You won’t get a table at Nami Nori on your first try. Waiting in line early before the restaurant opens doesn’t guarantee this either. My first attempt at Nami Nori resulted in a host quoting me an hour and 45 minute wait time, leading me to defect to Jeju Noodle Bar. Of course, I made the mistake of rolling in at a prime dinner hour of 7 pm, so I figured if I came before the restaurant opened, I would definitely have a shot.
Not so. After waiting 20 minutes for Nami Nori to open, I walked up to the host, confident we would get seated at the empty seats nearby, only to learn that those were reserved and that we had just missed the cutoff for the first seating. We would have to kill some time for 45 minutes. So we went to L’Accolade wine bar a few blocks away. Not a bad way to do so.
You just have to accept this inconvenience for what it is and expect that there will be a gap between the time you get to the restaurant and the time you actually sit down at a table. But the wait is worth it. Because where else can you get high quality $5-$6 temaki hand rolls ($9+ if they happen to have premium ingredients like uni in them) made by Masa vets?
Let’s be honest, hand rolls are the trashier cousins of sushi. People usually eat them because they’re not comfortable with raw fish, so they’d prefer it be masked in a lot of spicy sauce or mayo. The rolls at Nami Nori are not of the overwhelming, three-tiered, rainbow roll variety. There’s just one featured fish and a dominant sauce. It reminds me in some ways of KazuNori, the popular hand roll restaurant opened by the Sugar Fish people, only the Nami Nori rolls are noticeably better.
I could’ve gone for something more subtle and traditional, like the spicy tuna temaki, but what’s the fun in that? I want a Masa vet to do something really showy, like an x.o. scallop with fish roe and lemon. Those Masa credentials clearly mean something, because that bite of x.o. scallop was one of the best bites of hand roll that I’ve ever had. The lobster tempura was a very close second. Sometimes I still debate which one I liked more.
Even the vegan ones were satisfying. I normally scoff at the idea of vegan sushi, but I would consider getting the eggplant and red miso temaki roll again. It was substantial and filling, and there was depth to the flavor. Sometimes when you’re eating a veggie roll, you feel like you are eating a hunk of cucumber rolled up in rice. Here, it’s so much more than just a sum of the parts. The same can also be said of the earthy and meaty maitaki truffle roll.
If you’re not a roll person, you could also make a meal out of the excellent small plates. They tend to be crowd-pleasing, deep-fried snacks, a Japanese equivalent of a guac and chips or artichoke dip. I would highly recommend either the calamari or the nori chips–they are highly snackable and come with an addicting dipping sauce. For something with a lighter touch, the warm, clear broth of the miso clam soup would be a good choice. There is butter in the broth, so it’s lighter, but not by much.
The temaki taco shape is a theme here, and that extends to the desserts. It’s not a bad way to end the night with a tiny bite of the fior di latte ice cream topped with a dollop of red bean paste and matcha cream. I would have preferred that it was served in a cone instead of the waffle taco shell, and that was probably the only quibble that I had with this meal. Otherwise, the temaki at Nami Nori was on quite a roll.
33 Carmine St (between Bleecker and Bedford St)
New York, NY 10014