They may be minuscule — rooms in some cases fit no more than eight customers — but omakase-style Japanese restaurants seem to be giving the retail landscape a big boost.
In the past few years, nearly two dozen of the intimate, multicourse sushi joints, at which the chef chooses the courses, have begun filling up empty storefronts, from Chelsea to Hell’s Kitchen to Harlem, and especially in the Village. And the trend got a high-profile bump this week (though perhaps unfavorably so) when a Midtown omakase hot spot became linked to a federal corruption investigation tied to Mayor Eric Adams.
After a slow stretch of retail leasing, a sluggish period that preceded the pandemic, the recent interest from a once-obscure kind of international cuisine is welcome, according to landlords and brokers.
“This is a breath of fresh air for a lot of landlords,” said James Famularo, a president at the brokerage Meridian Capital Group, who has installed about a half-dozen omakase eateries in the last year and a half, including his latest, Yokox in Alphabet City, in October, and has four other deals in the pipeline.
“And they are really easy tenants in a lot of ways,” said Famularo, who added that raw-fish restaurants don’t require the same kinds of space-hogging stoves and other equipment that other eateries do. “They’re basically plug and play.”