Having worked at a very good sushi restaurant and being from Tokyo makes me admittedly picky. Even accounting for that, Nijo Sushi Bar & Grill disappointed me. I recently had a friend visiting from Tokyo who was staying at W Hotel, so we thought we'd try something within walking distance. They are off Spring St right by water (@ Western Ave), just steps from 1st Ave, which is a great location.
We both had "omakase", which stands for chef's choice menu as many of you know, one with the "premium sake collection" to go with it. Having had a fair number of omakase's, this one is relatively cheap - $50/pp ($75/pp with sake). In my mind this is the way to eat sushi, since they will try to showcase what's freshest.
We later found out the executive chef had "just come off vacation and been taking care of odds and ends which went haywire in his absence", and that he didn't cook our food - which in my mind is no excuse for not overseeing omakase, since the restaurant was not that full, being Tuesday.
The menu had a promising beginning with fresh approach, with thin daikon wrapped rolls with different flavored house cured tobiko. The tataki - sheared albacore- was decent, but I wouldn't pair it with a bed of cheap seaweed salad. The flavor was fine. Another appetizer had fresh king crab meat and house-cured ikura (salmon roe), which is notable, since so many places would buy already cured roe in a tub from a supplier, which is not as fresh and plump. Things went downhill when chawanmushi (Japanese hot egg custard with dashi) came out. The surface was overcooked and the inside undercooked, due to too much sake in the mix, which there shouldn't even be. Chawanmushi's are supposed to be soft, smooth custard with no hardened parts. So they took those back and presented us with another dish, which was a tempura fried rolls of sorts, except done with panko (Japanese bread crumb) on the outside of nori. The material in those rolls, such as cucumber, is not suited for flash-frying (too much moisture seeping out). So "the fresh idea" wasn't based on good education about ingredients IMHO. Also at that point in the meal the dish was too heavy. Eager to please us, they tried to get us what we might like, but they kept missing the mark. For example, fearing "maccha tiramisu might be too heavy", they brought us green tea ice cream with strawberry sauce on top (eek) and fruit (ok), despite the fact I mentioned I was lactose intolerant.
The sakes paired with the meal was decent, but it was more like a couple of big cups (chugs!) of sake, plus nigori to go with dessert - if it were me I would pair smaller samplings in ochoko (those tiny sake cups - nice little sips!) with each dish. That would make the experience a little more special.
To give them some credit, they do try to please and ingredients are relatively fresh. So if you are looking for just a regular sushi fare, this place could fit the bill fine. I just wouldn't expect a fine Japanese dining experience, and chefs (at least the ones we had) are not particularly skilled. Our server was lovely and had a great sense of humor, very charming and service oriented, so she gets high marks. They did take a percentage off our meals, since they want you to be "nothing but delighted" for omakase, and the executive chef came out and chatted with us some, seeking improvement. So they're trying.
Having been in the hospitality industry, I know how hard restaurant business can be, and I think we could nurture this place to be better (if you're so inclined). The dining would not be seamless if you expect fine entertaining, but the convenient location and relatively fresh ingredients will serve them well for now.
(FYI - the original review was from April - but I noticed a duplicate listing for this business, which prompted me to post this review. Have written to JB staff about duplicate listings. Hopefully in the future we can avoid such duplicates.)