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Jiro Ono is considered by many to be the best sushi chef in the world. His little 10-seat restaurant in a Tokyo subway station received Michelin’s highest rating, yet the 85 year old still obsesses on how he can continue to improve. The 2011 documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, beautifully captures the importance of passion in all our lives and the elusiveness of perfection.

The movie was so popular among foodies that a New York restaurateur offered to put up the money for Jiro’s assistant, Daisuke Nakazawa, to run his own restaurant in Greenwich Village.  Sushi Nakazawa was an instant success and is one of the toughest reservations to get in New York.

Yoshimi joined me once again this year in New York for Book Expo America, the book industry’s main trade show.  For months beforehand she tried and failed to get us a reservation at Nakazawa.  She was just about to give up when a friend offhandedly mentioned that he knew one of Nakazawa’s assistant chefs.  He pulled some strings and just like that, we were in.

I was so thrilled to have finally gotten a reservation that I completely forgot to ask how much it was going to cost.  Yoshimi then informed me that the 20 course meal with sake pairings would be $300/person, not including tax or tip.  I’m sorry, but there’s no way I can justify an $800 meal.  Neither my palate, nor my wallet, is that refined.

When dinner costs more than the mortgage payment, that’s where I have to draw the line.  But luckily for us there is a budget option that foregoes the sake and is “only” $150/person.

The reservation was for our first night in New York and we arrived in Greenwich Village early so we could have a drink in the neighborhood before our big meal.  Like Jiro’s restaurant in Tokyo, Nakazawa has only 10 seats at the coveted sushi bar.

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Just a few feet from where we’re sitting, Chef Nakawzawa and his four assistants prepare the 20 sushi courses and hand each piece to us individually.  The courses were spaced about 5 to 6 minutes apart, so that we were never stuffed nor rushed, and yet felt perfectly satisfied afterwards.

Watching these guys prepare each piece of sushi was fascinating, a bit like performance art.  And to me way more interesting than any Broadway play.  I still don’t think I have the palate to fully appreciate all the flavor subtitles, but nevertheless was blown away by the whole experience.

It’s not easy to spend $400 on a alcohol-free meal, but for me it was totally worth it and something I’ll never forget.

Here are some pictures from the rest of our time in New York:

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