It’s not every day that a maki roll arrives to the table on fire, wrapped in foil and enveloped in blue flames. The hissing noise, explains Nomiya co-owner Ajay Chawla, is sesame oil smoldering on the bottom of the foil and into the bluefin tuna, asparagus, rice and lobster within.
Slowly, the sizzling dies down. When the roll is finally unwrapped, each slice is smoky and lightly charred, as if fire was its own ingredient.
It’s an experience ready-built for social media, perhaps, but one that also engages at least four of your senses and doesn’t skimp on flavor. It’s also the signature specialty roll at Nomiya, a placid, petite sushi and izakaya restaurant that’s opened on the west side of Roosevelt Field mall, steps from Havana Central and Small Batch.
With muted tones, an elegant hickory-and-granite bar and spare Japanese aesthetic, the 75-seat Nomiya is a distinct counterpoint to almost everything else offered at Roosevelt Field, which is owned and operated by Simon Property Group.
Chawla said he and his partners Lawrence Wai and Moul Kim began plotting Nomiya, which means “saloon” in Japanese , last year. They are not strangers to optics: Wai and Moul are the founders of NYC's Keki Modern Cakes, specializing in “bouncy” Osaka-style cheesecake that went viral in 2018 for its particular jiggle-jiggle. (With Chawla, they also own Shaku Ramen in Flushing, which is also Chawla’s hometown).
While the Nomiya Roll is an attention-grabber, so too is the “avocado bomb,” ($20) a sort of dramatic tartare-meets-guacamole construction in which wisps of avocado are sculpted into an armor around an inner sanctum of bluefin tuna, then served atop crispy ube and lotus chips.
It was the brainchild of chef James Choi, 36, who worked in sushi and robota restaurants in New Orleans, Florida, the Carolinas and New York City , before joining Nomiya.
“The chef flipped the table and did everything on his own,” said Chawla. “We were floored. He took our idea and concept and came up with some really great dishes.”
Originally from Seoul, Choi has peppered Korean touches across Nomiya’s menu, such as galbi ($36), beef short ribs sliced thin and marinated for “at least two days,” said Choi, in a complex blend of seasoning and fruit, then grilled and served with rice.
Sushi is the bedrock of the menu, though, with nigiri sushi ($7 to $9 per piece) standards such as tuna, salmon and shrimp joined by kanpachi (amberjack), shima aji (striped jack) and local fluke. (Chawla said the fish served at Nomiya comes from both Japan and the East End). Maki and specialty rolls run between $12 and $30, mostly, and the kitchen has three levels of omakase, starting at $45.
The sake list runs to 11 bottles, and in lieu of a full liquor license, beverage director Julie Basem got creative with the cocktail list, using soju, the Korean potato liquor, as a base for a handful of mixed drinks. There are also housemade yuzu, mandarin and lychee sodas on hand.
Nomiya is open from noon to 10 p.m. daily on the west side of Roosevelt Field Mall, 630 Old Country Rd., Garden City; 516-605-5097, simon.com