photo credit: Teddy Wolff
Nami Nori is a sushi spot in the West Village that mostly just serves taco-shaped hand rolls. It’s a unique operation, but it isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s just trying to sell you a slightly different kind of wheel at a reasonable price, out of a wheel shop that looks like a fancy nail salon you’d visit before a pit stop at your astrologist’s house.
Most hand rolls here cost between five and eight dollars, and the menu is divided into sections like Signature, Primo, and Vegan. As a rule of thumb, the least complicated hand rolls are the best - although by “best” we mostly just mean solid and worthwhile. Nothing at Nami Nori is going to make you see a little cartoon bird on your shoulder or change your worldview, but most of the food will keep you perfectly happy when you have sushi on the brain. The spicy tuna, for example, tastes like a slightly better version of the last solid spicy tuna you ate, and the salmon avocado roll is tasty, straightforward and perfectly fulfills the promise of its name.
As the rolls get more elaborate, like tuna poke with crispy shallots and diced sea bass with daikon and gochujang, things start feeling gimmicky and underwhelming. These rolls aren’t bad, but they tend to have so much sauce (and other toppings) that you could be eating cubed jello or raw chicken, and you wouldn’t really know the difference. And, while it’s nice that there are a few vegetable-only options on the menu, the vegan hand rolls are similarly skippable. Under-seasoned tofu, it turns out, isn’t nearly as good raw fish, and an “avocado toast” hand roll that consists of what’s essentially guacamole and rice is mostly just a recipe for anger, regret, and self-examination. But at least all of these things look nice.
In fact, this whole place looks nice - and that’s half the appeal of Nami Nori. The space has hardwood floors, white brick walls, and several large floral arrangements in jumbo-sized vases, and it looks exactly like the kind of bright, minimalist apartment that mostly just exists on social media. Everything, from the freckled white plates and golden chopsticks to the wooden devices that hold each hand roll, looks as if it took several months to pick out. And when you factor in the efficient, friendly service, you get the impression that you’re dining in an extremely well-oiled machine.
We’ve had several filling meals at Nami Nori that were over in under 30 minutes, and that’s exactly what this place is good for. If you need a big slab of toro on a ball of rice, this isn’t your spot - but if all you want is good, quick sushi for under $40, Nami Nori will scratch that itch. That might not sound like the most revolutionary concept, but in a city where raw fish is usually priced like it’ll cure your social anxiety and give you investment advice, this place provides the necessary goods and does it in style.
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In addition to hand rolls, there are also a few small plates at Nami Nori. This cucumber tataki is one of our favorites. It’s pleasantly crunchy and covered in a tangy light dressing, and it’s an ideal way to start a meal here.
Asari Clam Soup
In a perfect world, all miso soup would come with clams. Unfortunately, most soup is clamless - so it’s imperative that you order this.
These big, puffy nori chips come with a creamy onion dip on the side, and they taste like something you’d get in a big bag at Trader Joe’s. And we mostly mean that as a compliment. If you want something light and crunchy, go for it.
Yes, we told you to keep it simple here, but there are some exceptions. This scallop hand roll with x.o. sauce and tobiko, for example, is a must-order. The tobiko adds some nice texture without interfering with the flavor too much, and the chopped scallop is clean, slightly briny, and perfect.
It turns out fried lobster tastes extremely good. Who knew? We fully endorse this, even if the yuzu aioli makes it taste a little like fast food.
If you’ve had spicy tuna before, you know what this hand roll tastes like. It’s a solid order, and it won’t let you down.
When we see this on the menu, we feel sad and complicit, like Billy Crystal in Throw Mama from the Train when Danny DeVito tells him that he killed his ex-wife because he thought that’s what Billy wanted. As much as we like a good piece of avocado toast, this is not what we wanted.