Spin-offs of popular concepts aren’t always assured success (remember Matt LeBlanc in Joey?), but in the case of KazuNori, the newly opened offshoot of the sushi chain Sugarfish, the future looks very bright indeed.
Earlier this year, founding sushi chef Kazunori Nozawa, his son Tom Nozawa, and their Sugarfish business partners decided to open a Downtown restaurant dedicated solely Nozawa’s famous hand rolls. Their new resaurant takes the most populist attributes of Sugarfish—efficiency, affordability, and quality—and extends them to even greater lengths.
Serving from 11:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until midnight Friday and Saturday, KazuNori aims to offer a speedier and less costly sushi alternative to nearby omakase titan Zo. The 24-seat sushi bar, decorated in stark concrete, white tiles, and polished wood, is discreetly located beside a parking garage entrance near Main and 4th Street. And while official opening is tomorrow, the restaurant has been soft-opened since the past weekend.
1. KazuNori serves hand rolls only (unless you order to-go).
Nigiri sushi fans be warned. At KazuNori you’ll only find temaki, or palm-sized hand rolls, filled with one of seven options: cucumber, salmon, bay scallop with mayo, toro (fatty tuna), yellowtail, lobster or—the Nozawa signature—shredded blue crab. Some rolls get a sprinkle of toasted sesame inside as well. There is also a daily selection of sashimi (on our visit it was halibut) available á la carte. If you want 8-piece cut rolls (maki sushi) then you’ll have to take your order boxed up to-go.
2. Fill out your sheet and grab a seat.
KazuNori is all about efficiency. Featuring what it calls a “self-regulating” line, diners enter to face a wall of paper menus and pencils. After filling out their form, they await an open seat at the gorgeous reclaimed oak bar and hand their paper to a sushi chef, who then makes each roll to order. After you finish, you pay at the front. This ensures that the seaweed wrappers stay crispy, the sushi rice stays warm, and line moves quickly. In fact, you could probably enjoy a five hand roll meal from start to finish in less than 30 minutes, which is ideal for Downtown office workers.
3. The set menus are a fantastic bargain.
You’ll find 3 “Trust Me” style options on the menu: 3 hand rolls for $10.50, 4 for $13, or 5 for $17.50. Each comes with a daily hand roll (which rotates between toro and yellowtail) and a choice of cucumber or bay scallop roll. The 4-roll option adds in salmon, and the 5-roll option adds in lobster. Where else but Sugarfish could you find a full sushi meal that includes fresh lobster for $17.50? One caveat: soy sauce, ginger, and wasabi are all served on the side (In Japan, most hand rolls have a light dab of wasabi tucked inside).
4. No beer and wine just yet. But there’s iced matcha tea!
KazuNori will eventually serves $5 Sapporo and $6 Sake once their liquor license arrives, but for now you can opt for soft drinks, of their deep-green matcha green tea—served hot or iced.
5. This is what fast-casual sushi looks like.
Although KazuNori has a distinctly Japan feel to it (thanks to its curious, shoebox location and it’s emphasis on efficiency), it also might evoke comparisons to fast-casual chains like Chipotle and Shophouse. No one has quite cracked the formula for high-quality, traditional sushi served in fast-casual environment quite yet, but KazuNori seems like it could make a convincing argument.
KazuNori, 421 S. Main St., Downtown, 626-470-7655