A Day in the Life of Daisuke Nakazawa; At Sushi Nakazawa, a disciple of Japan’s most revered sushi chef applies his perfectionism to a centuries-old cuisine-served up with a New York twist

A Day in the Life of Daisuke Nakazawa

At Sushi Nakazawa, a disciple of Japan’s most revered sushi chef applies his perfectionism to a centuries-old cuisine—served up with a New York twist

ALEX FRENCH

Feb. 28, 2014 9:32 a.m. ET

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ROLL CALL | Nakazawa in the kitchen before the day’s prep begins Photography by Thomas Giddings for WSJ. Magazine

EVERY DAY BETWEEN the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. in a West Village basement, sushi chef Daisuke Nakazawa, 35, and his staff labor in almost complete silence. No music plays, no phones ring, few words are spoken. Monastically absorbed in the work of breaking down the day’s fresh ingredients—cracking open sea urchins with pliers, skinning a live octopus on a gleaming prep table—the Sushi Nakazawa kitchen crew prepares to serve the restaurant’s 20-course omakase menu, which has become one of the most coveted meals in New York City. Since it opened in August 2013, critics have touted Sushi Nakazawa as one of the city’s best sushi restaurants—no small feat in a town that’s home to revered roll temples such as Masa and Ichimura at Brushstroke.

American audiences might recognize Nakazawa from the meditative 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which portrayed Japan’s Sukiyabashi Jiro—considered the best sushi restaurant in the world—where Nakazawa trained under the perfectionistic chef Jiro Ono for 11 years. Bronx restaurateur Alessandro Borgognone was so affected after viewing the movie that he reached out to Nakazawa (who was then a line cook in Seattle) on Facebook and pitched the idea of installing him in his own restaurant in New York. Nine months later, in a former hair salon, Nakazawa began introducing his unique brand of the two-century-old Edo style of sushi to New York.

As the apprentice has become a master, Nakazawa has departed from the path set by his occasionally fearsome and orthodox mentor, Ono, in subtle but significant ways. He’s tweaked the Edo canon to suit the Big Apple’s more aggressive palate for an end result that he terms “New York-mae”: smoking skipjack over hay; accentuating wriggling Maine scallops with a tangy yuzu pepper paste; and topping triggerfish with its own liver. While stoic and focused in the kitchen, Nakazawa can be smilingly goofy behind the counter during service—he’s been known to photobomb pictures with a menacing mien and a knife raised above his head. Though Ono, his octogenarian teacher, has not yet retired, Nakazawa is proving himself to be a worthy if somewhat creatively liberated successor, infusing his Jedi-level training in the ancient craft with a buzzy Gotham energy.

Nakazawa by the Numbers

5 temperatures

at which the restaurant serves fish: cold, cool, room temperature, warm, hot. Temperature is essential as it affects the flavor of the fish.

12:01 a.m.

The hour at which tables at Sushi Nakazawa become completely booked. Its reservations site opens every day at midnight.

8 pounds

Amount of shrimp the restaurant uses daily. Nakazawa likes to let live ones wriggle and jump in front of customers before beheading them and serving them on rice.

200 attempts

Nakazawa made at perfecting the delicate egg custard tamago before it met with Ono’s approval. When it finally did, Nakazawa cried.

4 children

Nakazawa has with his wife, whom he married when he was 23: Yuki, 11; Taiki, 7; Saki, 4; and Koki, 2.

120 minutes

The time it takes to consume the 20-course omakase meal at Sushi Nakazawa. The price for eating at the chef’s counter is $150.

3 prep chefs:

Keen, Yoichi and Roman. Their résumés include top sushi restaurants, such as Sushi Yasuda and 15 East.

6,700 miles

Approximate distance between Sushi Nakazawa and Tokyo Bay, where Nakazawa sources heirloom seaweed, shipped to the restaurant.

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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