11 Comments January 24, 2011

Sushi Kanesaka

中央区銀座8丁目10−3, Tokyo, Japan

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.

Fluke sashimi – Thin slices of lean fluke with a glass of Sapporo beer.

Uni sashimi – Cold, firm, milky, and sweet.  Serving this so early in the meal was a sign that this was going to be a good night.

Chuo-toro sashimi – Medium fatty tuna.

Simmered ankimo – Monkfish liver in a ponzu sauce.  The creaminess of the liver, with a texture similar to firm foie gras, contrasted against the bright sauce.  This was exceptional.

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.

Simmered abalone before slicing – Whole abalone simmered in its seawater.

Simmered abalone – Sliced and served warm, sashimi style.

Akamai – Lean tuna brushed with soy sauce.

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.

Hamachi – Yellowtail sushi.  It’s amazing how similar the texture was to the fatty tuna, only a little bit firmer.

Aji – Japanese jack mackerel.  Just a hint of skin was left on.

Ika – Firm and chewy.

KohadaA 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.

Miso cod sushi – Cod glazed and roasted in miso sauce.  This was sweet and served warm.

Tekamaki – Tuna roll.  Sometimes the best bites comes from a simple combination of super-crispy seaweed with warm rice.

Tamago – Egg omelette.  This was sweet and custardy, more like a pâte de fruit.

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.

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  • ChuckEatsJanuary 25, 2011 at 12:10 am

    that first uni picture is sensational – i long for a return to tokyo

  • AdamJanuary 25, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Chuck, I hope one day to be able to share a sushi meal with you (preferably in Tokyo). It’s going to happen!

  • MichaelJanuary 25, 2011 at 2:41 am

    Thank you for all the recent posts and the fabulous photography. I think I would have particulary enjoyed this meal at Kanesaka because of the sashimi and various imaginatively cooked dishes that came before the sushi. The simmered ankimo looks sensational. That is the formula we found at Harutaka; I think it satisfies the palate and the appetite much better than just starting with sushi. The interactivity with the chef is important too.

  • ClareJanuary 25, 2011 at 3:32 am

    Wow! That all looks amazing and really does confirm my desire to get to Tokyo one day.

    I am especially intrigued by the ankimo. Must, must, must try that one day!

  • PamJanuary 25, 2011 at 10:47 am

    i’ve been following your blog for a while. i must admit that your photos succeeded in making me craved for food many many times!
    I just returned from tokyo not long ago and I had a meal at Kyubei. Very impressive it was. Two thumbs up from me:)
    Just out of my curiosity, between Sushi Kanesaka and Kyubei Sushi, which do you think is better?


  • LuxeatJanuary 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    “i long for a return to tokyo”

    I second that!


    Sushi Kanesaka is one of my favorite in Tokyo. Great ambiance.

  • AdamJanuary 25, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    @Michael: I completely agree with you. Also there’s something about consuming warm dishes at the beginning of the meal that really awaken the palate, as you said. Your meal at Harutaka looked great. I hope I can check it out the next time I’m in Tokyo.

    @Clare: The ankimo was awesome. I can still taste it!

    @Pam: Both were really good and of the fish they had in common almost identical quality. Kyubei usually doesn’t have abalone and ankimo, so that’s something that would make Kanesaka more interesting. But it really depends: if I’m hungry and am not craving a particular fish, Kanesaka’s omakase is the way to go. But if I want something lighter and/or the ability to choose exactly what I’m craving, then definitely Kyubei.

    @Luxeat: I perpetually third that.

  • Kristi NebelFebruary 11, 2011 at 12:48 am

    I’ll probably return to Tokyo with an improved awareness of the seafood as a result of your photos. I’m still in the dark a bit with regard to sushi; obviously some is actually cooked here, though I don’t know if it’s only a partial process. I admire your willingness to face down and eat that sea urchin. Much of what I saw and ate on my recent trip was and still is a mystery to me, though I enjoyed it all. I recall being invited to eat sea urchin in Unalaska, Alaska, by one of the local Aleut natives.

  • jenniferNovember 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Would you recommend Kanesaka over Jiro and/or Mizutani? Thank you so much!

  • J.W.November 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    These are fabulous photos. Thanks for sharing.

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