What makes outstanding sushi? Superb seafood, obviously, along with an understanding of how to balance it with the shari (sushi rice). Technique and timing are essential, too. But there's a further dimension, a "plus alpha" that separates the very finest sushi experience from the merely excellent.

Inevitably this is subjective — the demeanor and focus of the chef; your sense of anticipation as you arrive; and your satisfaction as you leave. It all boils down to one factor: Does it feel special?

Hakkoku certainly does. Chef Hiroyuki Sato's new restaurant, which opened in early February, has been a long time in the making. Ten months have elapsed since Sato left Sushi Tokami, the sushiya where he announced himself to the world five years ago, winning a Michelin star and admirers both at home and abroad.