Ode to Akami and Sushi Saito

Someone randomly liked a super old post on Instagram which prompted a bit of reminiscing. I then realized, I only IG’d most of my posts and never really blogged about my sushi experience in Tokyo… which is a shame because I spent way more than I care to admit eating high-end sushi two to three times a week for about two and a half years, and now know more about sushi than a normal person should know. So I thought, why not write an ode (better late than never, right?)

After a year or so of consistently eating sushi, I finally felt confident to form informed opinions. Such as, which season to eat sushi is my favorite (neta fish used for sushi is hyper seasonal and you start picking up on patterns of what is served when), the various shari sushi rice from which chef and where (every chef uses their own recipe and flavoring techniques to complement their curation techniques… most chefs learn from where they apprenticed and usually put their own subtle touches) and I’ve also drawn the conclusion, my favorite sushi restaurant is Sushi Saito. My favorite piece of sushi is the simple red tuna. Or, akami, as we say in Japanese.

At first akami seems so boring and mundane but I didn’t understand the allure and depth until moving to Japan and experiencing the high-end sushi and for that, I am grateful.

So here is a gallery of Instagram posts of akami from Saito. Even before declaring akami is my favorite piece, reckon I subconsciously knew, as a lot of my posts from Saito are of the most mundane piece of red tuna on top of rice.

Read more about why I love Saito-san here. Really nerdy post on thoughts and learnings about sushi are here. Ranking of Tabelog’s top sushi spots are here though most of the top spots are near impossible to book.

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Oyakodon Shio at Toritō

I cannot stress this enough. Oyakodon at Toritō in the Inner Market of Tsukiji is a Tokyo must. For 160 years, they have been distributing chicken and duck across Japan, opened two spots inside Tsukiji a decade ago and have a strong loyal following. Toritō is the only place I’ve ever eaten oyakodon shio (親子丼塩), a version where the soy sauce is held back. The seasoning is so subtle, the sweetness of the yolk, the flavor of the chicken are prominent and the melty, creamy egg with the juicy chicken over a piping hot bowl of rice is so good it always makes me want cry. Chicken soup is mandatory – it’s the best chicken soup that’ll ever meet your mouth. 🐓🥚🐣🐥 Tokyo favorite! 

…found this post in my drafts and decided to publish. RIP Tsukiji but don’t fret, Toritō is still operating.

🚨🍣New Sushi Spot Alert 🍣🚨

Found this place that just opened through a wonderful food friend… and oh my god it was seriously one of the best meals I’ve had in Japan.

From the attention he pays to every single detail in his shop (design, hand towels, and even specialty toilet paper), to ceramics, his choice of staff all reflects in his stunning food.

His shari (sushi rice) was literally perfection. His otsumami (small plates) surpasses any of the places I’ve eaten before.

Above are only a few of the photos and the notes, not as extensive as I’d like (too preoccupied enjoying my meal).

6 hour steamed abalone in its juices
Hokkaido shishamo caught only in October served two ways (nigiri and gunkan)
Ankimo with mizunomi (ankimo steamed with the mizunomi omg the texture!!!)
Of course nodoguro

…and the sushi was 100%. Not a fan of cured neta that is pungent, or shari that is too sour (I can name a handful of super famous spots that are aggressively flavored)

On and on I can keep going but honestly, I only remember being blown away. Asking trillions of questions like I always do. And not retaining most of the information… hashtag OLD.

So, I will leave this post with my friend Ash’s succinct – but vulgar – description (and this guy knows. his. shit.)

The French Laundry #throwback

One of the greatest things about Twitter is how bits of information are shared, which is probably due to how anyone can post whatever they feel like quickly. The 280 character limit and knowing the information will most likely pass through a vortex of information and disappear into the Internet blackhole relieves pressures of thinking too much … which is beneficial for the masses as we can see deeper into our favorite people/brands/businesses that are normally out of reach. (Usually — as I am obviously taking politics out of the equation.)

The other day a friend alerted me to The French Laundry’s Tweet, sharing their opening night menu in 1979 (!!!)

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Fast forward to 1994, Thomas Keller bought the building and in 2018, TK is arguably still one of the top 5 chefs in North America, and TFL is one of the greatest restaurants in America.

The original handwritten menu on opening night, though, beautifully sums up the state of food in America in the 70’s and up until the late-00’s (perhaps early 2010) when the American public finally started caring about food.

Take a look:

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“Fresh asparagus” and “rice” are on the menu — wow.

America, you have come a long way! And thank you, Chef Keller, for being on the forefront of the food revolution in the U.S. Much love and respect.

Japan’s ‘Fast Food’

Well, it’s not technically ‘fast food’ but more diner food, there is a genre of chain restaurants called ‘fami-resu’, short for family restaurants. Like a Denny’s.

Anyway, there is a chain Royal Host and I’ve heard from locals Royal Host is super yummy but they aren’t really located in areas I spend time. The other day I went to my very first Royal Host and suffice to say, it exceeded expectations and blew my mind.

Look at my lunch!!!!!

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This was chicken with a soy (sauce) butter sauce topped with a creamy, melty, egg, served with french fries and rice and soup or salad, all for around $7USD.

Not only was it delicious, the cost performance was 100000000%. Aside from lunch deals, there are tons of other dishes ranging from Japanese (rice bowls, udon, Japanese curry) to Western (clubhouse sandwiches and all day breakfasts). Everything looks so tasty I want to eat through the menu. I wish there was a Royal Host near my house, I would seriously eat here everyday.

No one really talks about fami-resus because it’s not fancy but they are underrated imo. Definitely recommended for second or third time visitors to Japan.

Troll the menu here → click this
Denny’s and Jonathan’s are also highly recommended!

 

Ingredients in Japan

I rarely eat Chinese food by choice. Dim sum bores me (it feels like an endless on parade of tiny baskets with fish or pungent meats and chives wrapped in dough, cooked in different ways), black bean sauce is way too potent (can’t taste the ingredients). A lot of the fish has this slimy texture reminiscent to cheap catfish and a lot of the dishes — irregardless of style or region — tastes like the pan (or wok?).

XLB are my favorite but there’s only so many soup dumplings one could eat.

The other night I had Szechuan food for the first time in I can’t even recall how long ago and it was so delicious and flavorful. The dishes look extremely spicy because of the red peppers but the heat was subdued. There was one stewed chicken dish that literally blew my mind. I could taste every layer of the ingredients unfolding on my tongue — anise, sansho, soy, and I learned Szechuan peppers have this unmatched brightness, a subtle acid, that brings the dishes to a new level.

The chicken, fish, shrimp, beef, sansho peppers and all the greens are so optimal in Japan that it’s almost unfair. I swear, a cooked box of rocks in Japan would taste good.

Now I am keen on learning more about Chinese cuisines — especially Szechuan. Ahhhh the learning process here is never, ever, ending.

Glorious Gyoza

gyoza
Salt. Fat. Acid.

via my IG

“Salt. Fat. Acid. Gyoza is my favorite flavor profile and probably the reason I eat shameful amounts 😳 A whooooole mess of latergrams of all the glorious gyoza in my Camera Roll. Some may or may not be taken at inappropriate hours 💁🏻🥂🍷🥃 餃子どんだけ好きやねん。この半年食べた量と種類、、、かなりヤバイw”

I really do eat too much gyoza. So much, I wrote 1,600ish words on gyoza in Tokyo. Do read if you’re interested. The piece is on Eater here.

Mona