Ty McConney and Masao and Keiko Nakagawa, the owners of Naka Sushi, shut their 41st Avenue location at the end of last March, and the transition to their new location in the Begonia Plaza up the street took more than six months longer than expected. The longing on my sushi-obsessed friendsâ€™ faces became almost painful to watch as the eagerly awaited reopening dragged on.
Since Naka finally reopened in December, sushi fans new and old have been clamoring to get a seat at the sleek new locationâ€”and now that Iâ€™ve had a chance to visit, I understand why.
While I would normally order a roll, several longtime customers recommended I opt for sashimi and nigiri at Naka in order to appreciate the chefâ€™s adept techniques. On their advice, my table started with the hamachi sashimi appetizer, a selection of fresh, raw yellow-tail tuna. While I was first hesitant at the $22.50 price tag, the quantities were far more generous than I expected, and the silky texture of the rich, pale pink fish was divine, seeming to melt on my tongue.
Plate after plate of nigiri that followed allowed us to appreciate a range of textures and the chefâ€™s undeniable skillâ€”the effervescent popping of deeply golden tobiko; luscious, slightly oily salmon and light, clean halibut. But to our surprise, the dish that made our jaws drop was the unlikely unagi. When it arrived at the table, it wasnâ€™t the first thing I reached for, simply because Iâ€™ve had such unpleasant experiences with freshwater eel before that I assumed I didnâ€™t like it. But the guest that ordered it insisted that I give this one a try. Another skeptical friend and I put a small bite to our mouths and our eyes locked in astonishment. The flesh was unbelievably tender, the texture of soft-cooked egg, and gently smokyâ€”so unlike the chewy, over-grilled product I was familiar with. To say we were floored would be an understatement.
We did also enjoy a couple of Naka house rolls, stuffed to bursting with three or four varieties of impeccably flavorful fish, but the rumors were trueâ€”the nigiri stole the show.
1200 41st Ave., Capitola, 479-9620.