Nozomu Abe / David & Josh Foulquier
Hinoki Counter- $300 Ash Room- $175
From the moment you walk through Sushi Noz’s midnight-blue curtains, you are instantly transported from an unassuming Upper East Side façade to a serene and tranquil foyer in some hidden gem of a spot in Tokyo or Osaka. You don’t yet know it, but you are not just a customer here—you are now an audience member about to witness a meticulously crafted performance in culinary theatrics. You are shown to your seat at Sushi Noz’s pristine 200-year-old Hinoki cedar wood counter and given your program for the evening. The diners murmur to each other, excitedly anticipating the night’s Leading Player. Beverages are served, final touches are made, the voices hush, and Chef Noz makes his entrance, bowing to each couple with gracious eye contact. The show begins.
To detail every high point of this beautifully orchestrated omakase would be to spoil some of the magic inherent in its ever-changing, ever-evolving nature. The way that Chef Noz purposefully plays on all of the senses is something that truly must be experienced firsthand, but we’ll do our best to convey what made the evening so special. To fully understand Chef Noz’s methods, let’s dive into some of his history.
Chef Noz was born in Hokkaido, Japan, where his grandfather’s seafood company served as a source of inspiration for him from a young age. After high school he moved to Sapporo city where he continued his training in the art of sushi before moving to Tokyo where he further developed his skills in the Edomae style techniques—preparing dishes with aged as well as freshly caught fish, and traditionally seasoned rice with an emphasis on vinegar over sugar. After making a name for himself at New York’s revered Sushiden, Chef Noz opened his namesake restaurant in March 2018 with partners David and Josh Foulquier. Their dream of bringing an authentic Edomae style omakase from Japan to America has been a great success, and though its price point is high, Sushi Noz sets itself apart from the rest of New York’s sushiyas by committing to flawless preparation of the highest quality ingredients with careful attention to demonstration and presentation. Chef Noz’s hard earned techniques combine to transcend what we’ve come to know as the modern sushi experience, awakening the senses and offering a reprieve from the outside world.
Without a doubt, the testament of a great sushi chef is his treatment of rice. Chef Noz demonstrates that his rice will not be an afterthought in his omakase by bringing it out first thing and seasoning it right before our eyes. As he mixes everything together, the hot steam carries with it the tantalizing scent of sweet starch combined with the acidic akazu (red vinegar made from sake lees)—the traditional vinegar of choice in the Edomae style. The natural sweetness of the akazu allows the chef to omit any mirin or sugar, and brings out the nuttiness of the rice nicely. Chef Noz generously let us try some of the rice by itself and we could taste all of the attention to detail in the seasoning. The density of the rice was ideal—it holds up just enough to be put into the mouth, and then falls apart beautifully so that all of the flavors can be more thoroughly savored. The taste and texture combined with the warm temperature that lasted throughout the service make this some of the best sushi rice we’ve ever had.
Now for Sushi Noz’s holy grail… the fish. After seasoning his rice, Chef Noz brings out a massive cut of seven-day-aged tuna, showing us all sides and playfully asking which we’d like to try. Lean? Medium Fatty? Extra Fatty? Luckily for us, we would be trying them all. After showing off some preliminary knife skills, Chef Noz gets started on the Otsumami (snack/appetizer) courses. Every course was somehow more delicious than the last; standouts included three-day-aged scorpion fish with daikon radish, ponzu and chive, aged abalone (awabi) with abalone liver sauce, smoked seasonal bonito with horseradish, deep fried aged pink snapper with Tenkeiko shitake mushrooms and caviar in a creamy abalone broth, and trigger fish served with trigger fish skin and trigger fish liver, topped with chive and drizzled shiso oil. The way that Chef Noz played with the senses as we watched, smelled, and listened to these courses come together was truly inspired. The seasonal bonito was smoked in a glass dome in front of us, and when Chef Noz removed the cover, the woodsy scent was released into the room, foreshadowing the infused flavor we were about to taste. As the broth and mushrooms were being assembled for the fried snapper course, we could hear the popping and crackling of the fish frying just out of sight. Seeing, smelling, and even hearing these preparations made the tasting that much more impactful.
We would have gladly kept enjoying Chef Noz’s carefully constructed small plates, but time flies when you’re eating great food and before we knew it, it was sushi time! The variety of fish wasn’t mind blowing on this particular night, but the flawless preparation more than made up for that. We were treated to pieces of sumi ika (squid), hotate (scallop), aji (horse mackerel), akami (lean tuna), chu toro (medium fatty funa), o toro (fatty tuna), king crab, sakura masu (cherry blossom trout), uni (sea urchin), aburi toro (seared fatty tuna) and anago (sea eel). Highlights here were of course Chef Noz’s signature crosshatch treatment of hotate, the most flavorful mackerel we’ve ever had, gorgeous Hokkaido uni lightly brushed with soy, and the warm and satisfying anago smoked over bamboo leaves with tsume (eel sauce) that has been part of the same perpetual stock for 10 years. The progression from lean to fatty tuna was lovely, with each piece more buttery than the last. Chef goes a step further in his progression by searing otoro with a rack of lit binchotan coals instead of the trendy butane torch which can impart a flavor of gas upon the fish. The scent from the smoking coals was divine and the sound of the sizzling fat left everyone's mouth watering in anticipation. This portion of the omakase also included a heavenly sea perch uni-risotto, convincing us that no risotto should ever be without the sweet umami of sea urchin, a well-balanced asari shiro miso (white miso with clam), and a spongey, slightly sweet tamago which was not the best we’ve had but still held its own. The omakase concluded with a black sugar jelly dessert that brought a perfectly sweet ending to an unforgettable meal.
This time around we unfortunately weren't able to try Chef Noz’s famous bowl of ikura—perhaps it’s not the best season for it—nor his treatment of seaweed in temaki or futomaki as we’ve seen people post of his before. We'll just have to come back to see what more Chef Noz can wow us with.
A flawless meal can only be achieved with the help of flawless service, and that’s what the staff at Sushi Noz delivers. Josh the sommelier was extremely professional and even peppered in some dry humor to accompany his helpful sake suggestions. The women in traditional Japanese garb were swift and efficient in clearing courses, wiping any stray drops of sake or soy, and making sure our glasses stayed full. Sushi Noz co-partner Josh Foulquier was present the night we dined and was more than willing to answer any questions we had, engaging throughout the courses without distracting from the meal. He even enlightened us with some of the process of bringing Sushi Noz into actuality which was fascinating to hear about. Chef Noz himself remained extremely focused throughout the omakase but was always happy to explain his ingredients or process to a curious diner. His attention to detail was next level, and being served by him was something very special.
It’s hard to say that the amount of food warrants the high price tag, but you’re not just paying for the food—you’re paying for the artistry, presentation, and overall immersive experience that Chef Noz and the Foulquier brothers have crafted. That being said, we would have loved the option of adding on a few additional pieces at the end. This may be possible in the more casual Ash Room, but at the Hinoki counter it was not. After all was said and done, Josh was still a little hungry while Natalie was mostly content. It’s difficult to tell if we were really still hungry or if we just wanted to keep eating because the food was so good—honestly, probably the latter.
Every minute detail has been carefully planned when it comes to the enchanting atmosphere at Sushi Noz. Chef Noz is known to analyze everything a customer may see from the time they enter the waiting area to the time they are seated at the pristine counter for their meal, and it really shows. Once you go through the traditional noren outside, Japan is brought to you by way of fresh spring flowers, a brightly lit tsukubai filled with sakura petals, and traditional geta sandals resting on a wall adorned with Japanese artwork. Everything has been placed with intention and the beautiful simplicity is effective. After dining in the Hinoki room we were given a peek of the Ash Room and are excited to see what this room has to offer as well.
So, will we be back? I think it’s safe to go ahead and say we cannot wait for our next visit, and if the price point were lower, I’m sure we’d be dining here weekly. Thank you to Sushi Noz for giving us our first 5-Maki review, we hope to see you again soon!