Huge news for sushi fanatics: After years of speculation — and at least one failed knockoff — Los Angeles' beloved omakase sushi chainlet Sugarfish is heading east. And along for the ride comes newer hand roll specialist, KazuNori.
Here's the deal: Four and a half years after scouting spaces in Manhattan, the Sugarfish team of OG Los Angeles chef Kazunori Nozawa (Sushi Nozawa) and partner Jerry Greenberg have signed a lease near Gramercy Tavern to take two floors at 33 E. 20th Street, currently Moore Brothers Wine Company (which will relocate to Brooklyn), for New York's first Sugarfish outpost — slated to open by the end of this year, possibly as early as November. The plan is to offer seating (about the same size as Sugarfish outlets in LA, so that's 40-ish seats and 1,600 square feet) on the ground floor, with a terrace space above, potentially to be used as a waiting area.
Of course, there's the question of sourcing fish and matching the quality Sugarfish is known for on the West Coast. Greenberg stresses that the team will be using almost all the same worldwide fish purveyors that supply Sugarfish Los Angeles for the New York location. The only difference will be if they find some great local fish. Then, those ocean animals will hit the menu here and would likely eventually make their way back to the menus in LA, too. Point is, the team is striving to exactly replicate what Sugarfish represents in LA, here in New York — which is good news. Sugarfish is known for the quality of its fish.
The menu will breakdown with the same omakase options and a la carte pieces (in addition to delivery) as LA, at a slightly higher price point to account for steeper rent, fish, and labor. But they still want the to-be-determined costs to be affordable. "We don't think prices need to be that much higher," says Greenberg.
Lauded architect Marmol Radziner, who conceived Sugarfish in Pasadena (and who will design KazuNori in Westwood and Santa Monica), is going to head up aesthetics in New York. Expect a similar LA vibe with dark wood, sleek lines, and an overall minimalist feel.
For those unfamiliar with Los Angeles' Sugarfish chainlet, the concept was born in 2008 as a more casual and approachable iteration of chef Nozawa's famed Studio City restaurant, Sushi Nozawa. There, he earned cred over 20 plus years as one of the city's first and most respected sushi chefs, known for his "Trust Me" omakase-style of dining, a mantra that was displayed as signage behind his iconic, now shuttered Ventura Boulevard sushi bar. (That location flipped into a Sugarfish in 2012.)
Sugarfish, which debuted in Marina del Rey, turned out to be such a hit — attracting hour-long lines for expert $30 omakases — that the city now counts ten locations, with New York slated to be number 11. Ultimately, the team is looking to create the same experience, same quality, same atmosphere, and same standard of fish found in LA. Also, for the record, Sugarfish has no plans to expand outside New York or LA. Just those two cities.
As for KazuNori, they're still scouting spaces, looking between 16th Street and NoMad. The goal is to roll with that concept next year. New York, get ready.