I hesitate to write those words since my first experience with Sushi Zo, way back in 06, has basically made it impossible for me to eat sushi seriously anywhere else (I haven't tried Mori or Urasawa yet, and Kiriko no longer thrills me), and I have frequented the place at least a dozen times since, both solo and with friends, almost always sitting at the sushi bar when possible, and always having omakase.
I am too intimidated by Keizo to interact with him much, but he always remembers me and has greeted me warmly, whether I am by myself or with someone else. I always express appreciation for his wonderful fish.
Last night I came with a friend who has also fallen in love with the place. It was crowded at 8 PM, but not as packed as other times. We were seated in front of Keizo himself. First thing I noticed was that he has added another assistant: someone who appears to not be Japanese (Latino I believe), who is saucing and plating some of the sushi himself. His original assistant now appears to be deputized to take care of the nether half of the sushi bar. I was visiting and drinking, so my observations may not be 100% accurate, but Keizo appears to have delegated a large part of the food prep to others.
The next thing I noticed was that he did not greet me as usual. I received barely a curt nod; several minutes later he came out with a perfunctory "nice see you again."
He has new servers; at least they are new to me. They did not seem to be as skilled as his regulars.
The fish: excellent as usual, kunomoto oyster, jalapeno amberjack sashimi, toro, big eye tuna, yellowtail, orange scallop (awesome), goldeneye snapper, spanish mackerel, albacore, seared butterfish, halibut. Unlike some of the Japanese diners present, we were not served shrimp, nor monkfish liver, nor uni. He has regularly given me these items before, though I have noticed lately he seems to reserve the shrimp for his very special patrons. He did not identify any of the fish as he handed it to us, but instead waited until he handed plates to the people next to us half a minute later and did a mass I.D./consumption admonition ("no soy sauce"). I generally know what I am getting these days but my friend, who has only been there twice, still wanted to be told what she was getting, and the delay interfered with her desire to eat the fish as soon as it was served her.
We did not eat as much as usual; I drank more Pinot Gris than I should have, which probably interfered with my appetite somewhat, and skipped the blue crab roll. We got the yuzu juice at the end.
Here's the big thing: I noticed as we were leaving, that he had pulled out a large rectangular platter of pre-cut fish!!! It looked like tuna of some kind. I was astonished; why did he have pre-cut fish? To go orders, my friend surmised, but I said, Zo doesn't do to-go. We left before I saw what he did with all those pieces of identical, pre-cut fish, but there were at least 12 of them.
That, and the addition of a new sushi assistant, trouble me. Can anyone ease my mind? I'm sure I will go back for lunch solo soon -- those are much more relaxed dining affairs, and I will have more of a chance to assess if the changes are real.