discover “NIKKEI” AT Sen SakanaBeing a culinary trailblazer in Manhattan is no easy feat, but restaurateur Allan Wartski has managed to pull it off with Sen Sakana {28 West 44th Street, New York; 212.221.9560;}. Opened in summer of 2017, Sen Sakana fuses Japanese and Peruvian cuisines into an artful and unique union. “We’re really the first real Nikkei restaurant here in the city—of this scale, anyway,” says Wartski, whose other establishments include Christos Steakhouse in Astoria and Edison Ballroom in Times Square. “There are other Peruvian restaurants in the city, but there’s not any with the real Nikkei influence that runs all the way through the menu from start to finish.”

The authenticity with which Sen Sakana interprets Nikkei—a cuisine birthed by the Japanese immigrants who settled in Peru in the 1800s—comes from those behind the scenes of the establishment. Executive Chefs Mina Newman, who is of Peruvian descent, and Taku Nagai, who is Japanese, teamed up with Wartski, owner of several Japanese restaurants, to create the sublime synthesis that is Sen Sakana.



Located in Midtown two blocks from Grand Central Station, Sen Sakana has introduced a new type of flavor to the area. “We’re in the heart of Manhattan,” Wartski adds, “and we’re doing well for destination dining.” While its location lends itself to pre-theater dining and business lunches, guests are slowly opening themselves up to the new cuisine. “People are working hard in the city. They want something that’s familiar to them.” Newman points out that those not quite ready for a culinary adventure can find comfort in sushi and sashimi that is inventive enough to place a new twist on tradition.


Adorned in blonde wood with white upholstered seating, Sen Sakana’s design and lighting creates a warm and spacious setting. “We decided on a very modern, angled-looking, clean appearance,” says Wartski. “It’s very sleek, very new-looking, which is sort of like the food we’re introducing to the city.” With 180 seats spread across four distinct areas, Sen Sakana is punctuated with a bar and an elevated sushi bar at the front end of the space. A private dining room seats 60 and features drop screens to accommodate corporate events and meetings. “I think we were able to accomplish what we set out to do,” Wartski continues, “We’re trying to create a very fun kind of restaurant in the city.”



The Sen Sakana team did their homework prior to opening the restaurant, and it shows. Newman explains that she had always wanted to work with Nagai, and was excited for the prospect of marrying their two native cuisines. “It certainly hit home when we visited Peru,” she adds, “We used both of our experiences with each of our cuisines.” Starters include the thinly-sliced raw fish, Tiradito, which is defined on the menu as “sashimi meets ceviche.” Speaking of, a variety of hot and cold ceviches are found throughout the menu, perfect for starting or ending the meal. The torched salmon found in Nikkei Ceviche swims in a Leche de Tigre sauce, or tiger’s milk—which typically consists of lime juice, onion, chilis, and the juice of whichever fish is providing the base of the dish—and is meant to be drank after the dish is consumed.

Although the restaurant’s name translates from Japanese to English to mean “1,000 fishes,” the menu does feature meatier mains like Washu Skirt Steak and Chef Taku’s Chicken Nanban—a deep-fried, black-feather chicken breast encrusted with red and white quinoa, black vinegar sauce, and aji tartar sauce—which Newman deems is “fantastic.” Potential diners shouldn’t feel intimidated by the unfamiliarity of the cuisine as servers are happy to demystify any dish. “It’s been a matter of the kitchen staff first educating the servers, and the servers in turn speak with the diners,” says Wartski.



Even the bar is host to Nikkei influences, with items culled from the food menu. “We have three or four different infused piscos and an incredible sake list,” Newman says. Intriguing infusions include pisco-infused with bonito flakes. A litany of craft cocktails dot the menu like Down with OPP, comprised of cinnamon and star anise-infused pisco, sugar cane shochu, orange oleo saccharum, and pumpkin and mole bitters. On the more exclusive Reserve Cocktails menu, distinctive drinks like the Yamazaki 18 Manhattan with brandied cherries and Dom Perignon with five-year-old aged umeshu are a must order. A healthy wine list rounds out the offerings, with 25-percent off all bottles on Sundays and Mondays.

Sen Sakana may be new to the New York culinary scene, but its owner and kitchen crew are veterans in the industry. As the fledgling restaurant becomes established, more and more foodies are flocking to discover the melding of two ancient civilizations—a match that many would argue is made in heaven. “As with anything innovative and new, it’s been an uphill battle but the response has been lovely,” Newman admits.

By Jessica D’Amico