The number of high-end omakase sushi restaurants in NYC seems to proliferate week by week. And they each have their own unique elements. Some are run by famous chefs from Tokyo, while others are helmed by former apprentices branching out on their own for the first time. Some are serene and quiet, while others have curated playlists of Lauryn Hill and Biggie. Some serve 18 nigiri in rapid succession, while others blend in cooked dishes. So when you’re looking to spend the cost of a decent 50-inch TV on a sushi dinner for two, you probably want to know what differentiating elements each place offers.
Nakaji has a few distinctions in the fancy sushi landscape. First, there’s the setting. Located in a little alley running between Bowery and Elizabeth in Chinatown, you’re probably going to walk around confused for a few minutes before you find the place. When you finally locate and ring the doorbell, you’ll be welcomed into the bar area that leads into the 10-seat dining room. Saying that a sushiya outside Japan “feels just like Tokyo” is a cliché at this point, but here, it’s true.
The menu ($220 before tax and tip) also stands out from its peers, mainly through its dedication to seasonality. On any given night, the three starter dishes and the dozen-ish nigiri that follow might vary pretty widely. You can definitely expect different seasonal fish - like uni from Russia, Japanese cuttlefish, or even herring. Yes, you’ll probably also get a piece or two of fatty, buttery toro, but the deeper cuts are what set Nakaji apart. The focus here is more on quality and uniqueness than on volume - some other places in this price point certainly hit you with more pieces of sushi.
When it comes to picking a high-end sushi place in NYC, Nakaji’s a great choice for connoisseurs willing to pay for unique fish and a straight-out-of-Tokyo experience. If you’re more likely to be impressed by the chance to try shirako (a.k.a. cod sperm) during its short season than by a torched piece of wagyu, get Nakaji on your list.