The New York location of KazuNori principally offers 6 different kinds of hand rolls including something called "toro" and something else called "Bay Scallop". The restaurant is seat yourself and order from the counter, while the menu steers customers towards four combos, ranging in size from: 3 handrolls to 6 (~$15-$30). The chef prepares and delivers them one at a time, so for those of you (read: me) that have gotten used to the course by course nature of omakase, that's likely a feature you'll enjoy. Unfortunately, you won't get to see the mayonnaise being mixed into the fish first hand, because that completely authentic technique happens in the back.
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll already know that my general feeling on the mayo use at KazuNori falls somewhere between mild bewilderment and Brad Pitt at the end of Seven. The blue crab, lobster and bay scallop all had generous amounts pre-mixed, but - and this is putting it gently - probably could have used less. Mayonnaise isn't completely abnormal to seafood of course, and it's even used in frequently in modern Japanese fast food. But in this case, it's used as a substitute for seafood (likely to save money), and overpowers the flavours of nori and rice that help to balance the handroll. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention it takes a certain level of gravitas (there's that word again) to put lobster or crab on your menu when it's really just a borderline fancier version of chicken salad.
Though my five piece set was over in a brisk 30 minutes, that was more than enough time for additional concerns to surface as well. The rice was legitimately hot to the touch and could probably have used some time cooling down prior to serving. The Temaki itself was formed poorly, with fish/seafood on one side and rice on the other,. Temaki is best when the ingredients are harmonized and work together. In this case, it was difficult to merge the flavours in each bite, and the seafood would just end up falling out the side (or running away, I couldn't tell).
1 minute video review on KazuNori
Top: Menu. Bottom: Bay Scallop and Yellowtail.
T here is no part of the common omakase playbook that appeals to common sensibilities more than the Temaki, or "hand roll". For some, what immediately comes to mind is the uncut nori, wrapped around negitoro in a tubed shape at a staple like Kosaka. For others, thoughts turn to the wide bodied cone, stuffed with rice and topped with a variety of neta at a neighborhood sushi joint like Marumi. The appeal of temaki (particularly in Western food culture) is in its construct; while small, balanced nigiri are delicate and patient jewels, hand rolls are the equivalent of a loud, brash party-crasher, filled and designed to please those who want more food, sooner. That isn't to say there isn't a technique behind the idea; the best temaki use the parts of fish not suitable for nigiri, but are still delicious enough to eat long-form. And again, we're all human - who doesn't want more of anything sooner? Unfortunately, enterprising souls have figured that out too. Which is how we got the latest iteration of the temaki craze: KazuNori.
KazuNori is the second Temaki-focused spot I've reviewed - the chocolate and eel love child known as Domo Domo was the first - but it still claims to be the "Original Handroll Bar". The gravitas makes more sense when you consider that KazuNori comes from the same hitmakers behind the wildly, incredibly, impossibly successful Sugarfish, which just opened in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood to massive lines. KazuNori is located nearby in NoMad, which is that area of Manhattan that most of you have likely never heard of. To be fair, I found the overall concept smart. Customers walk in, seat themselves, and order directly from the chefs behind the counter. The no frills attitude reminded me somewhat of the standing sushi bars in Japan, but unfortunately the similarities ended there.
KazuNori's space is dark and energetic, and was one of two positive parts of my visit. The room is just a big L, with a long sushi counter and two/three chefs that work behind it. KazuNori does not stand on ceremony, and given that diners can sit where they want and order when they want, I noticed a distinctive laid back attitude throughout the restaurant. Which isn't to say that service sits on their hands, because the staff - the second positive part of my visit - could not have been more engaged. While the food certainly leaves a bit to be desired from an authenticity and technique perspective, KazuNori is a well oiled machine and you won't wait long should you completely ignore this review and decide to visit yourself. If you do go, you won't be seeing me: once was enough.
Clockwise from top: Lobster, Toro, Blue Crab.
New York, NY. NoMad
$20+. Combo and by piece.
Date of visit: April 22, 2017
SUSHI ON JONES