New York’s sushi scene has come a long way over the last two decades — so much so that great sashimi and nigiri can be found in most neighborhoods. Today, Manhattan has some of the highest-quality seafood found outside of Japan, and the city’s top counters are as good as many respected places in Tokyo. In the last year, New York has welcomed in top-tier players like Nakaji and Shion 69 Leonard, and slightly more affordable counters like Sushi Ikumi and Omakase Room by Mitsu.
Below, this guide spans the gamut from Masa, one of America’s most expensive restaurants, to the quality-driven neighborhood gem that still might cook chicken teriyaki. With that in mind, here’s a list of NYC’s sushi houses that are a cut above the rest — but first some guidelines for traditional sushi-eating practices:
1. Don’t be late. Omakase meals typically start at the time of one’s reservation, so it’s customary to arrive five to 10 minutes early. Showing up on time is considered late.
2. Sit at the bar whenever possible. It’s just not the same at a table, where a chef can’t directly hand off pieces of fish.
3. Do not mix fresh wasabi in with soy. Chefs take pride in their wasabi; diluting it can be insulting.
4. When sitting at a sushi counter, eat nigiri the second it lands in front of you. If not, the temperature contrast between fish and rice, the moisture from the painted sheet of sauce, and the structural integrity of the whole darn piece could be compromised.
5. Everyone will like uni eventually, so keep trying it. It may be a lot at first, but there is a reason the room goes quiet when the box comes out.
6. Don’t ask, “What’s fresh?” Fish is often intentionally aged at least a few days to reach peak flavor and texture.
7. Don’t talk about all the other omakases you’ve smashed in NYC. It’s obnoxious.
8. Pick up nigiri directly, sans chopsticks, at tasting counters.
9. Each chef will have a slightly different style of cooking rice, and there is no perfect version. Instead of judging it, just consider it on the spectrums of sweetness, acidity, granularity, and temperature.
10. Chefs prefer when diners don’t wear perfume or cologne. It can distract from the meal.
11. When having a blast, offering to buy the chef a round of sake is a nice touch. Or offer a glass of the bottle you’ve brought.
Note: This is an updated map originally published in 2016.
The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.Read More