The Japanese tradition of omakase, an extravagant multicourse meal that loosely translated means “I trust you,” traces its history to the way sushi was originally served.
“A sushi chef’s job was always to find a variety of seasonal ingredients, and customers would then defer to the chef’s creations,” says Trevor Corson, author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice.
In recent years, omakase has become an even more decadent (and pricey) experience that can span well over two hours. But it has kept to its original tradition, in which the chef creates a menu suited to his or her creativity—and to the foods that are in season—and interacts with customers during the lengthy meal to create a warm, interactive experience.
So, where are the best places around the globe to experience omakase outside of Japan? Here are seven to consider.
1. SingleThread, Healdsburg, Calif
“This three Michelin-starred restaurant, led by chef/owner Kyle Connaughton in California’s wine country, offers an 11-course omakase menu that’s off the charts,” says Nancy Singleton Hachisu, a Japanese food expert and author of Japan: The Cookbook. The omakase menu, presented kaiseki style (which originated in Kyoto), features fish imported directly from Japan, such as rudderfish and Hokkaido sea urchin. “The omakase here is lovely, thoughtful, and impeccably sourced,” Hachisu says.
2. Otoko, Austin, Texas
At this intimate 12-seat restaurant tucked away in the South Congress Hotel, expect an omakase experience that blends Tokyo-style sushi and Kyoto-style kaiseki with fish flown in from Japan daily. Head chef Yoshi Okai, featured in Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2017, is known for his playful take on omakase and his innovative use of ingredients such as pine nuts and black truffle oil. Note: You’ll need to book tickets for omakase three months in advance.
3. Hiden, Miami
The lucky eight who are granted the passcode to the front door can expect a seven- to- eight-course omakase experience at Hiden, named for the legendary small, secret omakase restaurants of Japan. A unique passcode is emailed to guests a few hours before their seating time, and the code expires within 15 minutes of the reservation—so you can’t arrive late to dinner. The menu, served during two seatings, is the creation of chef Tetsuya Honda and sous chef James Weinlein and features cold and hot dishes, a sushi selection, and dessert.
4. Sushi Nakazawa, New York
Diners are promised a feeling of euphoria after indulging in the 20-course omakase prepared by chef Daisuke Nakazawa. Nestled in a picturesque street in Manhattan’s West Village, Sushi Nakazawa features ingredients sourced domestically and internationally based on what fishermen have handpicked for the chef. The menu, which might include bigfin reef squid, skipjack tuna, and Japanese sea urchin, is crafted in the style of Edomae sushi, the authentic sushi that was invented in Tokyo over 200 years ago. Dessert at this restaurant, which received a rare four-star review from the New York Times when it opened in 2013, is always Nakazawa’s renowned egg custard.
5. The Araki, London
When Mitsuhiro Araki closed his three Michelin-starred restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo, and opened The Araki in Mayfair, Londoners were thrilled to experience his world-famous Edomae-style sushi sourced with mostly European fish. Today, chef Marty Lau—who began apprenticing under sushi master Araki in 2015—has taken the helm of this venue, which boasts nine cypress counter seats, all facing the master.
6. Hōseki, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Located in the luxurious Bulgari Resort situated on the manmade Jumeirah Bay, an island carved into the shape of a seahorse, omakase aficionados are drawn to Hōseki—which means “gemstone” in Japanese—a nine-seat dining room overlooking the Dubai skyline. Here, chef Masahiro Sugiyama serves a multicourse omakase menu where no two meals are exactly alike.
7. Sushi Ginza Onodera, Los Angeles
This West Hollywood favorite serves Edomae-style traditional sushi with fish imported from the Toyosu Fish Market in Japan, the world’s largest wholesale fish market. Chef Yohei Matsuki specializes in a 22-course sushi menu that includes such delicacies as monkfish liver, sea perch nigari, and hairy snow crab. His expertise: using the aging process to preserve the fish, develop umami flavors, and create a more tender texture. Note: There is also a New York location for those on the East Coast.