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.
Shimaaji - Striped horse mackerel. Clean and bright.
Live Kurumaebi - Still throbbing on the rice. The gorgeous metallic-grey and silver color of the fish indicates its extreme freshness. This was sprinkled with sea salt. The flavor was not sweet and even slightly bitter, unlike amaebi, the sweeter and small shrimp variety.
Kurumaebi head - The heads of the shrimp were grilled in the back while we ate the raw body. The cooking process renders the flavor slightly sweet.
Kobashira - Small scallops lightly brushed with soy sauce. The cold and smooth scallops contrasting against the warm, dry, and crunchy seaweed is an amazing combination that must be eaten quickly. After about fifteen seconds the seaweed starts to get soggy.
Hamaguri - Lightly brushed with a sweet soy sauce that complimented the clam’s natural sweetness. This was a little more chewy than I was used to.
Shirako - Sperm sack of cod, or milt. This took awhile to get used to. The first time I tried it I couldn't get past the creamy flavor. But the grilling process dries it a bit making the texture less milky and more crunchy on the outside. Still not my favorite dish but it can be quite good when grilled.
Botan ebi - spot prawn.
Uni - Sweet, firm, and very cold.
Natomaki - This is one of those rolls that I inexplicably crave once in awhile. Fermented soybeans wrapped with sushi rice and seaweed. The flavor is both sour and salty, the texture very sticky.
Chef preparing negamaki - Diced toro with scallions.
Anago and unagi - Grilled fresh and salt-water eel.
Tamago - Sweet and creamy. The texture was slightly dense making it more like a custard than egg cake.
Clear broth soup (dashi) with vegetables
Pickled root vegetables - I love the acidic crunch these vegetables give. It's refreshing without any sugar.
White radish with shiso leaf and pickled plum paste, sprinkled with sesame - The perfect dessert after a sushi meal. The shiso made the pickled plum paste taste sweet.
Kyubei's multiple locations through Tokyo in combination with its slightly less formal atmosphere makes it a great destination for ordering a la carte sushi. The chefs at Kyubei generally speak good english and are quick to show a smile. The fish quality is excellent: still some of the best fish available in Tokyo.