6/14/2013 05:00:00 PM

Sushi Ko Is Now Serving Omakase on the LES

Chef John Daley at work.
We popped into brand-new Sushi Ko at 91 Clinton Street this afternoon hoping to get a menu. Turns out, there isn't one: The 9-seater, which opened earlier this week, specializes in omakase (chef's choice). The man with the knife is 33-year-old John Daley, who owns the place with Steven Penchenski. Daley sharpened his skills at Masa and 15 East, where he did a three-year apprenticeship with master Masato Shimizu. You might also remember him as the chef who made a splash serving live seafood at now-defunct Sushi Uo. And he's back at it: As we spoke, Daley slammed a surf clam against a cutting board to make sure it was alive.

Most recently, the toque spent a few months in Tokyo working at famed sushi joint Sukeroku, dining in hallowed spots like Jiro, and forging important relationships at Tsukiji Fish Market. His seafood connections mean the wild, line-caught Japanese fish that arrives straight from the airport every morning is not what you'll find everywhere: sides of toro, including the marbled jaw we found him slicing; aji (horse mackerel); and shima aji, a.k.a. striped jack might make an appearance.

As I watched, Daley chopped tuna for tartare, which he planned to drizzle with fat he's rendered from tuna bacon. The chef also uses local shellfish (those surf clams are from Long Island). What he's not serving: yellowtail and salmon. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with them," he told us, "but there are 600 other sushi bars on the island that have them."

Diners can choose from omakases of three ($75), five ($125), seven ($175) or nine ($200) courses, and every experience is different. In traditional fashion, Daley says he relies on "whatever feedback and open-mindedness I'm getting from you," and he takes into account things like "the size of the person, how they eat" to craft a meal. Two people might receive the same fish, but one might have it garnished with ume jelly and the other with ponzu foam. "These are the stars and I'm dressing them up," said Daley, gesturing at his fish case.

Sushi Ko keeps late hours: from 8pm till 2.a.m. "I want to be able to share this with people who work odd hours," Daley explained. "It's a different crowd," he said -- which, of course includes the service industry. Reservations are suggested between 8 p.m. and midnight, and it's walk-ins only after that. (We asked: They're booked tonight, but Daley says he might be able to take walk-ins around 11:30 p.m.). Reserve by calling or texting 917-734-5857.

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