Nozomu Abe, the famous sushi chef, remembers telling his family in elementary school that he wanted to make pizza for a living.
But fish, it seems, was his fate. His family owned a fishing business in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, where he grew up. After culinary training in Sapporo, Mr. Abe moved to Tokyo and learned to make sushi in the Edomae style, which was developed centuries ago before being refrigerated as a way to dry the fish before serving.
In 2007 he moved to the United States. After working at Midtown’s Sushiden, he opened in 2018 with partners Sushi Noz, an Upper East Side restaurant. In 2020 it won a Michelin star.
Although he sometimes works on Sundays, Mr Abe, 39, said he tried to relax as much as possible before he and his wife, Nao Abe, 30, had their first child.
They live in Long Island City, Queens.
BEANS AND BREAD I usually wake up around 8:30 or 9:00 am, which is when I normally wake up during the weekday. Nao usually makes us natto bread for breakfast, which consists of fermented soybeans, with mayonnaise and egg on shokupan, or Japanese milk bread. It’s my favorite.
WATERWORKS Before I start working, I usually swim for about 30 minutes and then go to the sauna or jacuzzi. I could repeat this several times throughout the morning. It’s my attempt to clear my head and meditate before my day gets busier.
NOTES ON THE ROOF: I start thinking about the menu for Monday and in general for the week before the Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo opens later in the day. I usually go to the roof terrace of my building to jot down my ideas in a notebook, make a wish list and write buying instructions for my fish broker.
THE NEIGHBOURHOOD I live in Long Island City, a growing, evolving part of New York. It’s not historic, say, like Harlem, but it’s changing in its own way, kind of like myself in the US. Lots of Asians live here, which I like, but it could use some more supermarkets and restaurants.
NO MORE SKATE PARKS When I was younger I really loved hip-hop and skateboarding. Both were very American to me, and I devoured the culture and style. Now I’m a little more subdued. Due to my profession, I can’t go to the skate park anymore because I don’t want to hurt my hands, but sometimes I jump on my board to get supplies from the local store.
DO NOT BUY THE MAGURO By noon my fish broker starts emailing or texting. I go out for coffee or lunch with my wife and we try to stay outside as much as possible. She usually reads while I go back and forth with my real estate agent. You never know what’s available, so I trust my broker when he tells me not to buy the maguro because the quality is substandard, or the uni is too expensive. Then I have to rethink the menu amid a barrage of information. It’s stressful and it never really ends.
GRILL WITH FRIENDS My building has many amenities, which I use. I like to use the grill for barbecuing. I often take home what’s left of the restaurant, such as shrimp or kama, the collar, of fish. I just use salt and pepper to flavor it. From time to time we invite friends to join us. Today we had the restaurant staff celebrate a business associate’s upcoming wedding.
TOGETHER TIME My wife and I might play pool or take a walk to the river to enjoy the sunset. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation for the birth of our first child, so we try to spend as much time together as possible.
SIMPLE DINNERS Because making sushi has a lot of rules, or things you are not allowed to do, I only cook at home what is easy. For dinner we cook a lot of Chinese or Italian food. I love that supermarkets in New York always have fresh pasta to buy.
THE THOUGHTS KEEP COMING My wife usually chooses which TV shows she wants to watch. Recently we went to “Who Killed Sara?” looked. on Netflix. We can relax by listening to soft music, such as Jack Johnson. No more loud music for me. I’m in bed sometime between 11pm and 1am because I’m always thinking about our menu and adjusting it. It’s like you always have a deadline.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Nozomu Abe on Instagram @noznyc or his restaurant @sushinoznyc.