Cobi Levy’s Niko is poised to open with the most ambitious sushi program we’ve seen in a while, but before you think this constitutes a comeback, you may want to read a couple of recent articles. It’s no secret that the high-end sushi market contracted with the recession. In a piece about the Tokyo Sushi Academy, the Times informs that it’s not just New York: In Japan, revenue at traditional sushi restaurants declined from ¥1.08 trillion in 2006 to ¥1.049 trillion in 2009. Still, graduates of the academy are hoping that fast-tracking their way around the lengthy apprenticeships of old will lead to jobs in countries that are still hungry for sushi, like Poland (even if that means they have to fry a lot of stuff). Meanwhile, back here in New York, Crain's points out that Riingo, after parting ways with Marcus Samuelsson, ditched its sushi counter and replaced it with twelve extra seats and menu items such as beer-braised short ribs. “The reason is simple: Sushi is expensive and preparing it requires extra labor.” It’s obvious the number of places willing to serve high-end sushi has shrunk, but can we say the same about the number of people excited to eat it? Guess we’ll find out when Niko opens.
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