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Sushi Nakazawa’s Trump Ties Are Not a Problem for Michelin

The controversial sushi restaurant gets its first star in the 2020 guide to Washington, D.C. 

A man, Daisuke Nakazawa, slices fish behind a sushi counter set with black, rectangular plates and chopsticks.
Daisuke Nakazawa inside Sushi Nakazawa in D.C.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Monica Burton is the deputy editor of

Today, Michelin, the dining guide run by a French tire company, announced its list of starred restaurants for Washington D.C. Just four new restaurants joined the ranks of those Michelin deems the best in the nation’s capital, all with one star. And with these new selections, a restaurant with controversial ties to President Trump — both due to its location inside a Trump property and the comments its owner made after the news got out — was rewarded with one of the fine-dining world’s most sought-after honors.

Sushi Nakazawa, the sushi omakase restaurant from chef Daisuke Nakazawa and restaurateur Alessandro Borgognone, opened in spring 2018 inside the Trump International Hotel, a building once destined for a restaurant from D.C. chef and humanitarian José Andrés. Andrés pulled out of the deal after the now-President Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “murderers” in 2015, and his refusal to honor the deal set off a string of back-and-forth lawsuits. The suits were eventually settled.

In 2016, after news of Nakazawa’s opening was announced, the late Anthony Bourdain vowed never to dine there, saying he had “utter and complete contempt” for Borgognone. An Esquire profile published a couple of months later speculated that Borgognone was the “most-hated restaurateur in America” after leasing the space from the Trumps. “You can’t fault a businessperson,” Borgognone told Esquire. “Our decision was based on that... We didn’t have a political agenda.” Months after the opening, Washingtonian restaurant critic Ann Limpert praised the sushi but said that the restaurant was mostly empty.

Popularity, however, is not one of Michelin’s assessment criteria, and Sushi Nakazawa isn’t the first Michelin star for a Trump property. Jean-Georges inside Trump Tower in New York City maintained three Michelins stars for 10 years. In 2018, the restaurant was downgraded to two Michelin stars. Before it closed in 2018, Sixteen in Chicago’s Trump International Tower and Hotel held two Michelin stars.

Meanwhile, Andrés maintains his two Michelin stars at his tasting menu restaurant Minibar (along with a commitment to criticizing Trump on Twitter). Apparently, according to Michelin, the quality of the food is what counts — albeit a very, very specific kind of food served in exacting environs.

Michelin Guide Reveals 2020 Stars for D.C. [EDC]