After nearly 30 years, Makoto Kobayashi has shelved his sushi knives and retired. Nagashima, the Japanese restaurant he founded in 1990, has closed. A modest storefront located in a Jericho strip mall, Nagashima was a fixture on Newsday’s Top 10 Sushi list since 2014.
“Thank you so much for your business, and to all our loyal customers: It has been our pleasure!” read the sign posted on the papered-over windows.
Kobayashi, one of only a handful of Japanese-born sushi chefs on Long Island, emigrated to New York in the 1980s to take a job as a tempura chef at Inagiku, the opulent Japanese restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria hotel that was the first in Manhattan to serve sushi. In 1990 he opened Nagashima with the help of his wife, Mia.
At first glance, Nagashima looked like hundreds of other Japanese restaurants, the extensive menu full of American favorites such as chicken teriyaki and California rolls. But customers who took a seat at Kobayashi’s sushi bar would learn about the provenance and seasonality of the fish they were eating, the difference in taste between summer fluke and winter fluke. He grew his own shiso leaves and, for those who appreciated it, Kobayashi would grate fresh wasabi and expound on the finer points of sake. He always strove to share with customers the great culinary tradition that he was trained in.
There was a small kitchen staff at Nagashima, but Kobayashi usually manned his sushi bar all by himself. “After 30 years,” he said, “I want to relax.”