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It wasn’t so long ago that sushi was considered impossibly foreign and bizarre in American culture. Sushi was like champagne and caviar, a Robin Leach-friendly status symbol for those wanting to bridge the gap between exotic exclusivity and California healthy living. These days there is a sushi bar on nearly every block, and for a quick bite to eat, you can’t beat it.
The best sushi is all about impeccably prepared rice, subtle sauces and seasonings, perfects cut of fish, and garnishes that harmoniously enhance rather than overpower. The best sushi doesn’t come with a bottle of soy sauce and wasabi paste – it comes straight from the chef’s discerning palate, arranged exactly as it’s meant to be eaten.
Good sushi can be deceptively simple – for so few ingredients, there are so many ways that sushi can go wrong. But when it goes right, it can be one of the most decadent and satisfying meals you will ever experience. Whether you go modern or traditional, omakase or off the menu, these five sushi bars and restaurants represent the best in sushi and the spectrum of ways to enjoy it.
Nobu Home Base: New York, NY
Cuisine: Japanese Latin Fusion
Average Omakase Price: $120 USD
There is nothing traditional about Nobu Matsuhisa. Rather than focus inward on a single sushi bar and the simplicity of traditional Edo style sushi, Nobu embraced the diverse world around him. Working in Peru and Argentina in the 1970s, he absorbed the flavors and ingredients of South America to create unique and mouthwatering Latin-Asian dishes like sashimi tacos and broiled black cod in miso. When fusion cuisine took the world by storm in the 1990s, Nobu’s Latin-infused Japanese cuisine was at the forefront. Using that momentum to team up with high-rollers like Robert DeNiro, Nobu built a Michelin star-winning empire of sushi and Japanese cuisine that continues to command respect.
When it comes to sushi,Nobustill knows how to keep it classic. You’re in good hands whether you choose from an extensive and varied menu or order the omakase sushi menu and let the chef decide. With such diversity, don’t be afraid to explore. Exciting and mouth-watering options await, from Nobu’s signature black cod with miso to the unexpected combination of baby artichoke and melt-in-your-mouth whitefish sashimi in a light and tangy yuzu-miso sauce. Even the desserts are two steps above the average sushi bar, with beautifully presented concoctions that push the boundaries of both flavor and design. Nobu restaurants do sushi like no one else around – but if that’s wrong, we don’t want to be right.
Morimoto Home Base: Philadelphia, PA
Cuisine: Modern Sushi + Kaiseki
Average Omakase Price: $120 USD (+ $85 sake)
Fans of Iron Chef will certainly recognize the name Masaharu Morimoto. While honing his skills as head chef at Nobu New York, Morimoto battled as the often-undefeated Iron Chef Japanese on the competitive cooking show. You don’t have to be a fan of Iron Chef to enjoy Chef Morimoto’s flagship Philadelphia sushi bar and restaurant – just be a fan of great sushi. The modern art décor and training under Nobu should tip you off that you aren’t necessarily in for a purist Edo-mae sushi experience.Morimoto Restaurantmarries a wide range of traditional sushi and sashimi plates with playfully named fusion entrees like Soba Carbonara and the Morimoto Surf and Turf, a pairing of kobe beef filet with hamachi strips and avocado salad. If you decide to follow the Morimoto omakase sushi menu, take your experience to the next level with a complementing sake omakase as well. For an extra $85 per person, the chef will pair each sushi course with the perfect hand-selected sake.
Jewel Bako Home Base: New York, NY
Cuisine: Modern Edo-mae Sushi
Sushi Bar Seats: 7
Average Omakase Price: $95+
Subsisting on little hype or fanfare – without even a website to advertise their sushi wares – Jewel Bako is a true diamond in the rough. This cozy NYC East Village sushi restaurant serves up a number of Japanese dishes, but you’ll want to nab a prime spot at the exclusive sushi bar for the best omakase experience. If you’re looking for a truly decadent sushi experience, indulge in Jewel Bako’s famed live lobster sashimi dish. Not for the faint of heart, this sushi dish involves your chef plucking a lobster straight from the tank and carving it as you watch, serving it straight to you within minutes for instant tender, glistening, beautifully presented sushi gratification. While you enjoy the sushi portion, the rest of the lobster is cooked into a delicious white miso soup and served to you as a later course.
Urasawa Home Base: Beverly Hills, CA
Cuisine: Traditional Edo-mae Sushi
Sushi Bar Seats: 10
Average Omakase Price: $350 USD
Urasawa makes its home on the upper level of a shopping center on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. The dishes served at Urasawa may be as expensive as the luxury goods sold below, but they are also just as beautiful. Hiro Urasawa, who trained for years under world-class sushi chef Masa Takayama, serves his dishes with a twist: where Edo sushi at its most traditional is an austere affair, Urasawa turns each and every plate into an edible work of art. This omakase sushi is truly done Urasawa’s way. Delicate cuts of sashimi arrive on beautifully carved ice sculptures, while hot dishes come on warm stones and in steaming cast iron pots. Plates are adorned with colorful splashes of chrysanthemum, shiso, and gold flake, making every visit a deeply satisfying feast for all senses. In the style of a true artist, Urasawa’s work is available only to a limited engagement. The sushi bar is limited to ten patrons, with an adjoining private room to seat four more. But for some of the best sushi in the west, it’s well worth the reservation.
Sukiyabashi Jiro Home Base: Tokyo, Japan
Cuisine: Traditional Edo-mae Sushi
Sushi Bar Seats: 10
Average Omakase Price: ¥30,000 ($360 USD)
In the basement of a Tokyo office building hides a tiny sushi bar calledSukiyabashi Jiro. There are only ten seats, and there is no a la carte sushi menu to choose from – only a selection of beer and sake, and Edo-mae sushi omakase from the razor sharp mind of octogenarian sushi master Jiro Ono. This unassuming hole-in-the-wall sushi shop may appear modest, but don’t be fooled: Sukiyabashi Jiro has racked up three Michelin stars, and Anthony Bourdain named it as one of thirteen places everyone should eat before they die. It is often referred to as home of the best sushi in the world, period.
Jiro Ono’s preparation is starkly simple and the pure essence of traditional sushi. Superior execution is at the heart of Sukiyabashi Jiro, from the perfectly cooked rice to some of the best fresh fish in Tokyo prepared with exacting precision. It’s the kind of craftsmanship that can only come from decades of training and dedication, and it’s a sushi eating experience that you cannot afford to miss.
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