It’s safe to say that the days of the California roll are far over and done with, as are run-of-the-mill ingredients such as flimsy cucumber strands, dried-out imitation crab, and mushy avocado chunks. The American palate has thrived and become more sophisticated than ever, and sushi has become as popular as more traditional Western favorites such as burgers, tacos, and fries—even pizzas.
Japan-worthy five star rolls and hand wraps that were once considered too hard to find are now commonplace all across the nation. If you’re looking for mouthwatering maki, heavenly-grilled fresh eel, innovative sashimi, or top-shelf sake, there are a variety of spots from Los Angeles to Philly-- plus many in between—offering seasonally changing menus of fish combined neatly with finely cooked vinegar rice and a whole ton of other delicious items. So pick up those chopsticks, tuck in those napkins, and savor sushi mastery that’s never been better. Here are the nine best sushi restaurants in the U.S.
TRY THE BEST OF SUSHI AT THESE 9 PLACES IN THE U.S.!
1. ARIGATO SUSHI - SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA
Located on Santa Barbara’s bustling State Street, the sushi at this hotspot is all about the art. Simple items such as sashimi are served and plated for nothing less than royalty, and delicacies like salmon are finely adorned with gorgonzola sauce and dill. Along with a bounty of sushi dishes to choose from, they’ve got a bunch of not-sushi ones too, such as heaping plates of broiled scallops, shiitakes, and crab that are piled high on top of sushi rice and lit on fire. Munch on innovative sushi, nigari, and sake within a lively brick-walled space featuring local artwork.
Plus, since SB happens to be the uni capital of the U.S., you can bet that the sea urchin at Arigato is nothing more than perfect when in season. Make sure to sample everything from a special roll of bay scallops laced with beads of smelt roe, to the signature “gold shot,” where a serving of uni is topped with a quail egg.
Arigato Sushi is located at 1225 State Street in Santa Barbara, California.
2. MIYAKE - PORTLAND, MAINE
Some of the best sushi along the Atlantic is served in this elegant downtown Portland restaurant where chef and owner Masa Miyake focuses on local catches such as sweet Maine shrimp laced with a spicy mayo and avocado, locally harvested sea urchin roe, uniquely miniature sardines, and lobster dishes cooked and prepared in ways you’ve never imagined or even tasted.
After working the Big Apple restaurant scene, Miyake moved with his family to the Pine Tree State to provide the local area with a uniquely Maine dining experience. You’ll find everything from crab and scallop hamayaki to truffle oil-touched lobster. The Japan-born culinary master has taken it further by opening up Miyake Farms, so diners know exactly where the yolk in the fan favorite Golden Egg dish of uni, roe, and egg comes from.
Miyake is located at 468 Fore Street in Portland, Maine.
3. O YA - BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
Chef Tim Cushman strays away from tradition by bringing innovative sushi and Japanese-related fare to a menu that’s full of creativity, imagination, and funky flair. Only truly wonderful dishes are served at this small forty-seat Beantown sushi restaurant, which is why it was named Best New Restaurant in the country by the NY Times in 2008. There’s also an extensively large choice of excellent sake and wine to pair along with the complexity of flavors on each plate, with dishes such as claudio corallo raisin cocoa pulp or balsamic chocolate kabayaki. Nothing beats sipping on some aged sake while chowing down on warm eel with Thai basil. Yes.
Let’s just say that though highly different, all of Cushman’s creations are intricate without being too gimmicky. Marvel over striped horse mackerel in leche de tigre, or try out popular faves like sea bass sashimi topped with spicy cucumber vinaigrette, spiced chile oil-drizzled hamachi tartare, or a fried Kumamoto oyster nigiri with yuzu kosho, aioli, and squid ink bubbles. It’s a salty and peppery treat for sure!
O Ya is located at 9 East Street in Boston, Massachusetts.
4. MORIMOTO - PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA
When one of the most well-known Japanese chefs in the world opens up a sushi bar, you know it’s got to be good. Add to that the fact that Masaharu Morimoto is the famed Food Network’s Iron Chef star, and it’s safe to say that you’ll be dining in sushi paradise for sure.
Omakase and other Japanese creations are infused with a subtle Western touch inside a futuristic dining room offering a sleek, color-changing setting and comfy low-slung chairs. Order the popular toro tartare or choose from a more than diverse sushi selection. OR just go all out by making your way through an entire tasting menu. Perfect Philly sushi awaits.
Morimoto is located at 723 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
5. TOMO - ATLANTA, GEORGIA
In ATL, Tomohiro Naito prepares beautiful, traditional slivers of fluke spotted with hot sauce as well as decadently rich live lobster and uni with ponzu jelly in an expansive Buckhead-based space.
Naito’s years of training at Nobu’s Vegas spot truly shows, as he continues to serve uniquely flavored Japanese food employing French and Italian styles of cooking to patrons sitting in plush seats gawking over dishes like Lobster a La Musso. Plus, with fish flown in twice a week from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji market, you know things will be more than fresh. Live lobster with uni and white truffle oil, anyone?
Tomo is located at 3630 Peachtree Road #140 in Atlanta, Georgia.
6. UCHI - AUSTIN, TEXAS
With razor sharp cuts of Tsukiji sashimi and traditional Japanese dishes topped with off-the-wall touches like splashes of carbonated celery on oysters or goat cheese paired with big eye maguro, this Beard Award winner is truly a wild card—it’s one of the most innovative sushi restaurants in the nation.
Chef Tyson Cole quickly made a name for himself after opening Uchi by combining East with West in favorites such as the machi cure, which is a play of baby yellowtail, yucca chips, Asian pears, Marcona almonds, and garlic brittle. Let’s just say that Cole and his 1920s bungalow of addictive Japanese food continues to transform the Austin dining scene day in and day out. You’ll always find three different kinds of sea urchin, as well as sample tempura-fried Brie to munch on alongside all that clean, crisp, and light sake or white wine you’ll be downing.
Uchi is located at 801 South Lamar Boulevard in Austin, Texas.
7. SUSHI OTA - SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
It may be tucked quietly away into a corner of a strip mall, but this S.D. spot is a longtime favorite among locals. The bento box–sized space boasts a simple design with clean lines and a more than perfect menu of top-notch sashimi that’s cut and curated by a small army of chefs behind the counter. There’s also a true variety when it comes to other seafood, such as abalone or even monkfish liver.
So while this overly modest Japanese outfit stays stuck between a 7-11 convenience store and a car dealership, you’ll always find constant crowds of sushi lovers chowing down on incredible rolls and some of the most reliable (and delicious!) uni in town. What’s better is that the prices are super reasonable. Score.
Sushi Ota is located at 4529 Mission Bay Drive in San Diego, California.
8. SUSHI RAN - SAUSALITO, CALIFORNIA
This one’s known for importing its fish daily directly from Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, and is truly a Bay Area favorite. From Yoshi Tome (with executive chef Scott Whitman and sushi chef Taka Toshi), Sushi Ran has been dominating for years, especially with dishes such as salmon skin and live Dungeness crab maki. You’ll also fall in love with the endless sashimi and those incredible scallop-chive dumplings.
What’s more is that if you’re coming from the city, you need to hop on a ferry ride to get to this hotspot. So stellar sushi plus a boat ride plus a relaxed dining room and bar experience definitely equals bliss. Don’t miss out on the smoked hamachi tataki, which is a seared yellowfish with avocado, ruby grapefruit, and yuzu–black pepper sauce. Yummy.
Sushi Ran is located at 107 Caledonia Street in Sausalito, California.
9. ARAMI - CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
This contemporary sushi spot was an instant hit when it opened in Chicago in 2010 and continues serving the best creative rolls and cooked Japanese fare along with tons of sake, beer, and wine. Patrons line up to dine within the tranquil sky-lit back room to get a taste of the most well-executed, traditionally-rooted sushi there is to find in the Windy City.
Though the chefs have changed throughout the years, Arami still boasts a level of unparalleled excellence, with everything from specialty sashimi options like hamachi with mushroom and truffle oil, to vegan (yasai) options such as eggplant with peanut red miso dressing. Plus, aside from dinner, they also serve Sunday brunch where you'll find French toast beignets alongside neat little bento boxes, as well as à la carte items like nigiri, sashimi, maki rolls, grilled robata meats, and ramen noodles. Stellar.
Arami is located at 1829 W. Chicago Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.