In a sushi scene dominated by fanfare and fusion, a master doing what he does best – perfecting life-long techniques with each dining service – is the rarest, most progressive approach of all.
Tucked away in the side streets of Tribeca’s industrial buildings, sleepy streets, and cobblestone corners, is Japanese sushi import, Ichimura.
With exacting thought given to every detail–the grandiose oak door was handcrafted by Japanese carpenters, the white-washed wall tiles are hand-cut to resemble the facades of New York brownstones–old world Japan meets new world New York. This brilliant mash-up of dueling metropolises invites guests to enjoy ‘the meal of a lifetime’ – no plane tickets necessary.
With only ten seats, Ichimura’s 22-course omakase service is intimate and interactive, allowing Chef to gauge the palate of his diners in real time. Another favorable advantage of having diners in such close proximity? The fish can be consumed within seconds of being served, as it is intended. But more than that, the 10-seat sushi counter honors tradition: it’s a nostalgic tribute to the storied sushi bars that Chef Ichimura grew up with in Tokyo.
“Whether you go to an old-style [sushi bar] or a traditional one, where the husband and wife live upstairs, you will always find a six to ten-seat counter,” says business partner, Idan Elkon. “The idea is you’re going to eat from the master–and the master is cutting the fish, assembling the sushi, he’s grading the wasabi.” For this reason, the inviting space is absent of decor: “We came up with a concept that we didn’t want any tables, because we wanted it to feel like you were in someone’s home,” says Elkon.
This poised simplicity is consistent throughout, and the minimal space is a canvas for the imaginative and brilliant presentation swirling behind the counter.
As Elkon explains, “We don’t want anyone focusing on the decor; we want everyone focusing on their black plate–on their sushi. We are just about the sushi. The appetizer, everything, is a prelude to the sushi.”
So what makes the sushi at Ichimura so special? Not only the quality of the fish, which is delivered direct from Tokyo’s Tsukiji and Kyushu Fish Markets each morning, but also the refined technique with which it’s prepared. With a technique called “fish aging,” Ichimura uses salt, vinegar, time, and temperature to yield the best flavor possible, just as a master wine maker ages a Bordeaux to premium effect. And because of the variables from one fish to the next (even within the same species), Chef’s alchemic process means he will taste every piece before settling on the 16 courses of fish he serves each night. Put simply, one hasn’t tasted sushi until he or she has tried Chef Ichimura’s masterful preparations.
For Elkon, who dined at Brushstroke somewhere near 75 times, and 200 times over the course of Chef’s career, it’s the appreciation of quality and precision that sets Ichimura apart. “You have all these sushi bars that try to be everything to everyone,” says Elkon. “It’s hard enough to be the best at one thing, let alone many. We just strive to be the best at making sushi.”
One can’t help but describe the Ichimura experience as artful. In a scene swept up in trends, the craft-focused master wins.