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We love blowing the cover off a good secret, and we’ve got an especially umami one for you: Inside the Sanctuary Hotel in midtown is a new sushi spot that you might mistake for a coat check if not for the curious bamboo covering it. But make no mistake: Sushi Lab, tucked away just off the lobby, serves some of the most surprising, quality and jaw-droppingly affordable omakases. And unlike other wallet-friendly sushi spots in the city that make you beg to put your name down for a table and then still wait two hours, you can actually snag a reso. Here’s what you need to know.

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suhsi lab restaurant
Courtesy of Sushi Lab

NYC’s sushi landscape ranges from hallowed destinations that feel almost like temples to more irreverent maki-and-sake joints. Sushi Lab falls somewhere in the middle, with a modern take on traditional sushi set in a laboratory-inspired setting. There’s an à la carte menu of nigiri, sashimi and rolls, but the signature $50 omakase is the main draw. Despite the experimental theme, the offerings aren’t fusion—rather, the menu incorporates the freshest seasonal ingredients with scientist-style presentation techniques.

sushi lab fire
Courtesy of Sushi Lab

Laboratory accoutrements like beakers are used as dishes, while blowtorches, spices in glass vials and various mad-sushi-scientist knives set the scene for a meal that’s also a front-row seat to a show. Sushi Lab’s executive chef Frankie Chen slices, dices and rolls fish and rice in expert fashion. Don’t be surprised if you get some gentle encouragement from the chefs or servers to eat your pieces quickly—rather than snapping photos for Instagram—so that you enjoy them in optimal condition. 

The à la carte menu features some enticing creations, like toro tartare with avocado and an uni macaron, and the per-piece nigiri and sashimi are well priced, capping at $10 for king crab. But the true deal is the omakase menu, a chef’s choice of ten signature pieces served with soup and a hand roll for a very reasonable $50.

sushi lab sushi
Courtesy of Sushi Lab

Your meal begins with a smoky miso soup (served in a beaker) before you’re treated to a parade of incredibly fresh nigiri with a twist, in the form of signature combos like tai snapper with cherry blossom jelly, lightly smoked yellowtail with bamboo charcoal salt and chives, scallop with truffled shiitake mushrooms, skin-seared sea bream with crunchy rose petals, and sweet shrimp with fresh yuzu cream and lemon zest. If you’re up for adding a drink, cocktails are served in “lab pouches” (aka Capri Sun–style packaging), and sake is served by the glass orbottle, alongside beer and plum wines.

We weren’t kidding when we said you could mistake the exterior of Sushi Lab for a coat check: It’s actually in the space that formerly housed the hotel’s concierge desk. Only eight guests are seated at a time, so the experience is intimate and focused, but you might also make a new friend since you’re dining elbow to elbow. Only a red neon sign with an arrow pointing toward the bamboo thicket announces Sushi Lab’s presence, but once you step inside, the tiny space is buzzing with action.

If you fancy yourself a sushi aficionado or just love a creatively prepared meal that won’t break the bank, we suggest booking a reservation, stat. Like all NYC “secrets,” we’re guessing Sushi Lab won’t stay under the radar for long.

132 W. 47th St.; sushilab.nyc

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