New York’s first and only sustainable sushi restaurant and omakase, Mayanoki serves local, seasonal and environmentally-friendly fish in an intimate East Village setting. Chef Jeff Miller, formerly of the Uchi group in Texas, mans the sushi bar by himself as he serves a 15-piece omakase of fish often rarely used by sushi chefs. While the guiding principle is on preserving fish stocks for years to come, the results are never less than delicious.
The idea behind Mayanoki didn’t start out with sustainability. At their original pop-up, co-founders Josh Arak and David Torchiano simply wanted to serve really great sushi, but as they began to understand how the conventional sushi supply chain works, they knew they didn’t want to contribute to the negative impact it has on the environment – nor to consume or serve endangered fish species. They decided that to operate a restaurant they were proud of, they would have to focus on sourcing from sustainable purveyors.
Mayanoki’s beginnings a longtime Brooklyn pop-up
Mayanoki began its life as a pop-up at Brooklyn Oenology in 2012, where it stayed for 4 years. There, Josh and David met the winery’s general manager, TJ Provenzano, who later joined their team as co-owner and beverage director, bringing his wealth of knowledge of local and sustainable wines to the restaurant’s opening in 2017.
The counter is run by Chef Jeff Miller, who prior to moving to New York late last year, was the Head Sushi Chef at renowned restaurant Uchi in Houston. Chef Miller has been making sushi for over a decade since 2007 when he moved to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida. His career started when he walked into Dragonfly Sushi and Sake and was confused with a friend of the owner, who was also supposed to start working there that day.
He was offered a job on the spot without any training, but quickly proved himself and stayed for five years. He then relocated to Texas to work with the popular sushi restaurant Uchiko in Austin. He quickly moved up the ranks within the restaurant group, opening
Uchi Dallas as Sous Chef, and later Uchi Houston as Head Sushi Chef.
Sushi fans will love this fifteen piece omakase delight
Mayanoki serves a traditional 15-piece omakase menu where guests can watch how their sushi is prepared and learn firsthand where it comes from. A list of wine and ciders from New York State, sakes from Japan, and an optional wine, cider and sake pairing are offered.
With a penchant for sourcing almost exclusively from the East Coast and the Northeast, the omakase menu at Mayanoki changes nightly based on availability and seasonality. Many fish are rarely seen on sushi menus, while endangered species like Bluefin Tuna and Atlantic Salmon are never served.
Instead, sustainably raised and ethically caught species are highlighted (sourced as locally as possible), including Bluefish, Porgy from Long Island, Spanish Mackerel from Florida, Shrimp from ECO Shrimp Garden Upstate New York, Arctic Char sustainably farmed in Iceland, Almaco Jack from the Big Island in Hawaii, and mussels from Prince Edward Island.
The course of the Omakase dinner at Mayanoki
While the menu changes daily depending on fish availability, it often starts with a piece of dashi marinated oyster nigiri topped with roe. This is the perfect introduction to Mayanoki’s eco-friendly practices as it highlights their partnership with the Billion Oyster Project, an initiative that seeks to restore the health of the New York Harbor using empty oyster shells donated by restaurants to repair the marine ecosystem.
Other fish include: Bluefish, an oily fish similar to mackerel found on the East Coast, cured in salt then vinegar and aged in the traditional Edomae style for 3-5 days before being served. This lends an umami taste to the fish and makes it more tender. Porgy from Long Island is offered fresh with soy sauce and Meyer lemon zest.
Spanish Mackerel often makes two appearances throughout the meal: first, it is seared with a torch and finished with a white ponzu sauce, light soy sauce and a sprinkle of Oregon sea salt. The second preparation involves chives and sesame salt after cold smoking the fish for 30 minutes with walnut wood.
True Diver Scallops from Maine come with fresh and fermented Meyer lemon , and Spanish olive oil. Shrimp from ECO Shrimp Garden – the first indoor sustainable shrimp farm in New York, which uses systems that recirculate salt water from the tanks and leaves almost no carbon footprint – is cured and seared with a torch, then drizzled with shrimp
The optional alcoholic beverage pairing
Unique to Mayanoki is their beverage program, with wines, ciders and beverage pairings unusual to most sushi restaurants. Guided by deliciousness and sustainability, Beverage Director TJ Provenzano sources all of the wines and ciders from New York State’s small producers, from crisp Hudson Valley apple ciders to dry Finger Lakes Riesling to barrel-aged Long Island Sauvignon Blanc.
The pairing, which is optional but highly recommended, accentuates the sushi first, and elevates each course by not overpowering or dominating, but enhancing it. North Fork wines especially with their maritime climate, sandy soil, and subtle salinity have proven to be truly unique and seamless pairings with local species. The only exception to local sourcing are junmai sakes – the only product brought from Japan.
The intimate dinners are hosted by Service Director Briana Emerson-Provenzano, the former beverage curator and assistant general manager of al di la Trattoria. In fact, the warm, intimate space has a private home like ambience. With just eight seats at the bar, guests can watch Chef Miller cut and prepare the fish right in front of them. The experience is designed to be interactive, whether asking the chef questions about the fish or chatting with fellow diners. It feels like eating at a friend’s house, in the best way possible.
Mayanoki is located at 620 East 6th Street in the East Village; no phone. The restaurants serves its omakase dinner menu Wednesday – Sunday with seatings at 6:30pm and 8:30pm.
Reservations are required and can be made via Resy.com.