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.
Grilled kobashira – Small scallops dry roasted on a wooden skewer. The roasting process gave the scallops a second skin that was tougher than the translucent inside. It also added a hint of smokiness. I really liked these.
Toro – Full fatty tuna. This might have been the softest piece of Tuna I have ever tasted. The cold creaminess of the fish in combination with the short-lived, nose-strong spice from the wasabi sent chills down my spine.
Kohada – A bit fishy from the brining process, but in a really good way. This was a bit more mild than saba (mackerel) and less salty. The taste of vinegar was powerful, clearing my palate for what was to come.
Uni sushi – No frills sea urchin and rice. Even the seaweed, which usually wraps around the rice preventing the urchin from spilling over, was left out. This made the texture extra creamy and sweet, as the saltiness from the seaweed was omitted. I can still taste this course in my mouth.
Akagai – Arc shell clam. Sort of looked like an octopus grabbing hold of a chunk of rice. (Or a scalp massager.) My friend actually teared while eating this. He said it was the best piece of fish he’d ever tasted in his life.
Chef Kanesaka and his assistant spent most of the night cracking jokes with us, switching modes between quiet and masterful sushi chef and someone who would be a lot of fun to hang out with. This friendly and interactive demeanor really put us at ease, particularly when we had questions about the food or about sushi in general. Chef Kanesaka got as much enjoyment out of us enjoying his food as we did tasting it.