just about every night of the week. Despite its extensive fanbase, you’ll find it has a quiet, low-key feel. Not to mention, the service is always friendly and a dinner here (or at the TriBeCa location) won’t cost you half your paycheck. The pro-move is to grab a seat at the sushi bar and tell the chef what you're feeling. He'll even create off-menu rolls, like fried soft-shell crab and Albacore tuna, tailored to your preferences.
This upscale sushi bar located inside David Bouley's Brushstroke in TriBeCa serves Edomae-style sushi, an old-world Japanese style of sushi-making which typically highlights a specific ingredient or type of fish. While the resulting dish may appear deceptively simple, rest assured it's anything but: and at Ichimura, chef Eiji Ichimura's focus on rare and seasonal ingredients ensures your meal will be one to remember.
This famed omakase mini-chain on Fifth Ave (it also has locations in Tokyo, Honolulu, London, Paris, and Shanghai) serves some of New York's finest raw fish, almost all of which is imported from Japan. Dinner at the 16-seat sushi counter isn't cheap -- we're looking at $300-400 per person -- but it's worth the splurge to experience the work of the masterful team, led by sushi chef Masaki Saito, who relocated from Tokyo to head up this outpost.
Traditionally-trained sushi chef Yuji Sano is behind the unfussy but masterful creations at this casual Park Slope sushi restaurant. The combination of exceptionally fresh fish, surprisingly low prices, and neighborhood feel has helped Taro garner a loyal following among south Brooklynites. The menu is à la carte, but there is an omakase option at the bar -- a wise choice as the prime seats allow for a front row view of Sano's work. Rich tuna, sea urchin, and monkfish liver laid atop warm, vinegary rice all await you.
An air of disappointment on the Lower East Side was palatable when this beloved eleven seater was out of commission for three months. But now New York Sushi Ko is back and it's better than ever. The intimate prix fixe spot serves nigiri, omakase and sashimi with panache and elegance.
Accessed through the soba izakaya Daruma-Ya, this tiny basement sushi bar hooks up next-level sushi, like the signature ikura nigiri topped with a quail egg, flash-fried tile fish with ponzu sauce, and lobster tail with uni sauce. All of that and more makes Sushi Azabu one of the best sushi restaurants in all of New York City.
This omakase spot may be tiny but that doesn't mean it's not lively. Clocking in at only 18 seats, Kosaka makes up for lack of space with a jazzy, high-end approach to sushi. The a la carte menu is usually seasonal: pick for yourself or order from a chef's tasting menu.
This minimalist sushi restaurant has gained a loyal following at both its Chelsea and Upper West Side locations among neighborhood regulars who know that the go-to order is the spicy tuna crispy rice. On a scale of one to 10, where one is the sushi restaurant you only know from Seamless and 10 is upscale omakase, Momoya is a six. The space is casual but not so casual that you'd rather eat at home, and the sushi and sashimi options are traditional, thoughtful, and above all, fresh. The drink menu, too, is far from basic with a wide variety of sake and wine.
15 East is a Union Square sushi joint that's doling out some of the best omakase in the city. Specialties like ice-cured wild sea bass are prepared minimally so all the different flavors and textures can shine in all unadulterated glory. The Michelin-starred Japanese eatery also augments its super-fresh ingredients with seasonal produce from the Union Square Market. Sushi bars were made for solo dining and of course your favorite local joint will do, but if you want to up your game, reserve a seat at 15 East’s nine-seat sushi counter and let the magic begin. Order à la carte, or omakase -- $65 for 10 pieces of sushi or sashimi -- and enjoy a personalized tasting from newly appointed Chef Noriyuki Takahashi. Don't be surprised if famed chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten are sitting next to you.