Of all the indoor dining experiences we lost during the pandemic, I missed omakase the most. Omakase is a style of sushi service where the chef creates the menu based on which fish are freshest and most enticing that day. (The Japanese translates, roughly, to "I’ll leave it up to you.") You can eat omakase at a table — and I suppose that table could be outdoors — but part of the fun is sitting at the sushi bar, watching the chef create the meal and explain to you exactly what he’s doing and why. Quite a few Japanese restaurants have not yet returned to indoor dining, but here are three fine ones that offer omakase, which, on Long Island, will cost anywhere from $45 to $100 per person.
Umami (329 Main St., Huntington): This unassuming, two-year-old restaurant has a wide-ranging menu encompassing Chinese, Japanese and Asian fusion; the sushi menu lists dozens of rolls that rely on the usual fish suspects: tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp. But take a seat at the sushi bar and chef Sean Chen will show you what he’s got — literally. A recent omakase included sea urchin from Hokkaido, toro kama (meat from the tuna’s jaw) with raw quail egg, hamachi belly with a rice-wine salsa, king crab (not crab stick), kampachi, otoro (tuna belly) and sweet shrimp —the head deep fried, the tail served raw. More info: 631-421-4726, umamihuntington.com
Torigo Japanese Restaurant (196 Jericho Tpke. Floral Park): Chef-owner Tony San is obsessed with sourcing the freshest fish he can find and showing it off to its best advantage. Don’t be drenching your sushi in wasabi-ed-up soy sauce; if San thinks the fish needs help, he’ll season it accordingly. Torigo regularly serves a spectrum of tuna, from fatty to lean, and often has sea urchin from Japan, California and Maine. There might be red big-eye snapper, giant clam, abalone, sea bream, mackerel and horse mackerel, and live scallops. More info: 516-352-1116, torigorestaurant.com
Shoshaku (68 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck): Shoshaku fields fish shipments from Japan each week and lists the wares on a chalkboard. The first time I was there I was thrilled to see mahi mahi, kampachi, grey mullet and, a first for me, raw sturgeon. My meal was filled out with sushi made with steamed monkfish liver, barely seared king crab topped with Korean chili threads, sweet shrimp and a pileup of salmon roe and sea urchin. There’s no actual sushi bar to sit at, but you can see the chefs at work in the open kitchen. Shoshaku also has an expansive sake selection with something for every palate, running from unctuous to fruit to bone-dry. More info: 516-780-0677, shoshaku.com