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At Sushi Nakazawa, Only the Price Remains the Same

This had a downside, and before long you saw or heard stories of rich young men — they were always young men — acting like the cretin on “Billions.” (These “bromakase” patrons must be the reason Nakazawa’s chefs and servers now warn you at the start of the meal to eat every piece in one bite, and never to top sushi with pickled ginger.)

Before Nakazawa, the best omakase meals were typically served inside restaurants that did most of their trade in à la carte sushi; after Nakazawa, one dedicated omakase parlor after another opened up, and like Nakazawa, many of them were inspired less by Japanese customs than by modern New York stagecraft.

That a 21-piece dinner at the counter cost $150 seemed like a deal even in 2013. Today, dinner at the counter is still $150, and it’s $30 less in the dining room, although there are some new efforts to upsell. As the cost of other omakase meals has gone up to $400 or more, holding the cost steady is an achievement.

It’s even more impressive because some parts of the experience have been upgraded. Originally the front door opened directly into the skinny room that holds the sushi counter. In 2015, Sushi Nakazawa took over the space next door on Commerce Street, and now you enter through a lounge where, if you are early for your reservation, you may bide your time perching on a small beige tuffet or leaning against the bar while putting away a glass of Champagne. If your destination is the dining room, you’ll find that the chairs there have been replaced with cushier ones.

Reservations, which used to be harder to find than West Village street parking, are plentiful now that the restaurant has added lunch service and stays open seven days a week instead of five. This is a net gain for patrons, but it comes at a cost. Mr. Nakazawa can no longer work every shift, as he once did. When he’s absent, it doesn’t much change the dining-room experience. But the counter is far more interesting when he is behind it.

To keep up with the increased traffic, Mr. Nakazawa has made his production line more efficient. Rather than slicing each piece of fish to order, chefs do it before each seating begins. This gives you less to watch, but it speeds up the meal and doesn’t seem to harm the sushi much, with one exception. One of my strongest impressions from the restaurant’s early days is the flavor of the live shrimp — the same ones Mr. Nakazawa liked to launch at unsuspecting customers before killing them, shelling them and laying them over a parcel of warm rice. Each time I ate one, I felt the room spin. The lusterless, pre-killed spot prawns I’ve had there recently were no substitute at all.

I doubt advance slicing was the reason the scallop with yuzukosho on its underside, like a concealed weapon, seemed less vividly seasoned than it used to be. Nor did it have anything to do with what’s happened to the tamago, which used to be a kind of whipped custard with a haunting savory finish and is now more like a blandly sweet yellow spongecake.

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