Star sushi chef Toshio Oguma has fallen ill and stepped away from Tanoshi Sushi, an UES gem considered one of NYC’s best omakase restaurants.
Oguma was admitted to the hospital June 27 after falling out of a 15-year remission from gastric cancer and has been away from the restaurant since, his daughter Olivia Oguma tells Eater. The tiny but well-reviewed restaurant at 1372 York Ave., between East 73 and 74 Streets, is operating normally, she says.
Loyal fans and customers have donated more than $14,000 to support the chef’s battle against the terminal illness through an online fundraiser set up by a family friend. Nearly 140 people have donated to the fundraiser in the 18 days its been active, surpassing the initial $10,000 goal by more than $4,000. The money will help the family and medical costs.
Toshio is currently being cared for at the Wiener Family Palliative Care Unit, an extension of Mount Sinai, but Olivia says he won’t be returning to Tanoshi. “All he wants to do is go back to work, and now he’s starting to understand that’s not going to happen,” she says.
Tanoshi swung open in 2013, giving the chef a platform to preserve the classic sushi tradition, tracing back to the cuisine’s humble roots and using few but significant ingredients. The 10-seat omakase spot owned by King Ang only has three seatings per night, and each chef only serves four people at a time. The remaining chefs, who were trained by Toshio, created work T-shirts with his name on it in his honor and have been wearing them during service.
It’s one of the more affordable options for omakase in town, but despite the under $100 price tag, it was also considered one of New York’s highest quality menus, in part due to Toshio’s handiwork.
Fans and friends have expressed their admiration over the chef and restaurant on the gofundme page.
“Toshio-san was the best boss, who also happened to remind me of my own Dad — strong, quiet, & humble, but expected a lot from his employees and was a perfectionist when it came to hospitality and running the restaurant,” writes Mackenzie Thomas, who created the page, about the time she spent as a hostess at one of his restaurants.
“I love Tanoshi — and not just for its mind-expanding, perfectly executed sushi... but for the energy of the place and the joy and pride taken in the work,” says food writer Charlotte Druckman on the page.