Nami Nori — New York, USA
For better or worse, Japanese restaurants are a dime a dozen in Manhattan, their ubiquity particularly evident in the West Village. For chefs who’ve decided to hang up their own shingles, how to stand apart from the pack (especially in this neighbourhood) becomes something of an existential question. The newly minted Nami Nori, though, steals a march on the others in that its three partners have all had operations and back-of-house experience with the veteran Masa Takayama.
Aiding the cause is local studio MN Design Professional Corporation who have drawn light streaming in through the high windows deep into the narrow 40-seat space of white-washed bricks by installing blonde timber furniture and terrazzo, and diffusing light from below the L-shaped bar counter, whilst rattan stools and slatted screens add to the impression of physical levity and an appropriately Japanese serenity.
The menu, headlined by head chef Taka Sakaeda, is anchored by open temaki filled with an imaginative mise-en-place ranging from X.O. scallops and onion cream to crispy shallots and tobiko. Vegetarians, so often ignored in restaurants of this genre, are tempted by creative versions such as eggplant with red miso, and spicy tofu with chilli and bean paste. §