Nami Nori is a new izakaya in the East Village that is well worth a visit. Opened last year, it serves Japanese-style tapas and izakaya favorites with a creative twist and an elegant aesthetic. Takashi Suzuki has also designed the space as one of the restaurant’s owners. His work on Nami Nori’s cherry blossom-themed decor has won him acclaim and awards.
While the restaurant’s name is Nami Nori, it is also called NAMI NAMI. On its menu, there are three versions of izakaya. “Nama” means bar or tavern; “NAMI” means ocean. Izakaya owners spell their business names using the kanji for NAMI to reflect Japan’s origin and pay tribute to their Japanese heritage.
The restaurant has a casual, comfortable atmosphere with open-air seating. It is best to approach Nami Nori around 6:30 p.m., when it opens, as this is when the most excitement tends to be at the restaurant. If you happen to be there during lunchtime or on weekdays, you might find yourself alone at the bar with no one to potentially talk to.
The drinks at Nami Nori are pretty strong. If you’re feeling a bit hungry and not ready to eat, try the appetizers offered at the bar. The salmon carpaccio is simple, but the marinated salmon melts in your mouth and complements the spicy edamame very well. It’s nice to have a little bite of bar food while drinking time passes by while waiting for enough people to form a table.
Nami Nori has a variety of izakaya favorites you’d expect to see on a menu. These include oyakodon (grilled chicken and egg), tsukune (fried chicken wings), shabu shabu, udon noodles, and tempura. There are also shrimp gyoza dumplings, six kinds of nigiri sushi, seaweed salad, and sashimi.
Nami Nori: The Elegant Yet Casual Restaurant
The sushi selection is perhaps the stand-out item at Nami Nori, especially for its price point. While it is not considered a high-end sushi restaurant, the fish is high quality, and care is put into its preparation. You will find what you want if you are looking for an exciting range of flavors at a low price point.
The boat sushi (toro, salmon, tai, Shima aji, unagi, and hotate) is a good deal at $60. The salmon was exceptional, and the rest of the fish was of very high quality. The rolls are equally fresh. You can get four pieces for about $10. Our favorite was the temaki with Tai (sea bream), salmon, and ikura (salmon roe). The taste of the tai and salmon blended well in a seaweed wrap and was topped with salmon roe. The rolls are also freshly prepared, so you know you will get an excellent product at Nami Nori.
As for other favorites, the sushi above is a must-try at Nami Nori. We also recommend the tempera as a side dish to eat while drinking sake. However, we found it too salty and greasy, so don’t fill up on this alone.
Nami Nori: The Creative, Elegant Atmosphere
As mentioned earlier, the space was designed by Takashi Suzuki. The ceiling is decorated with cherry blossoms, and the bar has a variety of sake bombs and other small plates on display. The entrance to the restaurant features a gallery wall of art by Karl Fisher that features cherry blossom patterns.
Heading toward the back of the dining room, you will see several paintings by Sato Nori (Yasuyoshi Sato’s studio) suspended from above. These are Sato Nori’s own pieces and are some of the most beautiful art we have ever seen. They feature depictions of cherry blossom trees, water, boats, and more. If you are lucky enough to be there on a lovely day, you can also enjoy the artwork from inside the restaurant.
Sato Nori’s work and other art installations will change from time to time. They should be updated on the restaurant’s website, www.naminori.com.
A Great Place to Meet People
Nami Nori covers the basics when it comes to Japanese food and drinks. You won’t find any quirky Japanese items but a menu and setting that is both elegant and casual. The restaurant has a great atmosphere—better than most izakayas in New York City—which makes it an excellent place to bring friends. As mentioned before, the open-air seating during the summer is adorable, so it is best to grab seats around 6:30 p.m. to enjoy the place at total capacity.
On that note, this restaurant is a great place to meet friends and new people. Many of the customers were suited business people from companies in the East Village area—people who frequent the same bars and restaurants as each other daily. Even so, it was pretty easy for my colleague and me to start conversations with others and get to know them better over drinks at Nami Nori.
Many diners were Japanese, and it was interesting to hear stories about how some could get into the country. There was even a Japanese man living in New York City for over 40 years. He works at a multinational company that does business with Japan, which is why he was able to get into this country. It proves that even long-term ex-pats like him can find a way to be successful in New York City.
If you are looking for a place to enjoy izakaya and sake, you will not be disappointed by Nami Nori. You will have a great time watching the sushi chefs work in the open kitchen, and your meal will be served in one of the most elegant yet casual settings in New York City.
Conclusion: A Unique and Elegant Japanese Experience
Nami Nori has all the essential ingredients of a good izakaya. It provides excellent food for a reasonable price. With the open-air seating during the summer, it is even more enjoyable. The experience is unique, with its two floors and beautiful, light decorations. Nami Nori will be on our list of places to visit again in the future.
If you love sushi, sake, and izakaya or want to try a new spot in New York City, visit Nami Nori Izakaya. It might just become one of your new favorites!
The first time I heard about this place was when a friend mentioned it. The second time I heard of it was because another friend told me she had been there.