Best Sushi: Nama Sushi Bar

Best Sushi Runners-Up: Sapphire, Sobu, Tomo

Nama, the upscale sushi place which opened its original place on a then-iffy block of Gay Street about five years ago, introduced the high-concept sushi bar to Knoxville. We'd had good sushi before, but Nama took it to another level, and well-traveled Pacific Rim vagabonds declare it's as good as it gets. It's amazing how quickly Nama became essential to many of us: There are times that nothing will do but a spider, a dragon, a crazy tuna, or a crabby eel. The model was so good it's spinning off. A larger Nama opened in Bearden appears to be a success (rendering the downtown crowds slightly more manageable; a couple of years ago, to paraphrase Mr. Berra, no one ever went to the downtown Nama because it was too crowded) with others rumored to come. Along the way, Nama has changed owners, as creator Gregg White seems to be retiring from the restaurant business, but we haven't noticed a bump.