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December 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Former Seattle chef achieves dreams of sushi stardom

File photo of  Daisuke Nakazawa at Shiro's by Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle TImes

File photo of Daisuke Nakazawa at Shiro’s by Benjamin Benschneider / The Seattle TImes

Daisuke Nakazawa told Nancy Leson earlier this year that his dream was to be the number one sushi chef in the U.S. That was when the apprentice from the inspiring film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” was working with Shiro Kashiba in Belltown. He’s pretty close to his goals now at his own restaurant, Sushi Nakazawa in New York City, which scored the exceedingly rare prize Friday of a four-star review in The New York Times. That makes it the highest-rated sushi restaurant in New York City, as the “stupendously expensive” Masa lost its “coveted fourth star” in 2011.

The review from Times critic Pete Wells was headlined “The Student Does The Master Proud,” and Wells wrote that Nakazawa had served him the four “most enjoyable and eye-opening sushi meals” he had ever eaten.

“The moment-to-moment joys of eating one mouthful of sushi after another can merge into a blur of fish bliss. But almost everything Mr. Nakazawa cups in his hands and places in front of you is an event on its own. A piece of his sushi grabs control of your senses, and when it’s gone, you wish you could have it again…” Wells wrote.

“I remember precisely the dull luster of Mr. Nakazawa’s mackerel and the way its initial firmness gave way to a minor-key note of pickled fish and a major-key richness that kept building the longer I chewed. I can feel the warmth of just-poached blue shrimp from the South Pacific islands of New Caledonia, which had a flavor that was deep, clean and delicate at the same time. I can tell you about the burning-leaf smell of skipjack smoked over smoldering hay until it becomes a softer, aquatic version of aged Italian speck.”

In the movie, as Leson noted, Nakazawa “famously recounted making tamago under the stern eye of Jiro Ono: months of failure, 200 rejections and, finally, approval.

“I was so happy I cried,” the subtitle read.”

Nakazawa’s U.S. arc of success was substantially faster. On the restaurant’s web site, Nakazawa’s bio notes that he came to Seattle to work with Kashiba, another Jiro Ono disciple. “While in Seattle, Nakazawa developed his voice, utilizing western fish and styles while still honoring the tradition of Edomae. In the fall of 2013, Chef Nakazawa arrived in New York City to open Sushi Nakazawa on a quiet tree-lined street in the West Village. Serving what he calls ‘New York-mae’, the chef has merged all he has learned in Japan and America.”

The Times “four star club” is a tiny one. Eater counted just five restaurants with the ranking earlier this year: Per Se, Le Bernadin, Jean Georges, Eleven Madison Park, and Del Posto.

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