WEST VILLAGE, MANHATTAN.
When it comes to fine dining, I’m pretty much a noob. I could attempt to explain this in many ways, but a 23-year-old still trying to make a living out of school might just say it all. However, my lack of experience at the chic chewing is definitely not due to an unsophisticated palette. If I haven’t made this clear already, I love food. I love good food even more.
My mom always says, “Presentation is everything,” and every time I am quick to retort, “Who cares, as long as it still tastes good!?” It wasn’t until recently that I realized that food is also a medium for art – and, like all lessons my mom tries to teach me, I learned this the hard way.
B) A few months ago I was out of food and needed to ‘hit my daily food macros,’ so I made dinner: savory oatmeal (old-fashioned oats, spices, chicken, broccoli…and cottage cheese). I KNOW, I know. My roommate made every gross sound you are currently expressing – but not before she told me how great it smelled. And I’ve probably lost all of your trust at this point, but it was delicious.
So the lesson of the day is that food is art and presentation does count – or that maybe being too healthy is not as glamorous as it sounds…
Okay back to the important story.
An apprentice of the revered sushi master Jiro Ono, Daisuke Nakazawa is now the captain of his own ship, standing behind the counter of his own restaurant, Sushi Nakazawa. Located on an idyllic little street in the West Village, you enter the establishment to see Nakazawa himself, and master chefs making magic behind a ten-person sushi bar. According to some Internet research, it seems snagging a seat at said bar is near impossible. Reservations need to be made at least a month or two in advance, and only for a max of two people! Since we were a party of six, bar seating was not exactly an option.
After checking in with the hostess and having our coats taken, we were taken further back into the dining room area to be seated. Note: I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised at the modern black and white aesthetics; very simple and very chic. Several waiters arrived in slick, black suits with warm towels for us to clean our hands before bringing us a bottle of sake for my family and a glass of French white wine for yours truly! The way we were attended to the entire night was basically a dream come true for someone with OCD – all utensils and glasses lined up perfectly, and every time someone got up to use the restroom, our napkin would be re-folded and placed delicately on the table. Impeccable service.
In perfect noob style, I got really excited at the prospect of an unagi roll before I learned that Sushi Nakazawa serves you omakase style. “Omakase” in Japanese means “I’ll leave it to you,” and used as a culinary term to leave the menu up to the chef. Each person seated was served 20 pieces, all delicately prepared and explained to you how it was made before you tasted it. With fish and shellfish from all over the world, this was, without a doubt, an edible, cultural experience. It was really, really amazing to hear, see, and taste how fish from the West mixed with herbs from the South, marinated/ soaked/ fermented, and then seared or drizzled with citrus juice before we got to eat it. I spent half of dinner trying to capture the artistry behind each plate before I enjoyed it. Half the time it was almost too difficult to eat, having the chance to think about all the effort and precision that went into each combination, and especially the thought that went into its presentation.
Some of the pieces we enjoyed:
Again, I was brave and tried them all – save the salmon roe roll, because nuh-huh. This girl does not do fish eggs, and definitely does NOT do fat fish eggs. Without a doubt, my favorite was the barracuda, followed by king clam, smoked salmon, and eel. I didn’t care much for the fatty tuna or scallop, which I don’t particularly prefer when cooked anyway.
Typically, when dining omakase-style, customers put their faith into the chef and have high expectations for artistry and innovation. Let’s just say I was more than inspired. In a nutshell, my experience at Sushi Nakazawa was comparable to that of a brand-new gallery browsing: lovely!
Have you been? Or what omakase restaurants would you recommend?
3 Commerce St, New York, NY 10014