Rare do you find a great sushi joint with a relaxed atmosphere in Tokyo. Some restaurants won’t even serve foreigners due to the language barrier as they feel it greatly diminishes the dining experience for you and the restaurant.
As a foreigner, going to fine sushi restaurants in Japan is intimidating! As soon as you open the door, you’re entering a completely different world. It’s quiet, everyone looks at you as you and your friends stick out like a sore thumb, you are the novelty. You don’t know the rules, can you talk? Are you too loud? Are you offending people because you don’t know how you’re supposed to behave at the restaurant? Can you smile? No one else is smiling, everyone is so focused on their meal. This stuff is pretty serious.
Yet as soon as we walked in, they greeted us with smiles, and even spoke English, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen out here, an English welcome. I’m not complaining at all, it’s just really surprising.
The chef was showing off this beautiful chunk of Tuna to his other customers and walks it over, places it down infront of us, immediately bringing us into the experience.
The glass and ceramic game is strong here. The plates are based on a style that is several hundred years old. Pretty amazing that even that far back they cared about plating.
Those knife skills.
Dish #1 Chawanmushi
Custard underneath Ikura (Salmon roe). Creamy and delicious, just this little guy set the tone for the rest of the meal. We were very excited to see what would come next.
That mise en place game
I don’t know if it comes through in the photos but we all noticed how careful and pretty their placement of food and dishes were. Pleasing to the eye and that appreciation to detail is inspiring and exciting as you know these guys are the real deal.
One more action shot
With a mise en place like this, there is nothing I can’t handle. I am ready to eat, drink, and poke anything that comes my way.
Right infront of the action, watching the artist at work as he paints his edible creations for us to eat.
Do I eat the Tiger Shrimp or the Botan?
Herro Botan-San, nice to eat you! I mean meet you ^_^
The Master and his sword, I mean knife
This guy is the master chef and he was just so funny. He had a very vaudeville/slapstick-like shtick. He said he’s been doing this for 26 years and clearly still loving the process, cooking as well as interacting with his guests. He had this little mini-bow he would do whenever performing a joke and I didn’t need to understand what he was saying. The energy he was giving off was funny enough to experience. You just don’t see that kind of performance at a restaurant, especially a high end one.
One of the guests asked if he could wait while he gets his camera ready to shoot video. Always the playful one, he counts down something like 10, 9, 8, 0!
That knife though..it cuts through so toro-ly
Soft, tender salmon. A texture nothing like the orange/white striped salmon we’re used to eating. Almost tartar-like, I don’t think this guy swam upstream once in his life.
A really great cockle. How the hell is cockle so good? Boy was I skeptical. This was like a soft clam, a joy to eat.
Mackerel, so meaty, tender, and chewy. That kick of soy sauce with radish, a kind of balance that puts a smile on your face when all the elements combine perfectly.
Do people really remember the names of all the fish they eat at sushi restaurants? I forget what this was but that charred flavor and skinny chewy chicken-skin like texture was so so good, kind of like sushi meets bbq in the best kind of way.
Yummy botan shrimp. You know that awesome bite that shrimp has? This was like that except 10 more bites within a bite. I don’t know how you explain shrimp texture but this was awesome and it had some kind of kick to it, I don’t think it was wasabi but there was something fun going on.
The following is a little embarrassing. This is our Chef doing an amazing job with our meal. With each serving we’re mindblown at how good it is and so here he is with this shiny silver baggie, I’m getting all excited at the thought of some kind of modernist sushi technique. What could be in there? Will little guppies fly out and sing a song?
Nope, just a piece of Botan shrimp. Tasty though!
Japanese beer is best beer. Look at that abstract pour!
Delicious clam. See those open cuts? Aside from slicing lines into the various proteins, he would also take the corner of his blade and make several cuts that way as well. This helps the fish hold the right amount of soy sauce.
God this eel was butter soft, falls apart in your mouth. For me sea eel (anago) is too subtle and nowhere near as good as freshwater eel (unagi) but this was beautiful, best I’ve ever had ^_^
Sea Urchin from Hokkaido. Uni is my favorite sushi and when it’s on point, it makes me so happy I want to cry. I shed a tear.
A little drunk and caught up in the whole experience, I was trying to capture the vibe of the experience, the playful interaction that these chefs had…I was not planning on being so awkward.
Eel two ways. I love that they do their best to show you all these different flavors and textures and various ways that sushi can be made. Their approach is so relaxed yet refined and balanced, every piece had something interesting going on, something that made you think and feel.
Chu Toro. It sells itself.
I legitimately get sad whenever I see Tamagoyaki (Japanese egg omelette) served. It signifies the end is coming, there will be maybe one or two more pieces of sushi.
The last two pieces of sushi and boy it did not fail. Actually no, I ordered another piece of uni haha. That was the last.
The lady to our right spoke some English and was dining alone. She eats at the restaurant often, in the words of the chef, she is a “heavy user” ! Throughout the meal, she and the master chef got along really well and while one of the guests bought him beer, he was constantly pouring her all the sake in the world, to the point where at the end she mishandled one piece of sushi – it fell apart and so the chef put it back together again lol – and on the last pour, she pretty much just dumped the rest of the bottle into her glass, a funny out-of-character move for someone who was so refined and disciplined in the beginning.
You know I realize I did not take any photos from the side. I’ve noticed sushi restaurants out here seem to all have their own personality – the pacing of the meal, the flavor notes of each fish and how they add up as a whole picture – their rice was very unique. It was a brown rice and it wasn’t tough. If I hadn’t seen the tub of rice they were using, I would’ve thought it was white and they served their rice at room temperature whereas a lot of restaurants will serve rice kind of hot. It was subtle and I wasn’t sure if the rice was seasoned in any way or if it was actual brown rice grains, given that brown rice tends to have a bad brittle cardboard-y texture, this is a mystery that I will probably forget about by tomorrow.
An incredible meal, in flavor and experience. Amazing when a restaurant can be so relaxed and serious at the same time, bringing you into their world, taking you out of yours. For a few hours, you’re lost in paradise.
Sushi Ginza Onodera
5-14-14 Ginza Chuo Tokyo