#10 Sushi Zo, Los Angeles from The Best Sushi in America
The Best Sushi in America
The Best Sushi in America
There are some amazing sushi restaurants in America, and from a restaurant in Los Angeles where a 30-course omakase (chef's choice) menu costs $375 — and one in New York City where the tariff rises to $450 —to an under-the-radar gem in Chicago that has been ranked by Zagat as serving the best food in the city, these are the 35 best purveyors of sushi in America.
#35 Asanebo, Los Angeles
Since 1991, this cozy San Fernando Valley gem has been turning out some great sushi and homestyle Japanese delicacies, good enough to earn them a Michelin star in 2008 and 2009 (Michelin suspended their L.A. guide in 2010). The kappo-style menu is full of unique dishes like miso-marinated seared U.S. Kobe beef with peach compote, sea urchin tempura, and steamed red snapper head, but the sushi is the true standout: the wide variety ranges from sweet shrimp (amaebi) to halibut fin (engawa), and house signature dishes include halibut sashimi with fresh truffle, seafood ceviche, and sea urchin that’s been salt-cured, steamed, and chilled.
#34 Sushi Zen, New York City
From décor and presentation to style and taste, everything at this decades-old Midtown West sushi restaurant is about harmony. Stepping in off the busy street just a block from Times Square, you immediately feel a calm only Japanese hospitality can provide. Allow yourself to be ushered to the 10-seat counter that doesn’t feature the sushi case ubiquitous to most sushi restaurants for an intimate and deliberate experience. There is no rush, the ingredients are high-quality, and the delivery and presentation are precise (you’ll be reminded that pieces come pre-seasoned with wasabi). That’s a good thing, given that Sushi Zen is one of the city’s few spots to serve fugu, the pufferfish delicacy that can be deadly if not prepared correctly. Chef Toshio Suzuki is a master whose omakase is always on-point, if a little on the expensive side. While a sushi omakase technically starts at $65, you’re likely to want extra pieces beyond that, at which point things can start adding up quickly.
#33 Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill, Chicago
This BYOB Ukrainian Village standout may be decorated with Japanese manga art, and that whimsical style extends into the menu, where rolls have names like Sorry I am Drunk (unagi, shrimp, spicy mayo, black and red tobiko, chile oil, and scallions) and Breaking Bad (tempura soft shell shrimp, grilled asparagus, and avocado topped with seared marinated tuna and fried ginger). But look past the humor and you’ll find expertly sliced, super-fresh sushi, and at $24, the 12-piece assortment is a steal.
#32 Horinoya, New Orleans
Yes, great sushi can be found in New Orleans — in the Warehouse District, to be exact. The expansive menu at Horinoya offers appetizers like fried oysters with tonkatsu sauce and grilled yellowtail neck, entrées like lobster tempura and eight types of soba and udon, and nigiri options including Hokki clam, bow fin caviar, and toro.
#31 Arami, Chicago
This stylish and contemporary Ukrainian Village spot showcases the culinary stylings of South Korean-born chef Frederick Despres, who previously worked under renowned chef Takashi Yagihashi (whose now-closed Tribute in suburban Detroit was considered one of America's best restaurants). His dishes range from the traditional to completely outside the box and everywhere in-between, always with an emphasis on what’s fresh and in season. One appetizer showcases five Japanese mushrooms, while another combines minced toro with Asian pear, chive, caviar, and house special soy sauce. There’s also a robata selection, as well as noodles and donburi. We suggest opting for the chef’s choice sashimi, but the chef’s skills are also evident in such special maki as zuke sake madai (marinated salmon, sea bream, takuan, ginger tare [soy basting sauce], and radish), and spicy tako ebi (spicy octopus, green pepper, shrimp, wasabi mayo, and tobiko).
#30 Hide Sushi, Los Angeles
Simple, casual, and straightforward, Hide Sushi has been serving high-quality sushi to hungry Angelenos since 1979. You won’t find any rainbow rolls or tempura rolls at this no-reservations, cash-only spot; only fresh, high-quality fish is available, along with some harder-to-find delicacies like sweet raw shrimp (amaebi), jellyfish (kurage), and sea eel (anago).
#29 Sakedokoro Makoto, Washington, D.C.
In the quiet of the Palisades just two miles up MacArthur Boulevard from Georgetown University, Sakedokoro Makoto has the power to transport you away from the nation’s capital and halfway around the world to Japan. The change in culture is immediate as soon as you step in and down off the street and into this D.C. stalwart that has been delighting sushi lovers since 1992. You’re forced (in a good way), by the business casual dress code and the request not to use a cellphone or wear strong perfumes and colognes, to consciously engage in a calmer mindset. Take off your shoes and settle into your wooden bench in an intimate, traditional setting that fits just two dozen people. You’ll be quickly taken into the care of graceful and efficient female servers whose service possesses a touch light enough to make you feel as if you’re being looked after in a traditional Kyoto ryokan. It’s important to note that while you’ll find expertly crafted sushi on the à la carte lunch menu and as part of the evening omakase, Makoto isn’t a sushi bar per se, but rather a place to enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine. Soft-shell crabs, small nests of noodles, grilled fish — these will all round out your sushi experience, while jazz softly lilts in the background.
#28 Matsuhisa, Los Angeles
This modest bungalow on La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills — once known as "Restaurant Row" — was international culinary celebrity Nobu Matsuhisa's first U.S. establishment, and the birthplace of his Nobu empire. Originally offering little more than sushi, sashimi, and some tempura choices, the menu has been reverse-engineered over the years to include a large selection of the kinds of dishes diners have come to expect from Nobu (tuna tataki with cilantro dressing, buckwheat soba risotto, the inevitable black cod with miso), but the straightforward sushi selection remains impeccable, if pricey. Don't miss the sweet shrimp sushi or the softshell crab roll.
#27 Zuma, Miami
Hip and modern in design, Zuma is chef and restaurateur Rainer Becker’s izakaya-style restaurant chain that was inspired by the six years he spent learning about Japanese food and cuisine in Tokyo. The first restaurant opened in 2002 in London and was followed by additional locations in Hong Kong, Istanbul, and Dubai before opening its first American location in Miami in the Epic Hotel. With its huge space and flashy décor, Zuma looks expensive and has a bit of a reputation for being a “scene,” but that doesn’t mean you’ll be disappointed by the food, though this is one of the sushi restaurants on this list that you will be able to find California maki, wasabi, mayo, and spicy tuna rolls with green chili sauce.
#26 Kyo Ya, New York City
Hiding in plain sight in the East Village, seven-year-old Kyo Ya has no sign or website, and as The New York Times’ Pete Wells noted in his glowing 2012 review, any menu you find online will be out of date. But if you show up, throw caution to the wind and let chef Chikara Sono be your guide, and you’ll be in for a meal you’ll remember for a long time. You can order from the à la carte menu as well (kurobuta pork belly, pressed sushi, and miso-glazed black cod are standouts), but if you opt for the kaiseki menu, be prepared for an intricate multi-course feast that highlights the freshest seasonal ingredients.
#25 Kappo Masa, New York City
A new presentation from sushi veteran Masayoshi Takayama, known as Masa —proprietor of the very pricey omakase sushi bar of that name and of Bar Masa (both in the Time Warner Center at Manhattan's Columbus Circle) — this contemporary-style establishment is run in partnership with noted art dealer Larry Gagosian, the basement of whose gallery it occupies. The menu here strays far beyond sushi, with such dishes as Peking duck and foie gras tacos, surimi noodles with various sauces (one involves uni, cauliflower purée, and Parmigiano), and kale and Swiss chard salad with lemongrass vinaigrette — but the sushi selection is remarkable, both in imagination and range. Rolls include kampachi jalapeño with potato julienne, beef sotomaki with black trumpet mushrooms, and the exquisite if breathtakingly expensive toro with caviar (at $240), and there is white truffle sushi in season. Almost all the fish in the beautifully fashioned conventional sushi and sashimi is imported from Japan.
#24 Tomo, Atlanta
Tomo is the brainchild of Tokyo-born Tomo Naito, who honed his eye for quality whole working as a seafood buyer and his sushi skills at the omakase station at Las Vegas’ Nobu, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place for sushi in Atlanta. The room is sleek, as befits its location in ritzy Buckhead, and the skills of Naito are on full display, not only in the quality of the fish but in the creative ingenuity behind his dishes, like usuzukuri, thinly sliced fluke dotted with hot sauce and ponzu jelly.
#23 Naoe, Miami
For sushi lovers, Naoe is a little slice of heaven in Miami. The sushi here would be right at home even at a high-end spot in Japan, and at this tiny, eight-seat temple to raw fish, you can let sushi master Kevin Cory, dubbed the "Omakase King," be your guide. The accolades for Naoe just keep piling up: Five stars from Forbes Travel Guide, named one of the country’s best sushi restaurants by Travel + Leisure, a nomination for best new chef from Food & Wine, and so on. If you can snag a reservation (only 16 guests are served each night), you’ll be presented with a selection of some of the freshest seafood imaginable, from both Japanese and local waters. There’s horse mackerel topped with fresh wasabi, fresh-roasted and basted eel, urchin-topped egg tofu, cured squid, Scottish salmon belly… the selection goes on and on, and by the time your meal is through, you may never look at sushi the same way again.
#22 Sushi Sasabune, Honolulu
A no-frills restaurant that some might even call “divey” also happens to serve the best sushi in Hawaii. Take a seat at the counter and let chef Seiji Kumagawa be your guide through your choice of two omakase menus, one “Japanese” and one “Western.” Opt for the Western menu and you’ll be treated to items like bluefin tuna in ponzu or salmon with kelp and sesame; the Japanese menu will bring you a more exotic assortment like snapper with fermented squid and clam that’s been slapped to “wake up” the muscle. Either way, you’re in for a 13-course treat.
#21 Uchi, Austin
For years, we bought the myth that sushi was an inviolable tradition, understood only by the Japanese and impervious to modernization. Then Nobu Matsuhisa came along to disprove the latter — and American chefs like Tim Cushman at O Ya in Boston (see #3) and Tyson Cole at Uchi and Uchiko in Austin tossed both notions out like empty sake bottles. There's no telling what classicists would make of Cole's bigeye tuna with goat cheese, Fuji apple, and pumpkin seed oil; tempura shrimp spring roll with Vietnamese fish sauce and grapes; or pork jowl with Brussels sprout kimchee, romaine, preserved lemon, and crème fraîche; but the hungry Austinites who crowd this rustic house-turned-restaurant obviously eat it all up.
#20 Sushi Dojo, New York City
Take a seat at the counter at Sushi Dojo, an unassuming sushi bar that opened last year in the East Village, and let chef David Bouhadana, a 28-year-old Florida native who’s nothing short of a sushi wunderkind, show you corners of the sushi universe that you didn’t even know existed. He’s chatty, funny, humble, extremely knowledgeable about every cut of fish, and, most of all, he takes what he does very seriously. After a couple questions about your preferences he’ll get to work, and then the ride begins: it varies depending on what’s been freshly flown in from Japan that day, but a sample omakase might include sashimi of amberjack (kanpachi), Arctic char, striped bass, Boston wild bluefin tuna, chopped marinated horse mackerel, octopus that’s so fresh it moves when you poke it, and a large saltwater clam known as pen shell. Then for the sushi portion, you might be served Japanese red snapper, striped jack, goldeneye snapper, ivory white salmon, Tasmanian sea trout, tiny raw baby white shrimp (shio ebi), Maine scallop with yuzu zest, medium fatty tuna, and oh-toro. It’s a paradigm-shifting whirlwind, and amazingly, it only costs $75.
#19 Ino, San Francisco
Don’t even think about taking out your cellphone at this tiny sushi bar in Japantown’s Miyako Mall, where chef/owner Ino has been serving some of the Bay Area’s best sushi for more than 30 years. There are fewer than 10 seats at the bar and just a few tables, and if you sit at the bar you’ll want to study up a little first, because Ino-san can be a little gruff. So here’s what you do: wait until Ino approaches you (don’t try to flag him down), and start by ordering some monkfish liver (ankimo) and salmon roe (ikura), with a raw quail egg if you’re feeling adventurous. Then head straight for the omakase, which will be placed piece by piece directly onto the counter in front of you, no plate required. Don’t ask for wasabi. Go easy on the soy sauce. Be polite. And be prepared for one of the best sushi experiences you’ll ever have.
#18 Kiriko, Los Angeles
This small Westside sushi bar is the best of both worlds: a place to experience stellar omakase and nigiri, and also a great local spot. Sashimi changes on a near-daily basis according to what’s fresh and in season; don’t be surprised if you come across a special offering five different types of salmon alongside rarer finds like barracuda (kamasu), wild striped jack (shimaaji), and Hokkaido scallop (hotate).
#17 Kura, New York City
Is this New York City's best sushi omakase deal? That’s the question The Daily Meal asked in 2013 when Kura opened just steps from Avenue A in an unlikely location on St. Mark's Place, immediately becoming one of the city’s best new sushi spots. This open secret posts no sign — just a noren fluttering in a doorway — behind which is a small, exposed brick space and a sushi bar that has all the familiar Yasuda wood echoes, manned not by a business-like itamae, but by Norihiro "Miyake" Ishizuka, a jovial, smiling sushi master. This Japanese sushi Santa Claus’ 13- to 14-course, $65 omakase is transcendental, and incredible value for a relative steal. Once you’ve visited Kura, which, according to partner Huey Cheng, means "a place to store valuables,” it quickly becomes the place to treasure your sushi experiences.
#16 Ichimura at Brushstroke, New York City
Chef David Bouley brought on sushi master Eiji Ichimura to open this tiny Tribeca gem back in 2011, and three years and four New York Times stars later it’s still one of the finest omakase spots in New York. Ichimura’s sushi is a descendant of the Edo-mae style (where fish is stored in salt or vinegar, or cured in soy sauce), and the flavors are stronger here, the vinegar in the rice more assertive. Want to try dry-aged tuna belly? This is the place. Sure, the omakase menu starts at $180, but you won’t find a similar experience anywhere else in the city.
#15 Nobu, New York City
When chef Nobu Matsuhisa opened his eponymous restaurant along with pal Robert De Niro and restaurateur Drew Nieporent in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood in 1994, there was no way he could have imagined that 20 years later he’d be running 28 affiliated restaurants around the world; including six Nobu-branded hotels with one more on the way. But there’s a reason why Nobu has become a household name across the globe, and a visit to the Michelin-starred New York flagship (or one of the two in Las Vegas (See #7) tells you all you need to know. The design by architect David Rockwell evokes the Japanese countryside while conveying excitement and energy, and the cuisine fuses classical Japanese with that of Peru and Argentina, where Nobu trained. The standout dishes; including yellowtail with jalapeno, lobster with wasabi pepper sauce, and black cod with miso, are nothing short of legendary.
#14 Mori, Los Angeles
Situated on a dark corner of Pico Boulevard amidst undistinguished low-rise businesses in West L.A.’s no-man’s land, Sushi Mori is an intimate oasis of blonde-wood minimalism where beautiful fish is served on ceramics handmade by founder Morihiro Onodera. Though Mori, who trained first in Tokyo and then in L.A. at Matsuhisa and in New York at Hatsuhana under Sushi Yasuda founder Naomichi Yasuda, sold the restaurant in 2011 to focus on making ceramics and growing artisanal sushi rice, it is now run by his protégé, Masanori Nagano, who has brilliantly maintained the founder’s blend of artistry (fresh figs with roe and radish), originality (smoked barracuda), and elegance. The omakase is not inexpensive, but it’s an experience you’ll savor, and likely want to repeat.
#13 Sushi of Gari, New York City
Masatoshi “Gari” Sugio became a sushi chef in Japan at age 19, and today he runs four Sushi of Gari restaurants in Manhattan. While they could have easily gone the route of pricey-if-unexceptional chains like Haru, instead they’re all upscale, elegant, and focused squarely on serving the highest-quality sushi possible. Start with flawless interpretations of sushi bar classics like steamed monkfish liver in ponzu, kabocha tempura, or beef tataki, and from there move on to chef’s choice sushi ($29–$49), sashimi ($36–$55), or, of course, the omakase, which certainly won’t let you down.
#12 Katsu, Chicago
This small, homey restaurant in an unassuming West Rogers Park building serves the best sushi in Chicago, and it’s so beloved by the locals that it bested Alinea to claim the #1 spot for “Best Food in Chicago” in last year’s Zagat guide. Chef Katsu Imamura and his wife Haruko run the restaurant with friendly professionalism, and only the freshest fish available is served, sliced in slightly more generous portions than you’ll find elsewhere and accented with a shiso leaf here, a dab of caviar there. Katsu isn’t a place to see and be seen, it’s a place to experience the work of a sushi master.
#11 15 East, New York City
Husband-and-wife restaurateurs Marco Moreira and Joann Makovitzky opened 15 East seven years ago a block away from New York City’s Union Square, and in the time since it has become one of New York City’s most esteemed spots for sushi. There’s a clean, open dining room with windows that look out on the street, but you’re going to want to sit at the counter, where executive chef Masato Shimizu oversees the action. Shimizu apprenticed with sushi master Rikio Kugo at Tokyo’s renowned Sukeroku for seven years before moving to New York and getting snapped up by Moreira and Makovitzky. You can order à la carte at 15 East, from a menu that features six types of white fish, eight kinds of silver fish, and at least four kinds, cuts, and different presentations of clams, tuna, hamachi, and octopus — but if you’re a sushi purist, you’ll only go omakase, where the chefs will select the best fish of the day according to your preference: sushi, sashimi, or both.
#10 Sushi Zo, Los Angeles
Once somewhat of a secret, chef Keizo Seki’s Sushi Zo, an unassuming gem located in a Westside Los Angeles strip mall, has branched out to a second and more contemporary high-profile downtown location (called just “Zo”). Seki is a no-nonsense sushi purist. Don’t expect California rolls, or laughing banter between bites of the precisely seasoned nigiri — the interactive experience is more temple than tempura. What you’ll get is course after course of fresh, expertly cut, beautifully presented sushi delivered quickly and in quiet moments, time enough to savor high quality. It’s no understatement to say this is some of the best sushi in the country, and if you believe world-famous chef Ferran Adrià, it’s even better than what you can find in Japan.
#9 Oishii, Boston
Boston isn’t a city that’s generally known for its sushi, but the fish at this South End gem is right up there with the country’s best. Chef Ting Yan opened the restaurant in 1998 with the intention of drawing on influences from his multicultural background and experience as a sushi master in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, and unexpected menu items include kaffir lime duck salad, handmade tofu, and foie gras-truffle sushi. While there’s a wide menu of expertly prepared appetizers, entrees, soups, and salads, the sushi selection is exceptional. Six types of salmon, 12 types of tuna, 10 types of shellfish… the variety alone is enough to make your jaw drop, and Yan knows exactly the right way to slice, treat, and garnish each fish.
#8 Hatsuhana, New York City
This Manhattan institution has been serving top-quality sushi and sashimi — along with a broad menu of other Japanese specialties — for almost three decades. The fish and shellfish selection is large, including, besides the standards, such offerings as engawa (fluke fin), sayori (halfbeak, a forage fish), aoyagi (orange clam), and kohada (spotted sardine). Saba (mackerel) from both Boston and Japan is served (the Japanese version is $2 more per piece). There are also vegetable handrolls, including asparagus, avocado, cucumber, dried squash, and plum paste with shiso leaves. Various sushi and sashimi combination plates, priced from $24.50 to $42, are great deals.
#7 Nobu, Las Vegas
Nobu Matsuhisa is nothing short of a rock star in the sushi world, and a visit to one of his two Las Vegas restaurants (we recommend the one located in the newish Nobu Hotel inside Caesar’s Palace, but the original inside the Hard Rock Hotel is also spectacular) will immediately tell you why. These David Rockwell-designed Nobus are chic and hip, sure, places to see and be seen, but the ambiance never gets in the way of the food. You’ll find all the trademark Nobu dishes — black cod miso, rock shrimp tempura, yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño — but there’s also an astounding sushi selection. Even though Matsuhisa himself is more renowned for his hot dishes, he’s brought on some of the best sushi chefs in the world and his creative ingenuity is on full display here. Be it abalone, Japanese red snapper, shad (kohada), or striped jack (shima aji), when it’s served at Nobu, it’s going to be good.
#6 Urasawa, Los Angeles
This Japanese culinary shrine, with a sushi bar and just enough room for ten diners nightly, located in a shopping center off of Rodeo Drive, might be called the West Coast version of New York City's Masa. That's not surprising: Not only did Urasawa chef-owner Hiroyuki Urasawa train under Masa Takayama before opening his eponymous restaurant here, but the spot previously housed Takayama’s Ginza Sushi-ko, where Masa made his reputation. Urasawa has a nearly 30-course omakase menu that changes daily, not to be missed if you can afford to pay $375 for the privilege.
#5 Morimoto, Philadelphia
Masaharu Morimoto — you might have heard of him? Here at the legendary Iron Chef’s Philadelphia flagship, he’s creating magic every night, with appetizers including sautéed foie gras with grilled eel, 10-hour braised pork belly, and tofu made tableside, noodle sides like uni carbonara (with quail egg, bacon, and Parmigiano), and entrées like crispy whole rainbow trout with mapo tofu sauce and the “Morimoto surf and turf” with Wagyu filet, Hamachi ribbons, and avocado salad. Sushi and sashimi are the best you’ll find in the city as well: you can take your pick of everything from shrimp pound cake (kasutera) to oh-toro (fatty tuna), mirugai (geoduck clam), or golden big eye snapper (kinmedai), but you know what? You should probably just leave you meal in Morimoto’s (very capable) hands.
#4 Sushi Nakazawa, New York City
Those obsessed with sushi watched the 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi with fascination and even a little bit of envy for the lucky diners sitting at the small bar in the tiny, three-Michelin-star restaurant tucked into a Tokyo subway station run by Jiro Ono, marveling at the many years his sons and apprentices took to master tasks like making rice and egg custard. A similar sense of marvel and fascination is now taking place in New York City at Sushi Nakazawa, the West Village restaurant opened by Jiro’s apprentice Daisuke Nakazawa in August of 2013. With its opening, America gained not just one of its best sushi restaurants, but one of its best restaurants period. Your two-hour meal at Sushi Nakazawa will feature about 21 pieces of sushi that Nakazawa prepares with dedication to tradition and ingredients.
“There are three things that we focus on at Sushi Nakazawa in order to create great sushi,” owner Alessandro Borgognone told us. “We consistently seek out the best ingredients available – fish and rice quality are equally important, and we use nothing that is short of amazing. Incredible technique is the next thing that comes into account, and Chef Nakazawa and his team are experts in their craft. Lastly, preparation requires impeccable attention to detail, and our team focuses on each and every step when making the sushi.”
#3 O-Ya, Boston
Chef Tim Cushman brings innovative sushi and related new-Japanese fare to his menu with imagination and flair, serving these and other truly wonderful dishes; accompanied by a large choice of excellent sake and wine, in an understated dining room whose simplicity belies the complexity of flavors on the plate. Cushman won the 2012 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast. You can expect to enjoy dishes like balsamic chocolate kabayaki, claudio corallo raisin cocoa pulp, sip of aged sake and warm eel with thai basil, kabayaki, fresh kyoto sansho.
#2 Sushi Yasuda, New York City
It’s a special kind of restaurant that you can walk into, sit down, and without looking at a menu just say to the people preparing your food, "Yes, please," — and know that every bite is going to send you searching for new superlatives. For sushi lovers, that’s exactly what Yasuda and its minimalist dining room represents. To say the fish is fresh just doesn’t do the place justice — for many, experiencing the taste and texture of seafood at Yasuda will set the bar for what freshness means. The restaurant's namesake and founder, Naomichi Yasuda, decamped to return to Japan in 2010, but the standards he established here haven't faltered. His hand-picked successor, Mitsuru Tamura, keeps that Yasuda philosophy alive.
#1 Masa, New York City
Masa Takayama is undeniably a sushi master: calm, precise, insistent on the very finest raw materials, and the sushi and other dishes you may sample at his flagship in Manhattan's Time Warner Center will be truly memorable. Does that justify the $450-per-person tariff (before tip or beverages) for his omakase menu — or, for that matter, the $200-per-person fee for cancellations less than 48 hours in advance? That's something each diner must decide for him- or herself. Suffice it to say that Masa's toro-stuffed maki rolls inspire ecstatic reactions, his fugu sashimi (including liver, skin, and intestines) is well worth the frisson you'll get from consuming this fabled blowfish (toxic if not properly prepared), and his toro with a generous helping of beluga caviar seems almost worth the price of admission. That said, à la carte selections are also available.