John Mariani has named O-Ku one of the nation’s top new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire, describing the sushi as fantastic and saying that “Sean Park turns out beautiful, fanciful sushi…in the liveliest new nightspot in town.”

Mariani’s annual list doles out big distinctions, including Restaurant of the Year (ABC Kitchen in NYC) and chefs to watch.

Other Southern restaurants that made the cut are Bistro Niko and Miller Union in Atlanta and Kalu Asian Kitchen in Charlotte.

A few months back, Mariani was in town dining at O-Ku and hosting a conference at the American Theater for local restaurateurs, giving a glimpse “inside the mind of the food critic.”

Over the years, he’s eaten at and written about many of Charleston’s favorite restaurants on his website, the Virtual Gourmet.