Oh My Omakase at Jado Sushi

Jado   (sadly…CLOSED)

Omakase in NYC is akin to the Holy Grail. Some seem to think that its special virtues will reward the connoisseur with lifelong happiness and at least a few super powers. And the conversations (um…arguments?) about where is best and who is best can drive anyone to forego the experience and just get a slice of pizza. Ha. Oh no no no. That particular debate will take your last shred of patience and land you on the sofa with some variation of take-away. So, pizza and best this or that aside, let’s talk about an outstanding omakase and let’s talk about Harlem.

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Upon entering, you could be anywhere. Pleasant, non-descript restaurant. Tables filled with diners doing the local sushi pub kind of thing. Fine but apparently not the food Jado is being exalted for. That, my friends is in the back at the L- shaped sushi bar.

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There’s an abundance of hipper than thou downtown sushi spots on the hot grid right now and they get all the whoop whoops and hollering. Many deservedly so. But here on the cult circuit is Chef Nakajima. He arrived at Jado last December having been a long cherished figure at Sushiden, Shinbashi and Sushi of Gari.

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This is legitimate Edomae sushi. Classic Tokyo nigiri style and Nakajima-san is a third generation sushi chef from Tokyo. Here’s the skinny. No farmed fish, mostly everything is flown in from Japan. But not just the bounty that every top place in the United States shares in from Tsukiji Market. His family has their own shop in Tokyo and their personal vendors send him the good stuff, varieties that few are privy to. Chef goes to Fulton Fish Market daily as well as trekking to New England for prime product. He likes to source locally as much as possible and has said that a phone call will not suffice, he must see the fish in person. He’s exacting and ultra conscientious. The private stock is kept in his personal refrigerator for the tasting menu. And his anago? Signature and spectacular. He only serves eight people a night so a reservation is a good idea.

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Thoughtful details enhance a chill neighborhood vibe. No scene. Epic experience.

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We had a fantastic meal. The rice (shari) was perfect. Temperature and chew matched the fish beautifully. Diver scallops from Boston, fried shrimp heads from Japan, various mackerel, makogarei from Kagoshima, abalone from Seattle steamed in saké, nodoguro from Maizuru, Kyoto, maguro no shuto – tuna belly aged for two years was a delight. And there was more…

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This dinner was in May so we were graced with a little amuse of fiddlehead ferns and celery. Superb.

Just a few pics of the service. Better to just go and enjoy it in person.

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Ahi from Chiba, Madai from Fukuoka, Japan…

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Very seasonal. Nicely marinated. Fabulous.

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Wild big-eyed tuna from Ecuador. Meltingly glorious.

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Sayori from Yokosuka, Kanagawa Japan.

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Bafun uni

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Smelt tempura.

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The chef sliced off a bit for us lucky diners and sent it back to the personal fridge with an associate.

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It became this.

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Sushi chefs preparing food for the dining room.

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Chef Nakajima grates his own wasabi and pickles his extraordinary ginger using a secret family recipe he will never disclose, and serves it chunked. Truly the best ginger I’ve ever had. I loved it so much, he fed me as much as I wanted and then sent me home with a little package of my own serving.

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They have a lovely saké selection. We had two bottles and then this icing on the saké cake. Sadly, I don’t recollect what we had. But there was a nice selection. That much I know!

Omakase starts at $85 per person but easily gets up to $150 and points north if you just can’t say no. The level here is at the top of the food chain but because of the uptown location, you get more for your dialing dollar. Chef Nakajima is adorable, generous and beyond talented with a piece of fish. All this and it found its place in the ‘hood.

Maybe it’s true about the Grail. This meal might have given me eternal youth. Certainly made me happy. I’m a fan.

Jado Sushi
2118 Frederick Douglass Blvd between 114/115th Street
212.866.2118
Tuesday-Sunday starting at 5pm

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