At his Sushi Nagai on Union Square in San Francisco, Chef Tomonori Nagai may specialize in Edomae-style, considered the purest and one of the oldest forms of sushi, developed hundreds of years ago as a way to preserve fish in salt, vinegar or seaweed.
But he is not above putting his own spin on it with flair, wit and technique, as I found out when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant earlier this month. After all, where else can you get a play on a hot dog that’s fashioned from uni? But more on that later.
The restaurant, which is across the street from Macy’s, opened quietly in spring but is now having its grand opening.
San Francisco has seen a number of high-end omakase restaurants of late. Sushi Nagai joins that roster with menus priced at $200, $250, and $350-plus. Each comprises about 18 courses, with the more expensive menus featuring more premium ingredients and intricate dishes. At the media dinner I attended, we were treated to the $350 menu.
Growing up in the small coastal town of Iwaki, Nagai had wanderlust and thought the best opportunity to explore more of the world was to become a French cuisine chef. But after a stint at a hotel in Tokyo, where he ended up working the sushi bar because they were short-handed, he found his voice in his native Japanese cuisine.
After working at Morimoto in Honolulu, where he ended up serving sushi to then-President Barack Obama, and the Michelin-starred Shinji by Kanesaka in Singapore, he was recruited to head the new sushi restaurant in San Francisco.Read more