All tagged sushi
Photographs from my meal in Tokyo, Japan at Sukiyabashi Jiro on January 29, 2015
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It's fairly easy to find good sushi in Tokyo, but rather difficult to find exceptional sushi. Even the bento boxes at Tokyo Station, which makes for a great accompaniment on a long Shinkansen ride, are of very high quality -- much higher than the average sushi quality in New York. But truly out of the ordinary sushi -- the rare combination of perfect textures, temperatures, and flavors -- is a rare commodity. There are only a handful of places at this level. Sushi Kanesaka is one of them. Located in the basement floor of a nondescript building in Ginza, Sushi Kanesaka is unassuming. Its thirty-something year old chef, Shinji Kanesaka, offers no indication from talking with him that he holds two Michelin stars. He is both humble and friendly.
The restaurant only serves omakase. However Chef Kanesaka's palette seems to prefer shellfish, which is what I would mostly order anyway. What made this restaurant so special aside from the freshness of ingredients was the fish selection: I wouldn't have ordered anything different from what was served. Chef Shinji Kanesaka read my mind.
Sushi is my favorite food. There's nothing so satisfying as a slice of the freshest fish imaginable just barely brushed with soy sauce -- or dusted with a pinch of salt -- atop a small bed of warm rice. Omakase is a great way to enjoy this experience because it introduces the elements of surprise as well as the chef's knowledge of the day's best catch. But how does the chef always know what I want? Sometimes an elaborate sushi meal is too much; sometimes I want to choose a handful fish I'm craving and eat lightly. Sometimes, ordering a la carte at a sushi counter is the way to go. Kyubei sushi, in Ginza, is perfect for diners who want to chose their own fish. The relatively informal atmosphere in combination with ease of getting a reservation at one of its five locations throughout the city makes it a good option for a last-minute dinner decision. Besides, who can object to a meal of eight pieces of unimaginably fresh sea urchin sushi? (I've done it before.) The fish at Kyubei is extremely fresh and the pricing much more reasonable than Sukiyabashi Jiro.
My first visit to Sukiyabashi two years ago was one of the best sushi meals of my life. The meal's beauty lies in its apparent simplicity: just rice and fish. Of course this is deceiving. The exquisite sushi is the amalgam of impeccable ingredients and skill, from the hand-selected blend of rice and its meticulous steaming, to the exacting ratio of fish to rice and the timing with which it's served. Even the luke-warm temperature of the rice and its precise grain count per piece, as well as the sushi's position on the plate, is no accident. Chef Jiro Ono, Japanese living legend, is perhaps the world's greatest sushi chef. The atmosphere of Sukiyabashi Jiro seemed more relaxed and comfortable than the last time. While both the chef and his son were friendly and engaging in 2008 food photography -- no matter how subtle -- seemed to make them a bit uncomfortable. Two years later and chef Ono was smiling and welcoming photos. The sushi bar also seemed to have more foreigners. During my last meal I was the only foreigner at the table. Considering my meal in 2010 was on the exact same day as in 2008, it's unlikely a seasonal difference. This is probably due to its Michelin 3* rating permeating out, as well as the increase in internet publicity.
I always thought two parents were more than enough. But after visiting Sukiyabashi Jiro in Ginza, Tokyo, I will be returning with adoption papers. Chef Jiro Ono has been recognized by the Japanese government as a national treasure and “modern master” for his contributions to Japanese cuisine. He has received three Michelin stars. The awards an accolades for this masterful chef are endless. And to believe he is over 80 years old.
Chef Ono’s dishes are simple and straight forward: the freshest fish imaginable, warm carefully selected and cooked rice, deft knife work, and a collection of wise and sarcastic jokes. He is very serious. But unlike Masa, he was faster to crack a smile. He couldn’t stop smirking at how I took a picture of each piece of sushi and even offered to pose; though, his sharp sushi knife was a forceful deterrent. He has a funny sense of humor and is full of clever quips; my limited Japanese only understood the surface. He asked if we had any allergies or restrictions. We made it very clear that we eat absolutely everything.
There are few chefs who tell a story without speaking, who can transport diners to a far away place without ever stepping on an airplane, and who can make diners feel at home and comfortable without taking off their shoes. Chef Hiro Urasawa is one of those chefs. And he does it all with a wide smile. Perched on the second level of the luxurious Two Rodeo shopping center, Urasawa sits above some of the most famous designers in the world: Fendi, Cartier, Tiffany, Prada, Cerruti and Versace to name a few. But unlike the downstairs world of fashion and style, upstairs flavor rules. But it's not like the outside world is hidden; in fact, sunlight pours in through the large windows overlooking the most famous shopping street in the United States. Rather, the simplicity of the space combined with Chef Urasawa's humility, sense of humor, and genuine good nature encourage pretense and entitlement to be left downstairs. Without a doubt, the combination of Chef Urasawa's personality, skill, and selection of ingredients made this my best sushi meal in the United States.