World-famous Sushi Nakazawa launches Hi. Dozo, its first delivery-only sushi operation

An angled photo of a white and blue paper box of sushi featuring 12 pieces of nigiri, four of maki and sashimi with edamame.
In late May, Sushi Nakazawa unveiled Hi. Dozo, a delivery sushi operation with set boxes such as the Deep Dive, with nigiri, maki, sashimi and edamame. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Before one of the country’s most celebrated sushi omakase restaurants opens in Los Angeles, diners can get a taste via an affordable new delivery operation.

Sushi Nakazawa chef Daisuke Nakazawa, a former apprentice of famed sushi chef Jiro Ono, had always planned to open something more casual than his eponymous 20-course, Michelin-starred omakase restaurant. Before its late May debut, Hi. Dozo — meaning, “Hi, here you go” — was roughly two years in the making and provides a peek into what Los Angeles can expect when it gets its own Sushi Nakazawa in Beverly Grove later this year.

Sushi Nakazawa opened its first location in New York City in 2013, then expanded to Washington, D.C., five years later. Each currently holds a one-Michelin-star rating, with the global guide calling the omakase "a truly memorable sushi adventure" with "consistently excellent results." When the opening of the L.A. outpost stalled, the namesake chef and Sushi Nakazawa's owner and founder, Alessandro Borgognone, decided to launch Hi. Dozo first. The delivery experience serves some of the full restaurant's menu items but in a more casual format and at a much lower price point.

At the counter in Sushi Nakazawa, the chef wants guests to eat each course immediately. When it came to delivery, it was a new experience altogether for Nakazawa. While many of the ingredients remain the same, the Hi. Dozo product, he said, is “completely different sushi.”

The menu is a blend of signature items from Sushi Nakazawa’s omakase, such as the scallop, along with more broadly popular delivery sushi items such as tuna served multiple ways. Four box sets mix and match nigiri, maki and sashimi, ranging from the $34 Delights box to the Deep Dive, which doubles the amount of nigiri, at $54. A fifth set, the DIY, includes sashimi, rice and ikura with nori sheets for assemble-it-yourself temaki, for $29. A tight menu of à la carte nigiri, sashimi, maki and sides such as edamame round out the offerings, starting at $6 for nigiri.

Nakazawa and Borgognone prefer to source their seafood as locally as possible but do import multiple ingredients — such as tuna and ikura — from Japan, New Zealand and beyond. Many components in the Hi. Dozo box, from the Tamanishiki rice to the ikura, are the same items served in the full restaurants’ omakase. In New York, the omakase experience ranges from $160 to $190.

“Not everyone can eat at Sushi Nakazawa, especially at the price point, so what we wanted to do is give a very exact product for a reasonable price with the same skill set and same quality,” said Borgognone. “We thought Hi. Dozo was going to be a perfect fit for us.”

A takeout temaki kit on black background with toro, yellowtail, salmon, ikura, seaweed salad and nori in a Hi Dozo paper box.
The DIY, a temaki kit from Hi. Dozo, features toro, yellowtail, salmon and ikura with rice, nori, edamame and seaweed salad. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Hi. Dozo currently serves North Hollywood, Toluca Lake, Burbank, Sherman Oaks and the Hollywood Hills; should it prove popular, the team hopes to expand the delivery radius to more L.A. neighborhoods and possibly even open a bricks-and-mortar location. For now, Hi. Dozo is available to order on DoorDash from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Nakazawa and Borgognone's market testing was methodical almost to the point of compulsion: Perfecting rice that could withstand the delivery process, in order to avoid soggy or mushy rice, or rice that crumbles beneath the pinch of fingers or chopsticks, took precision. At Sushi Nakazawa, the chef says he cooks it “hard,” for guests to feel each grain, but for takeout, he cooks the rice with slightly more moisture so that it doesn't dry out en route . “With rice vinegar, sometimes we add[ed] 20% more, 5% more,” said Nakazawa. “We tested each thing.”

The cuts of fish are slightly larger in Hi. Dozo boxes, as there are fewer pieces than the omakase, and the team hoped to provide value. Even the packaging and branding took months to finalize.

“At the end of the day, everything is a science,” Borgognone said. “It's got to be the best product that we can put out there, from the packaging to the piece of tuna that we're buying from Japan, to the ikura that we're serving. … Even though it’s not Sushi Nakazawa, you know it’s Sushi Nakazawa.”

Permitting and construction delays pushed the opening of the full restaurant, but Nakazawa and Borgognone plan to launch Sushi Nakazawa in Beverly Grove by the end of this year.

Borgognone oversaw the design of the full restaurant and believes the Los Angeles location to be his most beautiful space yet. It will feature an 18-seat bar, plus roughly 10 dining tables to accommodate 40 more guests. It also involves an open kitchen — the first full Sushi Nakazawa kitchen — which will translate to new hot items.

“Our biggest concern is making sure that the product that we are putting out is really a showstopper and it is an experience, because what's the point of having another Japanese restaurant?” Borgognone said. “You guys have a lot of great ones, and there's a tremendous amount of competition — and L.A. is L.A., and that's why we picked L.A.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.