Omakase sushi service has exploded in popularity in NYC over the last 10 years (a chef's tasting menu–style service, usually served in a prix fixe procession). Unfortunately, most of these restaurants have tasting menus that run upwards of $200 — not exactly the makings of a casual night out. Thankfully, this past year has seen the opening of a number of places with a specific focus on making omakase affordable. We rounded up the 10 spots bringing all the quality products and understated elegance of a classic omakase experience, but without the hefty price tag.
The New York outpost of the hit Los Angeles sushi spot has had lines out the door since the day it opened. That’s because for a mere $27 ($39 if you want a more robust experience), you can enjoy a full omakase, complete with buttery toro, ponzu-flecked tuna sashimi and the warm, melt-in-your-mouth rice that has come to define the restaurant. Your best bet is to come for lunch, when table turnover is the fastest.
33 E. 20th St.; 347-705-8100
KazuNori is the hand-roll–focused sibling to Sugarfish — also a New York outpost of an LA original. The restaurant consists of a long bar (best to come as a party of one or two), where sushi chefs expertly prepare some of the best hand-rolls in the city: crisp, pliable seaweed, warm rice and silky pieces of fish. It’s an equally great place for enjoying a couple of hand-rolls before dinner, or settling down for the evening with a glass of sake and a parade of the restaurant’s greatest hits (the toro is a must-order).
15 W. 28th St.; 347-594-5940
Sushi Katsuei was an early adopter of affordable omakase, and has long been a favorite of Park Slope residents. A few months ago, the restaurant finally decided to open up in Manhattan, and the new location in the West Village has been a universal hit. The $57 omakase menu is a simple rundown of crowd-pleasers — toro, uni, yellowtail and the like — and the tranquil, high-end atmosphere is exactly what you might expect at a place like Sushi Nakazawa (except that you're paying a fraction of the price).
357 6th Ave.; 212-462-0039
Courtesy of Sushi on Jones
Bowery Market is a relatively new outdoor market in the East Village, and Sushi on Jones is the perennial favorite stall. The restaurant follows the model that’s ubiquitous in Japanese train stations of quick-service, affordable sushi: diners get 12 pieces of sushi for $50, and exactly 30 minutes to enjoy them (the restaurant is famously strict about the time limit). If you are looking for a leisurely dinner with fancy ambiance, this is not the place for you — but for a quick, delicious lunch or a low-key dinner, it’s a solid bet.
348 Bowery; 917-270-1815
Yet another timed sushi experience is Sushi by Bou, helmed by controversial sushi chef David Bouhadana, who was in fact part of the opening team for Sushi on Jones before leaving to start his own concept. The spot is housed in Gansevoort Market (along with a new location underneath the Sanctuary Hotel), and focuses on those varietals you don’t often see on sushi menus, like Akami (a cut of tuna found around the fish’s spine and tail) and “Wagyuni” (Wagyu beef plus uni).
Ato marries the Japanese omakase concept with French sensibilities — like mackerel paired with Dijon, or trout set over a carrot purée (both of which work beautifully). As the name suggests (ato is the Japanese pronunciation of “art”), the presentation of each dish is dazzling, with each piece of sushi counterbalanced by other colorful, delicately plated elements. And the best part? Menus start at $55.
28 Grand St.; 646-838-9392
The Upper East Side is often characterized for its abundance of restaurants specifically geared toward the older, more affluent clientele. Sushi Ishikawa, which landed in the neighborhood in June, is an omakase spot for all ages, helmed by Don Pham, formerly of the abundantly creative omakase spot, O Ya. The cozy, quiet space exclusively serves an omakase menu that starts at $85 for 12 courses, with fish especially sourced from specific spots across the globe (the bluefin comes from Spain, while the uni is from Kyushu).
419 E. 74th St.; 212-651-7292
Tokyo Record Bar
Inspired by the vinyl-spinning whiskey bars popular in Japan, Tokyo Record Bar is the newest project from Ariel Arce, the owner of Air’s Champagne Parlor, which opened upstairs in June. The restaurant originally started as champagne omakase dinners hosted by Arce in the space’s former tenant, The Riddling Window. Now, Tokyo Record Bar is one of the most unique new dining experiences in the city: For $50, you get a seven-course tasting menu (it's not sushi but expect crudos and oysters), plus the ability to choose a song that will make up the playlist for the evening (all the music is played on vinyl by Arce, of course). After the restaurant’s two seatings (at 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM), the space turns into a bar, with a late-night à la carte menu and a DJ spinning crowd-pleasing classics.
1 or 8
Williamsburg is known for being home to some of the city’s most exciting (and boisterous) restaurants — but it is surprisingly void of great omakase spots. 1 or 8 is the low-key, rock-solid sushi option the neighborhood has been waiting for. For $64, you can get seven pieces of very high-quality fish, with the option of excellent, accessibly priced add-ons like dumplings, shrimp buns and shishito peppers.
66 S. 2nd St., Brooklyn; 718-384-215