Sushi Nakazawa — one of the city’s most beloved and affordable omakases — loses a star this week from Times critic Pete Wells, a blow for the West Village restaurant famous for its connection to hit 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Once one of the city’s hardest reservations, the Tokyo-style sushi counter has become “more accessible than ever,” Wells writes, but it’s lost some of its flair to get there. To accommodate demand, the restaurant has made the sushi’s production line more efficient: Chefs pre-slice fish ahead of seatings, rather than to-order. There’s also additional lunch service, and it stays open seven days a week, instead of five.
Those changes, though, have led to the loss of a star, bringing it from four stars to three stars. There are now “few surprises or rarities,” Wells writes, and some of the bites that blew him away in the past are now less appealing, such as the shrimp:
One of my strongest impressions from the restaurant’s early days is the flavor of the live shrimp — the same ones Mr. Nakazawa liked to launch at unsuspecting customers before killing them, shelling them and laying them over a parcel of warm rice. Each time I ate one, I felt the room spin. The lusterless, pre-killed spot prawns I’ve had there recently were no substitute at all.
I doubt advance slicing was the reason the scallop with yuzukosho on its underside, like a concealed weapon, seemed less vividly seasoned than it used to be. Nor did it have anything to do with what’s happened to the tamago, which used to be a kind of whipped custard with a haunting savory finish and is now more like a blandly sweet yellow spongecake.
Wells first awarded four-stars on the sushi restaurant in 2013, just months after restaurateur Alessandro Borgognone and chef Daisuke Nakazawa opened the doors. Borgognone brought Nakazawa to New York after watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the popular documentary where Nakazawa moonlights as an apprentice at Tokyo’s three Michelin-starred Sukiyabashi Jiro. It’s since expanded to DC, where its location in the Trump Building faced criticism.
The restaurant still has pieces that took Wells “on a quick thrill ride,” like the golden-eye snapper and the yellowtail, and with a reasonable $150 price point, the critic commended the restaurant’s “populism,” particularly as so many sushi spots raise their prices.