- Cost: $150-$160, before drinks, tax, and tip
- Size: 9 seats at counter, two dining rooms and second counter
- Style: Otsumami + sushi
- Reserved: 1 week in advance
In a lot of ways, Kanoyama typifies the struggle of an American sushiya vacillating between pleasing the crowd and offering an authentic omakase - it is essentially a maki-driven neighborhood sushi spot in which there lies a very serious sushi counter. This confusion extends through the menu, where there is a $39 "omakase" (really, just a basic nigiri set) and another "omakase" available at the counter from junior chefs in the main dining room. However, saying the magic words "super omakase" (which kind of sounds like requesting the most boring member of the Justice League) will land the diner at a second sushi counter in the back room, in front of head chef Nobuyuki Shikanai.
The "super" omakase is fairly similar to what one would get in a Japanese sushiya - a few otsumami, followed by sashimi (which can be foregone for more sushi), followed finally by a long procession of nigiri. Kanoyama is most well-known in New York for a long daily "specials" menu with eye-popping prices (some single nigiri will run upwards of $15), and it is a good bet that many of these will be served during an omakase. Some of the neta I have had at Kanoyama (for example, the freshly-boiled shako) are among the best versions I have had anywhere.
The nigiri style is definitely unique - it unambiguously favors the neta over the shari, and the rice itself is a blend of two types, one of which has a very small grain size. The shari is moderately seasoned, and has a subtle sweetness. The nigiri are small and extremely delicate, to the point where Nobu-san will hand them directly to diners rather than placing them on the counter to be picked up again. Interestingly, some nigiri are brushed with a housemade ponzu rather than shoyu. Whether this is your preferred style is really a personal matter, but the ingredients, skill, and care are pretty undeniable.
One non-sushi note about Kanoyama: they are the only restaurant I have been to that serves maguro nakaochi (tuna ribs) on the bone. This features infrequently as a two-part appetizer - first the diner is invited to scrape the raw meat from the ribs, and second, the rib bones are fried and served with ponzu for dipping. If this is on the menu, order it, sushi be damned!
175 2nd Ave., New York