NOTE: NYC’s sushi scene has completely transformed in the last few years, making it truly world class and up there with some of the more obvious greatest sushi cities. Insane levels of creativity, quality, prices, variety, all of it. I wrote this for myself and for my friends. All food and all thoughts on food are completely and utterly subjective, they are only ever one persons opinion. So I didnt write this to enter in some some back and forth wankfest around whats right, whats wrong, how stupid this is etc. As a slight ounce of weight to this, i am somewhat credible, having run and led food based hospitality content and establishments. But again, its all subjective and so personal, that is literally what taste is, a personal thing, its impossible to describe in words or compare someones taste to another. So don’t let anyone tell you whats great or bad ultimately except yourself. Use these as guides.
APPROACH: I completed the top 30 sushi places in NYC. I compiled lists from Zagat, Michelin, Eater, Time Out, NY Times, lots of personal blogs, opinion sheets from people, conversations, personal reccs etc etc etc. and looked for all commonalities and put together effectively the best of NYC at the high end sushi places. This list is my opinion on all of them, across the same single criteria – the experience is the sushi counter omakase. and prices ranged (with tip and tax) from about $150/head to over $500/head. In most places where multiple omakase options were available i went for the top end most expensive one. I have eaten at most of these places a few times. NYC sushi has had a complete heavenly sushi reimagination the last few years and it is spectacular in many ways.
METHODOLOGY: I havent listed all the places i tried, just the ones in the top in my opinion and the ones that are to be avoided where the place and meal doesnt back up the hype. I have only really prioritized quality of fish, cuts, rice, the way they have been dressed, presented or curated, the fish and courses, the quality of seaweed, handrolls, etc. i have not taken in to account service or environment as much, a little in some places, unless otherwise noted. this is all about the bites, the food, the quality and refinement. a mix of the art too.
Reminder, these are all the most expensive places really. A few bang for bucks one listed below. But by in large, this is the cream of the crop.
If i only had 3 sushi meals left in NYC and HAD to choose. i would go with:
Oya, Kosaka and Azabu.
If i had 5. i’d add Kura and Seki.
If i only had one, i would have to decide that evening on if i felt like some flair & fusion (then Oya) or some purity godliness (Kosaka or Azabu). Something in the middle that is steady and strong is Cagen, has lots of moments of flair with lots of pure tradition too.
Best fun-filled sushi (ie slightly more sauces, toppings, flavours, playfulness, ingenuity etc) –
2. Sushi Seki (many would say ‘oh its not high brow enough’ or its the common mans place for sushi, but nothing beats the taste and what they do, let your taste buds do the talking not some need for false esotericism!)
3. Gaijin (long island) – if you are stuck at LGA on a lay over or delay, then this is 10 mins drive away and superb.
Best purest sushi (simplest preparations, best cuts of fish, best rice, slightly pre-dressed, very simple etc).
Kosaka (pure, artful, gorgeous setting, delicate, a temple like experience)
Sushi Azabu (tiny, intimate, eclectic pesentation, brilliant) (Azabu must be ended with the handroll not the cut roll option :))
Kura (feels like tokyo, tiny, warm, cuts and types you havent seen before)
Sushi Ko (you have to be ready to put up with a real hole of a place and a very very weird chef and setup, but he nails it and it will surprise you)
(and if you want to have a lot of fun, i’d throw in Sushi Dojo as a curve ball, great fish, great rice, party like atmosphere with sake flowing).
The next tier down:
Cagen (very very good, a fun meal, eclectic pieces and presentation)
Ichimura (BUT way pricey) (dont even bother with brushstroke)
And next down:
Shuko (not as good as its hype, but good)
Totally overhyped: (that is a very strong way to describe it, these places can be good, but again they wouldnt factor in to my top list).
Kurumazushi (v good, but not worth the money, way way too expensive.)
Nakazawa (nowhere close to its hype, and having eaten at Jiro, its totally different and nowhere near as good)
Yasuda is just fine, not super memorable, more of a factory now, and not worth it.
Masa (is good of course, but i think nyc has better to offer and for the price is insane and super not worth it)
Ginza Onodera (again, v v good, but so over priced, and not differentiated enough. Others have the same fish supplier and have as generous cuts, their uts may be too big and slabby for my liking)
Inoue (totally over hyped and not worth it)
15 East (shocked people ever mention it, dont go)
Pound for pound gems:
– Tanoshi (fun, flavourful, authentic)
both excellent, dojo surprisingly good, and very fun party like atmosphere. Tanoshi, classic, and really good.
Best bang for bucks: (not included in the top 30, these are extras that are more price reasonable and still good, more like $50 quick meals)
seki deluxe platter (+ the spicy scallop hand roll)
Sushi on Jones
Many others tried, not listed including:
Soto (now closed)
Katsuie (good for the price, not worth the trek, although west village one may be good now)
etc etc. etc etc etc etc