Sushi is one of the most stylish and exotic dishes to add to your dining out experience. There are so many Japanese and Asian restaurants to find delicious sushi. But as more and more restaurants and steakhouses begin to offer sushi on their menus, foodies are now able to experience a wider variety of unique styles and creations by many different sushi chefs. Dining Out Jersey has scoured North Jersey looking for skilled Sushi Chefs who create delicious sushi in restaurants across five counties. A sushi chef is a master, or “Itamae”, who is trained in the art of sushi, and who is able to create amazing Japanese dishes that are both beautifully presented and extraordinarily tasty. For those who love sushi it is the style, taste and presentation that make their dining experience most memorable.

Sushi has become one of the most popular international dishes in New Jersey. But how did this delicious dish get its start, and become so popular in America? By the late 60’s, the first sushi restaurant had opened in California. Little Tokyo, Hollywood, to be exact. Soon after, several sushi bars opened in both New York and Chicago. This was the beginning of America’s love of sushi. Many new restaurants began experimenting with new combinations and styles of sushi rolls. One of the most popular became the California Roll with cucumber, imitation crab meat and avocado. Although the California Roll does not include raw seafood it is considered a gateway roll for people to adjust to the idea of eating raw fish. Eventually foodies became more comfortable experimenting with more traditional Japanese rolls and sashimi.

While at first food connoisseurs considered sushi to be exotic over time it became a more casual dining choice. Eventually sushi evolved from being considered an adventurous foodie experience to becoming a healthy food choice when eating out. The health benefits of sushi can be equally as desirable as its colorful allure. Sushi is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that nourish and repair brain cells. Omega-3 is also known to alleviate depression, increase mind concentration and maintain energy.

But beyond its health benefits, people love sushi because it’s fun to eat. The combination of delicious rice, unique sauces and other ingredients makes sushi a delight to the senses. Traditional nigiri and sashimi is served at all Japanese restaurants but the cut rolls wrapped in soy paper and seaweed are what many people order. Sushi is constantly evolving, and many sushi chefs have become very inventive in their presentations and their menu creations. There are myriads of different sushi rolls to try, some made traditional and others with a modern twist.

The Masters of Sushi

We talked with some of our local Master Sushi Chefs that are crafting new dishes for their customers every day. Many of which have an almost cult following.

Chef Andy Lin of The River Palm Terrace

The River Palm Terrace*, one of North Jersey’s leading steakhouses adopted the idea of serving sushi several years ago with great success. Andy Lin of The River Palm Terrace has now become one of North Jersey’s most popular sushi chefs. “When preparing sushi, I put in my time and my heart.” It’s important to him that only the freshest fish is used in his creations. Chef Andy, as he is most fondly known, prepares special rolls that he knows his customers will enjoy. What he does with textures, flavors, and colors on one plate is like magic. He has been creating sushi dishes for close to 25 years. And while working in many different restaurants over the years he has had the opportunity to watch and learn from great chefs. Chef Andy has taken a little technique from each one of them and put it together to create his own unique style of cooking. His most popular dish at The River Palm Terrace is Andy’s Special Roll with spicy tuna, yellowtail, topped with fresh sliced avocado, sweet tuna and spicy sauce. At any given time, you can usually find Chef Andy walking the floor greeting patrons with his signature greeting “Hello! How are you?” Many of Chef Andy’s customers ask for specific ingredients when they order, so he often customizes these sushi rolls, and sometimes names the rolls after them!

Chef Sang Choi of Ventanas, 1776 by David Burke, and The Red Horse

Sang Choi is the Sushi Chef of three New Jersey restaurants, Ventanas at the Modern* in Fort Lee, 1776 by David Burke* in Morristown, and The Red Horse* in Rumson. Before he came to America, Chef Choi lived in Japan for five years experiencing many styles of sushi. Later he arrived in Boston, where he opened three Japanese restaurants. “At that time, I was able to meet Oshino-Sang, a Master Sushi Chef who served the Japanese Royal family, and learn from him,” says Chef Choi. “For two years, he taught me everything about sushi in the traditional Japanese way.” During his thirty years Chef Choi has continuously worked to improve and learn. “Sushi is food that has a variety of colors,” he explains. “We use many different types of fish and ingredients to create unique dishes.” For fish, there are many ways that Chef Choi ages and marinades the fish to create a new dish. He prepares each fish in a way that brings out its natural flavor and pairs it with different ingredients. Across the board, the House Special Maki and the Mango Salmon Maki are the most popular dishes ordered at celebrity Chef David Burke’s restaurants. Chef Choi met Burke in 2018 and has since continued to work together on several different restaurants in New Jersey and New York. Chef Choi describes the past four years, “While working with David Burke, I have come to respect his passion, effort, and diligence as a chef. Working alongside David Burke, at different locations, has brought many learning opportunities and is one of the reasons that I am able to continuously work on my own business to where it is today.” Occasionally Omakase is offered at some of these locations and Chef Choi prepares the menu for his guests. Omakase translates to “leave everything to the chef”. A sushi chef needs to be well versed in fresh and aged fish to present a course that allows the customer to taste a variety of unique dishes. Chef Choi’s Omakase course is comprised of 4 courses with 12 total dishes. For the first course two appetizers are prepared, Ankimo (Monkfish liver) and cucumber salad with ginger dressing. The second course will be two presentations of Sashimi, the third course will be five to six dishes of Nigiri with Japanese fish and a special marinated fish. The fourth and final course will include Japanese ice cream or cake and noodles.

Chef Yoji Matsuzaki of Soma Sushi in Fort Lee

Yoji Matsuzaki, Head Chef at SOMA* was born and raised in Tokyo where he attended a culinary school when he was 18 years old. Upon graduation he worked at a popular French restaurant in Tokyo for 7 years and then began his sushi career at Sushi of Gari, a well-known sushi restaurant in LA and NYC. After learning and honing his skills at Sushi of Gari for eight years, he became Head Sushi Chef at SOMA. “I love what I do and as any Sushi Master will tell you, it is a lifetime of learning, discovering and developing your own style,” describes Chef Yoji. “To become a great Sushi Chef, it requires incredible focus, drive, and dedication.” There are many elements that go into mastering the skill, in addition, a chef must constantly learn and adapt to industry trends. Chef Yoji explains that it is important to understand that every fish needs to be served at a specific temperature. “There is a precision with which I slice and pick up the sushi rice and shape it. Any great Master Sushi Chef will tell you that the rice is just as important as the fish, if not more so. Perfect rice takes more than just following a recipe of the right proportions of water and vinegar. Every element that goes into the process needs to be carefully accounted for.” He enjoys preparing for both avid and curious guests. Chef Yoji feels his mission is to let his guests learn about and enjoy Japanese culture, which includes the art of sushi making and sushi eating. “Sushi is a form of expressing my inner self,” chef replies. He has a passion for creating memorable experiences, and the guests’ excitement inspires him to continue to expand his craft. Chef Yoji is delighted when someone asks for Omakase. He would simply state, “Trust me. Leave it up to me.” He promises your dining experience will draw you into his passion for sushi, exclaiming, “Sit back and enjoy the ride!”

Chef Toshi of Jugemu in Cresskill

Yoshii Toshifumi, of Jugemu is a sushi chef with over 15 years of experience, and is the chief advisor to Masahiko Fukano, the owner of the restaurant. Chef Toshi’s family owned a restaurant in Japan. His father taught him how to make sushi when he was a child in elementary school. “I used konnyaku (yam cake) as a piece of fish and okara (soy pulp) as rice to practice,” he remembers. Working at a sushi restaurant, he had the good fortune of learning from senior sushi chefs who helped to improve his technique. Chef Toshi feels the efforts to become a great chef “go hand in hand with how much a chef strives to create moments of joy to customers through the dishes served.” He explains, “It isn’t limited to just sushi, but my wish is to make people happy through food and cooking; so, my focus is on the customer. I think about how I can make it a more memorable, enjoyable meal for the families, the couples and friends who are dining in the restaurant.” Chef Toshi takes great care to handle and prepare the fish so the most beautiful, delicate and perfect piece of sushi can be served, but most of that work he believes should be subtle to the customers. “I don’t think it’s necessary to make the sushi itself obviously unique or different,” he describes his Omakase technique. “Instead, I focus on making the dining experience unique for each customer and what would make the meal a memorable experience for them. How can I help create moments of joy? What can I do to delight the guests and bring happiness as they enjoy the meal? That’s the question I always ask myself.” Fukano, owner of Jugemu, states that customers have a choice of enjoying an omakase experience at the sushi counter, a casual dining experience in the main dining area, or a private room. Wherever the customers sit, they will be able to enjoy the authentic taste of the restaurant where all of the dishes are carefully crafted from the freshest ingredients.

Take the opportunity to sample the different styles of Sushi Chefs throughout Northern New Jersey. Whether you are looking for a traditional Asian atmosphere, a sleek modern vibe or dining at your favorite steakhouse, be daring in your menu choices and let the Sushi Chefs present you with a unique and memorable sushi experience.


*Master Chef Andy Lin: The River Palm Terrace {1416 River Road, Edgewater; 201.224.2013}

*Master Chef Sang Choi: Ventanas at the Modern {200 Park Ave, Fort Lee; 201.583.4777} 1776 by David Burke {67 East Park Place, Morristown; 973.829.1776} The Red Horse {26 Ridge Road, Rumson; 732.576.3400}

*Master Chef Yoji Matsuzaki: SOMA {2025 Lemoine Ave., Fort Lee; 201.389.4021}

*Master Chef Yoshii Toshifumi: JUGEMU {156 Piermont Road, Cresskill; 551.336.3963}

By Tara-Jean McDonald


Here are more great places around North Jersey to experience some great sushi.

Choo Choo Train – {374 Broad Ave Leonia; 201.482.8888} Enjoy an experience at this BYOB that is fun for the entire family. Sit at the counter and grab a sushi off the sushi train that continually circles as the chefs add new dishes to it or sit at a table. Many guests will be familiar with the owners Min and Justin who have been fan favorites in the area for years.

Kim’s Sushi – {458 Eagle Rock Avenue, West Orange; 973.669.2800} .Fresh à la carte sushi & a variety of salads are served at this cozy BYOB Japanese restaurant.

Asahi Sushi – {65 Morris St, Morristown; 973.631.8585}, informal BYOB Japanese eatery offering a wide range of sushi, sashimi & cooked entrees.

Wabi Sabi – {407 Broad Street, Bloomfield; 973.680.9222} classics such as sushi & ramen. Also available are authentic dishes like steak cooked tableside on a hot stone.

Sakura Japanese – {44 Essex St, Millburn; 973.379.4900} A sleek, clubby style venue with a menu that includes an array of sushi & cooked Japanese dishes that can be paired with fruit wines and tea.

Akai Lounge – {11 North Dean Street, Englewood, 07631;
201.541.0086} décor brings a unique style to this lounge. The menu offers a variety of rolls and entrees with a full bar offering martinis, wines and sakes.

Sushi by Sea, {Secret Location} You can register online or enter through a referral at this fun and unique omakase experience.

Ju Ichi {29 Washington St, Morristown; 973.888.9393}

New in Town addition, serves traditional Japanese and Tadashi’s innovative dishes. Fresh and bold flavors are used in all their Chef’s creations.

Nami Nori {378 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair; 201.292.1445} casual yet elegant temaki bar specializing in open-style sushi hand rolls. Japanese-inspired snacks and appetizers, along with a selection of beer, sake and wine, available on tap and by the bottle.

Umai Sushi & Steak House {18 Grove Ave, Verona; 862.277.4125} Umai Sushi serves a variety of sushi and steak dishes. They receive a shipment of fish from Japan every day and specialize in Omakase.

Brazilian Temakeria, {94 Monroe St, Newark; 862.312.6674}
With the largest Japanese population outside Japan, it is no surprise that Brazil has some really good sushi. And Brazilian Temakeria brings their Brazilian-style sushi to the Ironbound section of Newark.

Sushi Lounge {200 Hudson St, Hoboken; 201.386.1117} & {12 Schuyler Place Morristown; 973.539.1135} www.sushiloungenj.comTheir menu includes sushi and sashimi, hibachi entrees and specialty rolls, with a full sake, wine and beer list. DJ five nights a week.

Saku {936 Park Avenue, Hoboken; 201.942.3956} Innovative Japanese dishes and Asian fusion choices are served at this hip neighborhood restaurant. Serving eclectic cocktails, extensive sake, wine, local craft beer and Japanese whiskey.

If you would like to see one of your favorite Sushi Restaurants, please let us know by emailing