When people think of sushi masters, it’s easy to conjure up the image of a middle-aged or older Japanese man who has honed his skills for decades somewhere in Japan. Nowadays, more and more younger sushi chefs have entered the New York dining scene (and some not even from Japanese background) with aspirations to offer a fresh take on the art of sushi to the discerning diners in the city. Among the expensive high-end newcomers in the already crowded sushi scene in Manhattan, I was drawn to Sushi Noz where a young Japanese chef by the name of Nozomu Abe who reportedly has been doing some really special things at the counter. The price of the meal (at $300 per person, and you have to purchase tickets in advance via Tock website like most of other high-end restaurants require these days) was certainly a bit of a deterrent, but after hearing from one of our friends about how great of an experience she had there, my wife Jun and I decided to pull the trigger. Full disclosure – one of the chefs working at the counter while we visited is Jun’s friend although I didn’t personally know him that well.
Once we entered the minimalistic wooden counter which seats only eight people per seating (there are two each day from Monday through Saturday, at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. respectively), chef Noz bowed to us in a very polite manner and the food started coming out. The omakase menu we chose at the counter consists of a few small plates followed by nigiri pieces. There is no question that the quality of ingredients at Sushi Noz was first class as I saw throughout the succession of small plate courses, such as the black perch that gave a nice smoky flavor, the outstanding soft shell crab that was deep fried to perfection, and the charcoal grilled eel that was quite pleasant to my palate. On the other hand, there were a couple of moments when Jun and I felt the seasoning was a little too aggressive, such as the hay smoked bonito sashimi that could’ve been even better with less soy sauce.
The same theme continued in the nigiri stage as well. Squid and scallop are not usually the first pieces that come to my mind when it comes to sushi experience (especially the squid), but I won’t quickly forget the ones from Sushi Noz that were quite fantastic (I marveled at how the chef managed to almost completely remove the gooey sensation that accompanies the squid). I’ve had some pretty outstanding mackerel pieces in the city, but the unusually complex texture of the horse mackerel was quite memorable. The series of medium fatty tuna (chu toro) and fatty tuna (o toro) were also very fresh and melting in my mouth. Against all these outstanding pieces, there were some solid but not overly spectacular ones too, largely due to the seasoning issue where the texture of the fish was often overwhelmed by the flavor on the outside. Still, there was no single dish that Jun, who is a lot more sensitive to the quality of seafood, thought was simply not fresh. Other delicacies such as the sea perch on top of uni risotto (which gave a very impressive flavor and textural contrast between the fish and sea urchin underneath) and the hand roll were also highlights of our meal. For dessert, a slice of melon from Hokkaido gave a pleasantly refreshing touch to cleanse our palate.
As noted above, getting a reservation at Sushi Noz requires an advance purchase but it doesn’t sell out that quickly; so long as you avoid the weekends, getting a seating shouldn’t be too difficult if you don’t mind putting up over $600 in advance. The wooden counter gives an intimate setting for which a special dinner with someone important to you who also enjoys sushi would be quite appropriate. Chef Noz was certainly not the most talkative type (and I completely understand as he has kept his position at the counter almost the entire time, preoccupied with preparing every dish live right in front of the diners), but he did politely greet us on the way out. There are a variety of sake and wine options, most of them on the pricey side just like the food is. Sushi Noz is certainly a very good sushi restaurant but Jun and I agreed that we’ve had better experiences elsewhere when considering two factors that count against it: price point and seasoning.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 9.0/10
- Flavor: 7.5/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 181 East 78th Street, New York, NY 10075
Telephone: (917) 338-1792