The Absolute Best Sushi Omakase in New York

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Ingenious new age omakase treats at Shuko. Photo: Bobby Doherty

Over the last decade or so, sushi has replaced steak as the city’s ultimate power food, and the ultimate expression of this (the new-age surf-and-turf blowout, if you will) is the no-holds-barred, cost-be-damned chef’s-choice feast. Like everything in the New York food world, the omakase scene is in constant flux, but these are the discreet big-money sushi ateliers and sushi palaces where we would choose to satisfy our sushi fix right now, if we happened to be worldly jet-setting billionaires and had months to procure a seat at the bar.

2. Ichimura at Brushstroke
30 Hudson St., at Duane St.; 212-791-3771

If you’re looking for the classic Jiro Dreams of Sushi experience in New York City, this is it. The bar has only nine seats (Jiro’s has ten), and like the famous octogenarian sushi master, Eiji Ichimura prepares his ultratraditional, unornamented sushi in a kind of priestly silence. There’s a vivid quality to each bite of the 18-piece set course meal, however, and although the $195 sticker price isn’t cheap, it’s the closest you’re likely to get to this slowly vanishing art without flying to Tokyo.

3. Sushi Nakazawa
23 Commerce St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-924-2212

Daisuke Nakazawa was trained by the famously stern Jiro, but the mood at this swank West Village omakase palace is downright convivial. Pay attention to the deep selection of continental wines, and to the impeccably sourced local fish, like pearly wet chunks of Maine scallop touched with yuzu and pepper, and the extraordinary sea urchin, which patrons are asked to pick — live, spikey, and wriggling — from a silver tray.

4. Masa
10 Columbus Cir., nr. Eighth Ave., fourth fl.; 212-823-9800

We’re told by regulars that the great man is not always behind the bar anymore (his sushi empire is ever-expanding), and thanks to a variety of things (global warming, vanishing fish, etc.) the unique range of his sushi offerings is not what it used to be during the economic boom years. But if you happen to have $1,000 ($595 for the most basic dinner, plus tax and the inevitable flutes of Champagne) burning a hole in your pocket, this great omakase temple is still worth visiting, provided you sit at the bar, not the dreary tables.

5. O Ya
120 E. 28th St., nr. Lexington Ave.; 212-204-0200

Tim and Nancy Cushman perfected their lavish omakase routine in Boston, and if you don’t feel like groveling for a seat at one of the city’s grand omakase palaces, this spacious, relatively relaxed Flatiron establishment will do just fine. The standard dinner includes all sorts of seductive delicacies, like soft pats of freshwater eel flavored with Thai basil, among other things, and an addictive vegetable-sushi creation constructed with Italian summer truffles and a single, carefully fried fingerling-potato chip.

6. Sushi Zo
88 W. 3rd St., nr. Sullivan St.; 646-405-4826

This is the year of the great L.A. invasion in upscale New York sushi circles, and if you want to experience the uniquely spare, no-nonsense (and, yes, at $200 per dinner, uniquely pricey) West Coast style, this new, unassuming 18-seat restaurant, which opened a couple of months ago below Washington Square, is the place to do it.

7. Kura
130 St. Marks Pl., nr. Ave. A; 212-228-1010

At this snug, refreshingly unpretentious omakase cubbyhole off Tompkins Square Park, Norihiro Ishizuka serves his classic, eminently affordable menu ($90 for 12 pieces of sushi, appetizer, soup, and dessert) with a happy smile, two pieces at a time. All of the fish is first-rate, but the house specialty is the toro, which comes in four different grades.

8. Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar
1372 York Ave., nr. 73rd St.; 917-265-8254

The variety of fish at this casual, slightly ramshackle Upper East Side omakase den isn’t astounding, but everything on Toshio Oguma’s menu (fat Hokkaido scallops, two kinds of tuna, a generous wad of uni with a quail egg on top) is impeccably fresh and, starting at $78 for the standard omakase dinner, blissfully cheap.  

The Absolute Best Sushi Omakase in New York