In the battle among New York’s high-end sushi places, the weapons of choice tend to be which can score the hardest-to-get uni, the very top of the top-of-the-line tuna.
New midtown Manhattan restaurant Suzuki is bringing something more to the game: beloved sushi chef Toshio Suzuki of the shuttered Sushi Zen. He’s coming out of retirement to open the spot with his son, Yuta. Fittingly, for someone who has been in the sushi business for 50 years, his weapon of choice is old school.
You won’t be able to book a seat via Satsuki's website or app, unlike almost every other restaurant industry in the universe. You’ll have to pick up the phone. After you’ve made a reservation, you’ll be informed, broadly, of the selection of fish that will be available that night.
If you’ve always secretly hated eel, or uni, but don’t want to confess it publicly, let them know and it won’t be served to you. Want something additional or special? Let that be known, too.
Yuta sees this service as good business: “We wanted to give guests as authentic an experience as possible, and that entails giving them the opportunity to express their likes and dislikes in private. In Japan, someone would never want to admit that they did not like a particular fish in front of one of their invited guests. This gives them the opportunity to tell us in advance.”
His father has a different explanation for it: “Back in the early days of Sushi Zen, it was harder to get fish from the Tsukiji market daily. Now I have the opportunity to get the same fish they are serving in Japan. I want to let my customers know ahead of time that we have the most seasonal fish available.”
Chef Suzuki, who taught the craft to Masaharu Morimoto, is the most genial sushi master you could ever meet. A meal with him behind the bar starts with a series of sakizuke, or pre-sushi dishes, such as little bowls of scallops bathed in vinegar miso and sweet sesame tofu, served in a handsome bamboo box. Suzuki also makes exceptional ankimo, or monkfish liver, infused with the delicate flavor of bamboo shoots (he learned the preparation from the former Union Square chef, Michael Romano, who used to prepare a dish of foie gras and bamboo).
From there, look for exceptional sushi such as silky Okinawa squid, baked in sea salt and seasoned with sesame; glistening kinmedai (snapper) brushed with two different kinds of soy sauce; and lush toro, fatty bluefin plumped on top of rice (the rice is terrific, as well; flavored with a plum vinegar, the smell of it perfumes the bar when the bar's other sushi chef, Kentaro Sawada, prepares it before service). Chef Suzuki will be sourcing the best cuts from each fish - what he considers the top 30 per cent. In the spirit of no waste, the remaining fish will be served at the kaiseki restaurant next door.
Sazuki’s 10-seat sushi bar (officially called Satsuki) is one of three restaurant-within-a-restaurant concepts in the space; there’s also that larger kaiseki restaurant and a small bar called Three Pillars, from noted mixologist Alex Ott. In space-starved Tokyo, where the saying is, 'The best sushi spots are the ones you can't find,' the places would be stacked on top of each other in a high-rise building. Here, they're below an office building, spread out over 6,500 square feet.
Suzuki's sushi bar opens on 15 March, with seatings at 730 pm and 930 pm for the $250 omakase. There's also a pre-theater-styled sushi-only menu for $150 at 530 pm. Call 212-278-0047 for reservations.
News by Bloomberg, edited by Hospitality Ireland