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Omakase for Two at Sushi Nakazawa

August 3, 2014

Two seats at the sushi bar at Sushi Nakazawa might be New York’s toughest reservation to secure at this moment.  I know because I too have sat at my desk with pointer finger on the refresh button and an eye on the clock as it inched towards midnight.  Even though I am as fast as can be, any remotely reasonable time for dinner 30 days in advance is never available to us commoners and even that 5PM less than ideal time slot dissipates into thin air the second you click on it.  It wasn’t for lack of trying but until recently, I had pretty much given up the idea of dining at Sushi Nakazawa, the New York sushi temple of Chef Daisuke Nakazawa, who was made famous by his appearance on Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

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Luckily, thanks for LZ’s persistence, I found myself turning a corner away from the hustle of 7th Avenue and onto a quiet and tranquil Commerce street one Wednesday night in June.  Sushi Nakazawa was lit up brightly, revealing a minimalist decor and when we arrived, the chefs were already behind the bar hard at work prepping for our 9.30PM seating.

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The best part about the weekday sushi bar seats was being served personally by Chef Nakazawa.  The team of chefs wasted almost no time and started our 20 piece meal the second we slid into the plush leather bar stools.

The first piece was salmon hailing all the way from Russia with yuzu…

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Followed by another salmon sushi, this time a smokey Sockeye from Alaska, a little closer to home.

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A buttery and sweet Maine scallop with yuzu pepper was next…

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and a taste of the Pacific Northwest for LZ and me, a little sweet geoduck…

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Before we were served the next piece, Chef Nakazawa walked around the bar to each and one of us a picture of our next dish.

“Nemo!”  He happily pointed out the resemblance between the rare barred knifejaw fish and the beloved animated fish.  Luckily, I had no qualms about picking up the piece and devouring it one bite.  The fish had a lovely bite and had a surprisingly smokey yet lemony finish.

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Next was a red snapper from Japan.  The beautiful red skin was even more vibrant after a slight singe under the torch and the snapper was finished off simply with a touch of flaked salt.

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Following the red snapper was another new specie to me.  The silver pomfret from Japan a Pacific ocean dweller, most similar to butterfish or better known as black cod.  The silver pomfret was mild and decorated with a simple piece of black peppercorn.

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To counter balance the mild silver pomfret, Chef served up a duo of mackerel.  A fresh piece of Aji mackerel was accompanied by a piece of horse mackerel that had been aged for 7 days and a dab of strong Japanese mustard.

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From here, we moved onto shrimp.  Specifically, a piece of these beautiful spotted prawns from Catalina.

“Sayonara shrimp!”

Chef held up a trio of these gigantic crustaceans briefly for viewing before unapologetically ripping the heads off with a swift motion and prepping them.

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What we found on our plates were beautifully translucent pieces of sweet spotted prawns with a dab of soy.

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As a contrast, we were presented with humba shrimp, this time blanched quickly in a boiling stock and draped over rice.  For elegance sake, the giant shrimp were sliced into two for the ladies and left as a whole for the gentlemen diners.

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By this point, Chef stopped by each diner to ask if we were starting to feel full and if we would like to have smaller rice pieces.  Smaller pieces?  I felt like I could eat another 10 more so I graciously declined the offer and turned my attention to our next piece, a lovely amber jack from Japan…

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Followed by a smokey bonito, also hailing from Japan.

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The next three pieces came together as one masterpiece.  All belly of the blue fin tuna but of various fattiness.  We started on the left with the leanest piece, and then moved onto a medium fatty piece that was gentle torched.  Finally, we ended with the fattiest piece of the belly that literally just melted in your mouth.

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I knew that we were nearing the end of our omakase when uni made an appearance.  A piece of uni from Hokkaido was adorned with black truffle salt.  While I loved the taste of the uni by itself, the black truffle salt seemed a bit superfluous on such a beautiful piece of sea urchin.

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When there is uni, there will be ikura.  The rice parcels made for the perfect vehicle for a cluster of the gems from Alaska.

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Our last piece of sushi for the night was sea eel, barely glazed with a touch of sweet sauce.

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Before we moved onto dessert, we were all presented with a piece of tamago.  This was no ordinary tamago and we all knew.  This was the piece that caused so much blood, sweat and tears for Chef Nakazawa during his apprenticeship at Jiro.  Knowing this, we all slowly savored the delicate piece, one bite at a time, as if we can taste the years of training that went into the making of a skilled sushi chef.

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There were no desserts here at Sushi Nakazawa.  Instead, we were all presented with a sorbet of yuzu and mixed berries and hot green tea.  The icy and tart sorbet hit the spot as a palate cleanser, a nice light finish to the meal.  I didn’t realize how full I had become until I finally left my comfortable seat at the bar.  The chefs were already quietly cleaning up for the night as the diners lingered a little more, some to take pictures with Chef and others to finish the last bit of sake.  This was truly one of my favorite omakase experiences in the city.  The mix of familiar fish with some more exotic selections made the tasting exciting and kept us on our toes.  And while you can tell throughout the meal that Chef Nakazawa is clearly a professional artist who takes his craft very seriously, there was also a sense of enjoyment and playfulness that came out as he interacted with the guests.  This was someone who not only is amazing at what he does but also loves every second of it.

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Sushi Nakazawa | 23 Commerce Street, New York, NY 10014 | http://www.sushinakazawa.com/

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