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'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' Chef Opening Sushi-Free Spot for Walk-Ins

By Danielle Tcholakian | January 21, 2015 12:21pm
 Chef Daisuke Nakazawa's new restaurant will not serve sushi.
Chef Daisuke Nakazawa's new restaurant will not serve sushi.
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Daniel Krieger

WEST VILLAGE —  A chef featured in the movie "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is opening a new Japanese restaurant on Grove Street — but it won't serve any sushi.

A proposed menu crafted by chef Daisuke Nakazawa — who helms the kitchen at the acclaimed Sushi Nakazawa on Commerce Street and was featured in the "Jiro" sushi documentary — will branch out from Nakazawa's sushi specialties to feature an array of fresh seafood dishes.

The menu at the as-yet-unnamed spot at 55 Grove St. combines Japanese and American ingredients and preparations.

Prospective dishes for the $125-per-person tasting menu include: fluke carpaccio with white sturgeon caviar, Meyer lemon, seaweed and a Japanese mustard called karashi; a type of Japanese bluefish called Akamutsu with Bordeaux spinach and poached citrus jam; and sea urchin on a "nest" of spaghettini and arugula.

Other seafood dishes of the proposed menu include Dungeness crab with roasted pistachio, broccoli and and a citrus-seasoned soy sauce called ponzu; live Maine scallop with creamed butter and blackened chives; and baby octopus with fingerling potatoes, citrus and soured cherry.

Nakazawa will also try his hand at non-seafood items, such as an okra and honeycrisp apple salad; duck liver with strawberry and honey; dry aged beef toast with wasabi, Himalayan rock salt and blackened leeks; and butternut squash ravioli with candied walnuts and Meyer lemon.

Alex Borgognone, the restaurateur behind Sushi Nakazawa as well as the new spot, said one of his motivations in opening the new location is to accept walk-ins, in contrast to Sushi Nakazawa's strict reservation-only policy.

"We wanted to do something a little different, something where people can actually walk in without a reservation," Borgognone told members of Community Board 2's liquor license committee, requesting their support for his application to the State Liquor Authority. "It’s a little bit more of a casual setting, but once again at a high level."

The new restaurant will also take reservations, but it will set aside a few tables to accommodate walk-ins. People waiting to be seated will be sent to a bar in the lower level of the restaurant, which can seat up to eight people and will offer the full menu for patrons who decide to stay and eat there.

Borgognone said that while the price point of the new restaurant will be "similar to Nakazawa," he's hoping to make his Grove Street venture family-friendly. He is taking over the whole building at 55 Grove St., though the top two floors will be set aside for office space, with the restaurant on the ground floor and the bar below.

Borgognone said nothing will change at Sushi Nakazawa's original 23 Commerce St. location, where diners are offered a 20-course "omakase" — a Japanese term for a chef's choice tasting menu.

The menu there changes daily based on the catch fishermen deliver to the restaurant, but has frequently featured such delicacies as a live Florida Tiger shrimp killed directly in front of the guest; eel from salty sea waters off the Japanese island of Kyushu; "torched" Geoducks (a breed of giant clam from Washington State); and large, bright orange Ikura caviar — roe harvested from the ovaries of salmon.

The new eatery will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight seven days a week. The community board agreed to endorse Borgognone's liquor license application, so long as there is no outdoor seating and the entire restaurant, including the bar, closes promptly at midnight.

There is no timeframe yet for when the new restaurant will open.