Sushi may be an acquired taste, but if you can get past the concept – and the chopsticks – you’ll be well on your way to a life-long obsession with the art (and science) of raw fish consumption. Besides proper tea ceremony etiquette, the main thing to remember (…and the first piece of advice any sushi devotee will happily dole out after scoffing at your stunning lack of dexterity in the chopstick department) is that not all maki is created equal. Take if from us: chewy supermarket California rolls featuring day-old imitation crab can’t hold a candle to the handiwork of superstar chefs working with only with the finest ingredients. If you’re ready to take your sushi obsession to the next level, then take a peek at the wildly creative oceanic delicacies that await you at ten of the best sushi restaurants on the planet. Unsurprisingly, none of them can be found in Wisconsin, so you might need to take a look at plane tickets while you’re at it.
10. Asanebo, Los Angeles
Don’t let the Studio City address scare you away; honored with a Michelin one-star rating, Asanebo is a no-frills, straight up sushi joint that serves the best of Japanese pub food in a low-key atmosphere. Although it’s on the pricier side of the menu, take the guess-work out of ordering and go for the omakase (chef’s choice menu), which demonstrates the full range of Asanebo’s tasty treats, from sashimi (a house specialty) to cooked fusion dishes. If you’re tired of the same-old, then take a chance on the Monkfish Liver with Caviar, a rich dish that’ll propel you out of your comfort zone and into the world of authentic Japanese cuisine.
9. Isami, Paris
Paris may not be your expected go-to spot for great sushi, but Isami is praised as a truly authentic Japanese eatery that regularly draws hoards of Japanese tourists and Parisians alike. According to the Cuisine Japonaise Authentique, a private French organization, the restaurant also ranks first among the city’s top 50 Japanese restaurants. Adventurous eaters should try the sea snails, but even the more traditional dishes at this sushi haven are sure to delight both your taste buds and your aesthetic sensibilities.
8. Sushi Ran, San Francisco
Named one of San Francisco’s five best restaurants by Zagat, Sushi Ran has won accolades from Michelin, Wine Spectator Magazine and the International Sushi Masters competition, among other reputable outfits. Ran’s Master Sushi Chef, Mitsunori Kusakabe, even won a battle of top sushi chefs in 2008’s Eat-Japan Sushi Awards in London, a competition commonly referred to as the “World Series of sushi-making”. They describe themselves as “a fresh and eclectic blend of Japanese and Pacific cuisine,” with a kitchen that doubles as a “laboratory for innovation”. Fresh fish arrives daily either from local fishmarkets or the Tsukiji market in Tokyo. Try the seasonal sushi or sashimi platters, which feature locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients, or the omakase roll, a special roll created daily by Sushi Ran’s chefs.
7. Masa, New York City
After proving himself in Japan and Los Angeles, Chef Masa opened Masa and Bar Masa in New York’s Time Warner Center in 2004. In its five years on the scene, Masa has received the Mobil 5-star award, New York Times 4-star review, and Michelin 3-star award, and with good reason; there are no menus at Masa, only the caprices of Masa Takayama (who also occasionally works behind the bar) and the restriction of seasonal ingredient availability, contributing to an edible piece of performance art to which access is extremely limited (the restaurant has only 26 seats, and the multi-course prix fix menu runs between $400 and $600 a person). Masa prides itself on exotic seafood flown in from Japan (sometimes in organ transport containers to ensure maximum freshness) and a complete dining experience that begins at the door and ends with the last bite of the dessert course.
6. Kiku, London
A branch of the Mikuniya Ryokan in Toyooka Hiyogo, Japan, Kiku has been serving authentic Japanese cuisine in London’s Mayfair neighborhood since 1978. The design is minimal – slate flooring, small tables, natural wall panels – but the taste is extreme. Extremely good, that is. They share Mikuniya’s motto, “treat guests with a warm hospitality,” so while you won’t be met with a raucous, clublike atmosphere (a la American favorites like Sushi Samba), you will be able to enjoy your Tsuki Dinner course (featuring seasonal appetizers, a chef-selected assortment of sushi and sashimi, and noodles, soup and other delicious treats) in authentic, Japanese-inspired peace and quiet.
5. Matsuhisa, Beverly Hills
Matsuhisa, the creation and namesake of chef-owner Nobu Matsuhisa, is the flagship restaurant of one of the most recognizable sushi establishments in the country. Both Matsuhisa and its sister restaurant Nobu have outposts everywhere from Aspen to Sydney, but despite the hype and celebrity buzz, the original Beverly Hills restaurant manages to stay surprisingly casual (but nevertheless completely delectable). Chef Matsuhisa is perhaps best known for his “new style” sashimi, which features thin slices of the freshest fish flavored with unexpected tastes like garlic and cilantro. The 100+ dishes on the menu can be overwhelming, so start with the omakase tasting menu, comprised of the chef’s specialties and favorite dishes.
4. Kuruma Zushi, New York City
The midtown building that plays home to Kuruma Zushi is surprisingly underwhelming (rickety stairs, unflattering fluorescents in the entryway), but regulars know that this sushi haven is one that shines despite its downtrodden exterior. Chef Toshihiro Uezu prepares fish that seems to be straight out of the Sea of Japan, and although his omakase (chef’s choice) tasting menu sashimi costs somewhere between $70 and $90, when all is said and done, many diners report that a meal at Kuruma ranks among the best they’ve ever had. Luckily, there are also a la carte options, so you can still experience Uezu’s mastery without experiencing a serious blow to your wallet.
3. Urasawa, Beverly Hills
Hiro Urasawa, former sous chef to Masa Takayama (of Masa and Bar Masa fame), turned a nine-seat sushi counter on the second floor of a Rodeo Drive office building into one of the most talked-about sushi restaurants in the country, partly through over-the-top, insanely tasty dishes like Japanese chive gelée and caviar, dusted with 24-karat gold flakes, and fresh, organic ingredients that arrive daily from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market.
2. Daiwa Sushi, Tokyo
Daiwa Sushi is a veritable hole-in-the-wall restaurant, but nevertheless garnered Zagat’s “best of” rating in a city (and country) known for its abundance of gourmet raw fisheries. Tough to find but impossible to forget, Daiwa is a 20-seat gem tucked behind a warehouse that’s only open Monday-Saturday from 5:30 AM – 1:30 PM. Fittingly, Daiwa’s specialty is a sushi breakfast consisting of seven pieces of sushi, one roll, and a cup of miso soup. In keeping with the intimate nature of the place, the chef will gladly prepare more sushi for you if you’re still hungry after your first course.
1. Hamadaya, Tokyo
Hamadaya offers everything you could possibly want in a traditional Japanese restaurant: seasonal haute cuisine that changes weekly, traditional floor seating overlooking a lush Japanese garden, and the option to host a “geisha party” in one of the restaurants five private tatami rooms. Long a go-to spot for financiers, heads of state and generally well-to-do gents, Hamadaya will cost you – lunch runs about $150 a person – but the food (given three stars by Michelin and top billing by Zagat’s) and the atmosphere make it an unmissable sushi experience.