The best Japanese restaurants in New York: an expat's guide
Are you in New York and craving top-quality Japanese food? You’re in the right place. The city has the highest number of Michelin-starred Japanese restaurants outside Japan — even more than other foodie metropolises such as Paris and London.
The 24 Best Omakase Restaurants In NYC
From insanely fresh yellowtail to heavenly toro, New York City is spoiled with some of the best sushi on the east coast. Omakase, a Japanese phrase meaning I'll leave it up to you, is our favorite way to get the full sushi experience. Omakase dining consists of the chef pre-selecting courses, allowing diners to enjoy a culinary journey of the very best the restaurant has to offer. Whether you want to splurge on an extravagant experience or keep things simple, these are the best omakase restaurants in NYC.
Juku Izakaya, NYC
I've said it before and I'll say it again... Chef Koji Hagihara is one of the finest chefs currently working in NYC. Combining Japanese, Chinese and French training and techniques, he creates some of the most innovative and memorable menus wherever he works. I've posted about the amazing meals we enjoyed at Hakata Tonton during his long tenure there, as well as his time in the kitchen at short-lived hotspot Roki. Now Koji-san has moved downtown to the year-old Japanese eatery Juku, or more specifically, Juku Izakaya...
The New York City Restaurants to Know This Fall
While the days of sun-drenched rooftops and dining al fresco are coming to an end, New York has no shortage of fresh restaurants that make it feel right to be inside. Whether you're looking for sky-high glamour during Fashion Week or immersive underground appeal for date night, these are the most stylish destinations to experience this fall.
A Tri-Level Japanese Spot from the 1 or 8 Sushi Chef Lands in Five Points
Chef Kazuo Yoshida, known for amassing a cult-like following while behind the sushi counter at Williamsburg's 1 or 8, can now be found in the kitchen of Juku: a multi-level Japanese restaurant that's now open in Five Points.
Breakout Sushi Star Unveils His Own Omakase, at $80 a Set
Chef Kazuo Yoshida, former sushi chef at Williamsburg's 1 or 8, became a breakout sushi star in the last year, garnering effusive praise from both Times critic Pete Wells and former Bloomberg critic Tejal Rao. Now, he's headlining his very own stage at Juku, an omakase restaurant and izakaya now open in Chinatown where Yoshida created the entire menu.
A Science-Obsessed Cocktail Star Now Has a Wild and Wacky Bar in Chinatown
Molecular gastronomy and art collide at Straylight, the new bar from cocktail star Dorothy Elizabeth now open below Juku in Chinatown. Elizabeth, an Eater Young Gun, has created a la carte and tasting menus that rely on her degree in organic chemistry and mathematics.
OMAKASE-STYLE COCKTAILS SERVED INSIDE AN ART INSTALLATION AT STRAYLIGHT
It's certainly not uncommon to sit at a bar and ask the bartender for a recommendation. From the prestigious bars at The Ritz in Paris to Attaboy on the LES, bespoke cocktail offerings continue to manifest internationally. But there's something different about Straylight, a brand new cocktail bar tucked underneath Juku in NYC's Chinatown. Juku as a whole defies expectation, morphing the old Le Baron space into three distinct sub-venues. There's an omakase sushi counter loft, a seated izakaya hot spot with a diverse selection of raw and cooked items, and of course, the bar down below. Max Levai, the director of Marlborough Contemporary, is one of the co-owners and designers. He tapped gallery iconoclasts Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe to envision Straylight and the result is a kaleidoscopic interpretation of one of their exhibitions. In the midst of all the colorful art, acclaimed bartender Dorothy Elizabeth mixes up omakase-style cocktails for guests.
It's somewhat fitting that I'm writing this amateur blog post, nay, professional thinkpiece, in the first week of 2018, because 2017 was an absolutely insane year for sushi in New York City. I've mentioned this before, but the city is a breeding ground for new restaurants chasing a popular trend. That's due to a mix of factors, including the highest population density in the United States (27,000 per sq mile), kitchens straight out of Toys R' Us (RIP) and a general ambivalence towards cooking. The result is a steady stream of new, omakase focused sushiya, and really, all are worthy of attention. To be frank, we've come a long way from splashy openings at overhyped, chain restaurants like Zuma.
It's easy to find good sushi in New York City. It's harder to find good sushi that won't force you to choose between paying your ConEd bill and buying those socks that have been sitting in your Amazon Prime cart. But a few sushi places in the city have a good balance of price and quality, and Juku is now one of them. This is an omakase bar in a three-floor space in Chinatown (that's also home to a subterranean cocktail bar and an izakaya). For $80, you get 12 pieces of very high-quality fish, like toro and king salmon and barracuda, and as the chef hands you each piece, he'll tells you where it's from - places ranging from Tokyo to Spain to Tasmania. The bar only has 12 seats, but you can hear the music and order cocktails from the izakaya downstairs, making Juku feel like both an intimate sushi experience and a fun night out.
Splurge & Go!
Juku is INCREDIBLE! The restaurant has two different floors and two different eating styles. There is 1) Omasake, which is a fixed price for an incredible reservations-only bar-style sushi experience and then 2) Izakaya which is a la carte Japanese cuisine. Both are wonderful and both will be a night to remember. I was in town for a week and ate there twice so I could try each side of the restaurant. I recommend reservations no matter what! Right across from Columbus Park on Mulberry.