Best Sushi Restaurants in the U.S.
The days of the California roll are numbered. Do you really want to eat a run-of-the-mill maki roll stuffed with flimsy strands of tasteless cucumber, dried-out imitation crab, and mushy avocado? Ordering one at any respectable sushi restaurant is like asking for buttered pasta at a four-star Italian restaurant.
Today, the American palate is more sophisticated than ever, and as a result, sushi’s popularity continues to soar. Ingredients once considered too hard to find are now commonplace at sushi restaurants from Manhattan to Minneapolis. Just one peek at the recent documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which follows one of the most respected sushi masters, and it’s clear why diners love eating everything from raw clams to rice topped with precious caviar. Sushi is not only healthy, it’s also the cuisine of choice for Hollywood celebrities. Our selection of seafood has never been better.
But it wasn’t always this way, says Tim Zagat, who with his wife, Nina, founded the Zagat Restaurant Survey back in the 1980s. What was once considered exotic is now everyday fare for even young children. Zagat included the ratings of 34 Japanese restaurants across the country in 1990, but today there are 221 in that category.
“The idea of eating raw fish? Most people thought that would be a fraternity prank,” says Zagat. “Now there’s a sushi bar on every corner.”
At Brushstroke in New York City, chef David Bouley collaborated with the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka, Japan, to create tasting menus that let diners experience a range of flavors. One moment you may take bites from a chirashi bowl, a mound of rice topped with shimmering pieces of sashimi, and the next you’ll dip a tender lobster tail into white miso sauce.
Our list of the best sushi restaurants includes a range of options. In Atlanta, the popular spot Tomo serves simple Japanese snapper with shiso and a squeeze of lemon, or for those who aren’t purists, a popular spicy scallop roll is a must order. Another favorite of ours includes Urasawa in Los Angeles, where the dining experience is equal parts theater and art.
While the price tag can be steep to experience some of the country’s best sushi, as much as $500 for dinner, our list below is aimed at all budgets, with each experience worth the trip.
Soto, New York City
Soto remains under the radar among notable sushi restaurants in New York but is consistently ranked among the best by guidebooks like Zagat and Michelin. One reason is chef Sotohiro Kosugi. The menu features several varieties of sea urchin—all worth ordering. In the small, serene dining room the best views of Kosugi working his magic are best had from the bar. There’s also a menu of fine sakes—great for pairing with your kampachi tartare, diced bits of yellowtail fish, or thinly sliced Long Island fluke dusted with sea salt and a touch of yuzu zest.
357 Sixth Ave.; (212) 414-3088; sotonyc.com
Makoto, Washington, D.C.
Makoto means “harmony” in Japanese, and that may be the best description of the food at this well-known D.C. favorite. Ordering omakase in this quaint restaurant is the way to go here, as a procession of pageantry unfolds before you. A variety of fish, whether raw or flash grilled, is accompanied by courses ranging from silky layers of tofu topped with grated ginger to delicate vegetables lightly fried in a tempura batter. The dishes roll out at a steady pace, and while you can order à la carte, it’s best to let the chefs make the decisions.
4822 MacArthur Blvd. Northwest; (202) 298-6866; makotorestaurantdc.com
Urasawa, Los Angeles
An average bill for two people at Urasawa can easily top $1,000 with tip and tax, so it’s only natural that everyone asks, “Is it worth it?” Yes. The cooking at this tiny restaurant—which seats 10 people at a time—is personal and theatrical. Chef and owner Hiroyuki Urasawa flies in the freshest fish each day, so you can never predict which delicacies will roll out in front of you. A sliver of fatty toro, a rich cut of tuna, may arrive on a custom-carved ice pedestal, or a personal hot stone grill may appear before you as the catch of the day is quickly seared on both sides. Just be ready for the check.
218 North Rodeo Dr.; (310) 247-8939
Sushi Ota, San Diego
Tucked into a corner of a strip mall, Sushi Ota is a longtime favorite among locals. This bento box–size space is simply designed with clean lines. It’s a perfect backdrop to the menu, which features top-notch sashimi cut by a small brigade of chefs behind the counter. The variety of seafood, from monkfish liver to abalone, is also surprising for a small spot.
4529 Mission Bay Dr.; (858) 270-5047; sushiota.com
O Ya, Boston
Japanese tradition is a hallmark of top sushi restaurants, but where O Ya differs is in its creativity. The dishes are intricate without being gimmicky. There are no dragon rolls tricked out with a dozen ingredients. Instead, popular choices include a sea bass sashimi topped with spicy cucumber vinaigrette and a fried Kumamoto oyster nigiri with yuzu kosho (a chili paste with peppery and salty flavors) aioli and squid ink bubbles. Even the dining room strays from the clichéd sushi-bar look with dark, warm colors in a former firehouse that welcomes you back each time.
9 East St.; (617) 654-9900; oyarestaurantboston.com
Uchi, Austin, TX
Austin has a reputation for being a bit of a wild card, but who knew it was home to one of the most innovative sushi restaurants? Chef Tyson Cole quickly made a name for himself after opening Uchi, where he combines local ingredients with fish flown in daily from Tokyo. A prime example is the machi cure, which is a play of baby yellowtail, yucca chips, Asian pears, Marcona almonds, and garlic brittle. For a rustic counterpoint to contemporary Uchi, try Cole’s other Austin sushi spot, Uchiko.
801 South Lamar and 4200 North Lamar; (512) 916-4808; uchiaustin.com
Sushi Ran, San Francisco
While some sushi restaurants find it a challenge to procure fresh fish, that’s never been an issue for Sushi Ran, a mainstay in Sausalito for the past 25 years, known for its relaxed dining room and bar. In fact, sometimes the selection is so varied that choosing what to eat is the biggest challenge: all fish is locally caught or handpicked from a Japanese fish market. Owner Yoshi Tome lets his chefs blend the traditional and creative. And it shows in dishes like a smoked hamachi tataki, a seared yellowfish with avocado, ruby grapefruit, and yuzu–black pepper sauce.
107 Caledonia St.; (415) 332-3620; sushiran.com
Masu Sushi and Robata, Minneapolis
In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, there has to be at least one outstanding sushi restaurant. Enter Masu Sushi and Robata. Chef Katsuyuki Yamamoto turns out Instagram-ready rolls and sashimi in this fun restaurant with a quirky décor. You won’t go wrong ordering the red sea bream nigiri or the Dynamite roll with two kinds of tuna topped with avocado and chili sauce. And don’t pass on the robata (grilling done in the Japanese tradition) selection, which might include jumbo shrimp on skewers or discs of Japanese eggplant glazed with sweet miso.
330 East Hennepin Ave.; (612) 332-6278; masusushiandrobata.com
Brushstroke, New York City
TriBeCa’s resurgence has attracted a number of well-known restaurant openings to the downtown neighborhood, but none rival the nearly 10 years of planning that went into Brushstroke, where chef David Bouley tapped masters from the famed Tsuji cooking school in Osaka. At this warm, minimally designed restaurant, the sushi is first rate: lobster may be studded with bits of salmon roe, but most of the items focus on very pure, traditional nigiri. For instance, the fatty tuna or mackerel atop a bed of rice shows off the taste of the fresh fish. The rice is cooked to the perfect temperature, and the slices of fish are meant to be consumed in a single bite.
30 Hudson St.; (212) 791-3771; davidbouley.com
If there’s one sushi chef to train under, Tomohiro “Tom” Naito chose the right person when he worked for Nobu Matsuhisa, one of the first Japanese chefs to popularize sushi, in Las Vegas. Since 2005, Naito has been serving Japanese food with unique flavors that employ French and Italian styles of cooking in this sleek restaurant with dark wood floors and plush seats. With fish flown in twice a week from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market, you know the paper-thin slices of fluke dotted with hot sauce and brightened with the flavors of ponzu jelly are as fresh as they come. There’s also a dish named after a customer called the Lobster a La Musso, which combines live lobster with uni and white truffle oil.
3630 Peachtree Rd.; (404) 835-2708; tomorestaurant.com
Sagami, Collingswood, NJ
Located just south of Philadelphia off a nondescript stretch of freeway, Sagami is a destination for diners seeking quality sushi with no frills. There is no $500 tasting menu or need to book reservations months in advance at this sushi joint, where the ceilings are low and the lighting dim. Chef Shigeru Fukuyoshi cuts into only carefully picked selections like tuna, flounder, scallops, and sea bass. His wife, Chizuko Fukuyoshi, says the chirashi is especially popular. Each perfectly cooked bowl of rice is topped with different fish, sometimes up to 10 different kinds, depending on what is in season.
37 West Crescent Blvd.; (856) 854-9773
Miyake, Portland, ME
Lobster may come to mind first when you think of Maine. But at Miyake, an elegant restaurant in downtown Portland, chef and owner Masa Miyake serves some of the best sushi along the Atlantic. His menu focuses on local catches: there’s sweet Maine shrimp laced with a spicy mayo and avocado, mini sardines, and even sea urchin roe harvested just up the coast. And yes, there is lobster on the menu, but it’s probably prepared in ways you’ve never tasted.
468 Fore St.; (207) 871-9170; miyakerestaurants.com
Kiriko, Little Osaka in Los Angeles
It’s worth navigating L.A. traffic (and a large commercial complex) for beautifully crafted but non-fussy sushi at under-the-radar Kiriko. Chef and owner Ken Namba will orchestrate a meal that heightens all your senses. He regularly smokes a marbled piece of salmon, slices it thick, and may wrap it in mango one day and translucent kelp topped with caviar the next. When in season, truffle shavings are sprinkled on top of halibut. You may want to hurry because it won’t stay a secret too much longer.
11301 West Olympic Blvd. # 102; (310) 478-7769; kirikosushi.com
Yutaka Sushi Bistro, Dallas
Japanese restaurants, even ones located far from the ocean, have no excuses for skimping on fish quality, says Yutaka Sushi Bistro’s chef and owner, Yutaka Yamato. He buys fish from both coasts of the country, which means the creamy uni, or prickly sea urchin, tastes like it’s just been plucked from salt water. Yamato, who overseas this hip, bustling restaurant, enjoys trying out new dishes on a whim too, such as a summer sashimi roll filled with cucumber, fresh salmon, and king crab drizzled with ponzu sauce. But at the end of the day, the fish is the star.
2633 McKinney Ave.; (214) 969-5533; yutakasushibistro.com
Bamboo Sushi, Portland, OR
In sustainability-minded Portland, it’s no surprise that every fish on the menu at Bamboo Sushi—a casual restaurant with high-top tables, a long bar, and a handsome dining room—is approved by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. So when you take a bite into the black cod with a smoky soy glaze, you can feel guilt free. Its seafood “charcuterie” platter is a great way to sample raw, cooked, and cured selections.
310 Southeast 28th Ave.; (503) 232-5255; bamboosushi.com
Sushi Kappo Tamura, Seattle
When a sushi restaurant opens in Seattle, the expectations are high because, after all, the Pacific Ocean is right there. At Sushi Kappo Tamura, chef Taichi Kitamura serves fish from the local Alaska, Washington, and British Columbia waters, and everything from the geoduck to the sockeye is full of delicate flavor and freshness. The seasonal spot prawns served with sake butter are not to be missed. You’ll want to sit back in your leather chair in the light-filled room and contemplate what to order next.
2968 Eastlake Ave. East; (206) 547-0937; sushikappotamura.com
Sushi Sasa, Denver
While Denver may be far from either ocean, Sushi Sasa’s chef, Wayne Conwell, says he borrows ideas from chefs from both coasts to keep his menu interesting. His customers want something playful at this sparsely decorated restaurant accented with bamboo. The Diablo roll is the winner; the signature roll comes with spicy tuna and seared tuna on top, house-made ponzu, and a generous sprinkling of jalapeños and cilantro. The saffron snow crab stuffed with Scottish salmon with a yuzu crème fraîche is another popular item.
2401 15th St.; (303) 433-7272; sushisasadenver.com
While Phoenix boasts plenty of trendy places serving rolls upon rolls of rice wrapped in seaweed and fish, only a few stand out. At Hana, which is located in a nondescript strip mall, you feel like you’ve randomly walked into someone’s personal dining room. That changes when you taste chef Koji Hashimoto’s sushi, whether it’s red snapper or mackerel, with fish regularly flown in and artfully prepared. Standouts include the Hana roll with shrimp, crab, and pickled root with tempura flakes. You’ll feel like a regular after your first visit.
5524 North Seventh Ave.; (602) 973-1238; hanajapaneseeatery.com
Sushi Sasabune, Honolulu
Ordering omakase can be like rolling the dice, but it’s more than worth it at Sushi Sasabune. Seiji Kumagawa is dogmatic about his sushi—from how you should eat a dish to how sable should be sliced—but in his hands, you’ll be mesmerized by the unadorned sushi you bite into. While most of the fish is not from Hawaii, you’ll often find nearly two dozen kinds of fish from Alaska to Japan at this relaxed restaurant, which keeps dining fun. Don’t be surprised if you hear Kumagawa say, “Salmon from Alaska with wasabi. Two bites.”
1417 South King St.; (808) 947-3800
Even with its flurry of creative touches, the sushi at the intimate Macku is all about pristine fish. Chef-owner Macku Chan and his brother Kaze, along with his cousin Hari, have been elevating the level of Japanese cuisine and dining—there are white tablecloths—in the Windy City for years. Here, the food is beautifully presented, as evidenced in everything from sashimi plates (sea bream can be dressed in simple vinaigrettes with sprinkles of pine nuts) to layered bites of nigiri (yellowtail atop a sautéed banana pepper). There is more than sushi on the menu, but sticking to fish is the best way to go.
2239 North Clybourn Ave.; (773) 880-8012; mackusushi.com
Kabuto, Las Vegas
While Las Vegas hotels, casinos, and celebrity chef–owned restaurants have reputations for being big and splashy, Kabuto bucks this trend. Located in Chinatown, it has no sign outside except for the Japanese character for kabuto, which means “samurai helmet.” Inside there are only 18 seats total, with 10 at the sleek cypress wood bar and the rest at two tables. You won’t find any sushi rolls here, only sashimi and nigiri. The selection of fish, which is expertly curated and includes high-quality blue fin tuna, arrives from Tokyo several times a week.
5040 West Spring Mountain; (702) 676-1044; kabutolv.com
Masaharu Morimoto, the famed Food Network’s Iron Chef star, may not preside over the sushi bar every night, but the eponymous owner manages to maintain a high standard for his food. Many of the Japanese dishes served here are infused with a Western touch. The sushi selection is diverse, but ordering simple, whether it’s a fresh piece of red snapper or striped bass, is the way to go. The bells and whistles are reserved for the futuristic dining room, where diners sit back in one of the low-slung chairs and order the popular toro tartare.
723 Chestnut St.; (215) 413-070; morimotorestaurant.com
Arigato Sushi, Santa Barbara, CA
The uni capital of the United States is Santa Barbara, where the sea urchin is pristine when in season, and each bite is like tasting the sea. Arigato Sushi serves uni, of course, and much more in a restaurant with a trendy vibe. In this airy, two-story hot spot, snagging a table can take time. But once you’ve ordered, the fish comes out fresh and is presented as artwork. There is everything from a special roll of bay scallops laced with beads of smelt roe to simpler items like a carpaccio of halibut. Not to be missed is the “gold shot,” where a serving of uni is topped with a quail egg.
1225 State St.; (805) 965-6074; arigatosantabarbara.com
Horinoya, New Orleans
It can be difficult for a Japanese restaurant to stand out in a city where the cuisine is all about the Cajun and Creole influences. The subtler flavors of Japanese cuisine are on full display at Horinoya, where first-class sushi is served in a relaxing dining room adhering to the principles of feng shui. While nothing on the menu is too crazy—leave that to the nearby French Quarter—the cuts of hamachi are generous. If you’re ordering nigiri, the fish rests on a perfectly cooked bed of rice that’s seasoned with just the right amount of vinegar.
920 Poydras St.; (504) 561-8914
Dining under a chef’s complete control can seem risky. But in the case of chef Kevin Cory, his omakase-style service at Naoe is worth the gamble. If you can get a seat in this intimate restaurant, you’ll quickly discover that every detail is thought out, from the professional service to the family-brewed sake. A bento box is likely to come out first, with treats of sardines over rice or cooked baby turnips that are lightly salted. More bites of pristine nigiri are presented throughout the meal, where even seemingly simple slices of salmon are brought to life with a touch of the house-brewed soy sauce. At this shrine to sushi, the meal is meant to be a personal experience, orchestrated by a chef who will leave you in trusted hands.
661 Brickell Key Dr.; (305) 947-6263; naoemiami.com
Sushi Miyagi, Houston
In a city where Vietnamese cuisine reigns supreme among Asian restaurants, Sushi Miyagi champions the food of Japan with a no-nonsense approach. This mom-and-pop restaurant is not a place where you go to drop hundreds of dollars for a fancy omakase-style meal. Instead, you’ll ignore the colorful artwork and Hello Kitty dolls on the wall as you admire the generous portions of fresh fish—the chirashi bowl is filled with just the right amount of rice and layers of quality salmon, tuna, and mackerel—prepared by a chef who claims to have honed his craft for more than three decades.
10600 Bellaire Blvd.; (281) 933-9112
Roka Akor, Scottsdale
Roka Akor, which has a location in Chicago and plans to open another in San Francisco, offers a number of excellent grilled items off the robatayaki side of the menu. The fish, however, is some of the freshest around and is flown in from around the world. Many of the sushi choices, from maki rolls to simple slices of sashimi, are presented with a creative flair mimicking the contemporary dining room. Diners may have a difficult time choosing between the meats and vegetables cooked on the open-flame grills and the fish selection, but if you order both, you won’t go wrong.
7299 North Scottsdale Rd.; (480) 306-8800; rokaakor.com
Koo, San Francisco
For a sushi restaurant to stand out in the Bay Area is a real achievement. Enter Koo, where traditional nigiri rolls are made with just the right ratio of fish to rice; there are also more innovative ones like the Flying Kamikaze (a roll full of spicy tuna and asparagus wrapped with albacore and topped with garlic ponzu sauce). Chef Kiyoshi Hayakawa, whose résumé includes stints at Tokyo GoGo and Sushi Ran, is behind the intimate sushi bar off the quieter main dining room. Whether you decide to be in the chef’s hands at the sushi bar or order à la carte, you can expect each bite of fish to be clean and pure.
408 Irving St.; (415) 731-7077; sushikoo.com
Takashi, Salt Lake City
There’s a constant buzz in Salt Lake City’s top sushi restaurant, Takashi. But a brief moment of silence isn’t far away when items like a roll of salmon and albacore drizzled with a special hot sauce or stellar pieces of thinly sliced scallops appear on the table. Chef Takashi Gibo pays attention to every detail, from the stylish décor in this boxy restaurant to the Tokyo-quality fish. The authentic flavors also take a creative turn when Gibo adds touches to dishes like the Caribbean Roll of yellowtail and fresh mango spiked with hints of chiles. The extensive selection of sake is also worth checking out.
18 West Market St.; (801) 519-9595
O-Ku, Charleston, SC
Charleston has blossomed into a dining mecca in recent years, with chefs cooking up award-winning dishes that infuse Lowcountry fare with modern touches and the use of local ingredients. At O-Ku, the chefs are doing the same with Asian cuisine. From Hawaiian-style tuna to yellowtail carpaccio, the fish comes from some of the best markets in the world and is paired with native ingredients. Even the décor mirrors the restaurant’s philosophy by mixing a modern interior that still preserves Charleston’s charming touch. While the selection of fish is limited, you can rest assured that O-Ku puts an emphasis on quality over quantity.
843 King St.; (843) 737-0112; o-kusushi.com