Sushi’s Doomsday

To raise awareness about climate change, Kyubey Ginza and a Japanese bio health firm Euglena teamed up for a campaign: The Last Day of Sushi (well, the direct translation is the day sushi disappears) and it kinda made me depressed.

Along with top researchers, they calculated the last days select neta can be served. Kyubey opened advanced reservations to book the last day you can eat x.

Here is a partial list of the neta and the last years they can be served that they published:

  • Ika イカ (cuttlefish) last year it can be served = 2035 (16 years left).
    Last booking date: Saturday, June 30th, 2035
  • Shako しゃこ (mantis shrimp) = 2041(22 years left)
    Last booking date: Saturday, November 30th, 2041
  • Ikura and salmon いくら= 2049(30 years left)
    Last booking date: Friday, December 17th, 2049
  • Scallops ほたて = 2068(49 years left)
    Last booking date: Friday, August 31st, 2068
  • Uni うに (sea urchin) 2073(54 years left)
    Last booking date: Thursday, August 31st, 2073
  • Awabi あわび (abalone) 2080(61 years left)
    Last booking date: Tuesday, October 1st, 2080
  • Hirame ヒラメ (Flounder) 2089 (70 years left)
    Last booking date: March 31st, 2089

Bleak shit.

There is an English version of the site (run through Google Translate so the descriptions may be weird lololol) which goes a little more into detail about their research, impact, etc., and they’re also doing a Twitter campaign. First prize is a 30,000 yen voucher for Kyubey. 

visit the English site here: https://www.euglena.jp/sushi/

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.

🚨🍣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.)

…because Japan!

In a 2011 interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Scene Asia blog, Yoshikazu Ono, son of Jiro Ono, the star of 2011’s “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” documentary, Yoshikazu was asked why there are no female chefs or apprentices at his father’s $300 per person sushi restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro. His response:

“The reason is because women menstruate. To be a professional means to have a steady taste in your food, but because of the menstrual cycle, women have an imbalance in their taste, and that’s why women can’t be sushi chefs.”

via this piece from Business Insider.

Another gem from the piece:

Unfortunately his belief that a woman’s palate is inferior to a man’s is not uncommon in Japan, where other prevailing myths warn that women’s hands are too small and warm to handle sushi, and that their makeup and perfume will ruin the taste of the fish.

Hahahahhaha wow.

Sushi Saito

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In 2009, when Michelin decided to uncover Japan’s culinary scene by including us in their guide, two things happened. One: the world got a glimpse of our extraordinary cuisine. Two: it caused absolute chaos to the reservation situation in Tokyo.

Frankly, it’s now shit.

There is way more demand than supply since most spots seat only 8-10 people and for those who aren’t Japanese or speak the language, they are SOL (shit outta luck). Sadly a lot of crappy tourists bail last minute or worse, don’t show up or even call (seriously, who does that?) and have ruined it for others to score bookings. Nowadays, a majority of the higher end and exclusive places are invite only for quality control. This isn’t because Japanese people don’t like foreigners. It’s because when a place is so small they only serve 20 or so seatings a night, it hurts the business a lot when people don’t show up; especially since ingredients are purchased daily.

But as frustrating as the booking situation is, one of the best parts about dining in Japan is the intimate experience. A lot of high-end sushi and kappo (cuisine with heavy kaiseki influence – thoughtful presentation, high quality, hyper seasonal ingredients, open kitchen, usually counter seating where diners get to watch/interact with the chef and his apprentices) spots, the taisho (chef) is extremely generous with his knowledge and every time I dine, I always learn something new.

This visit to Sushi Saito, here’s what I learned:

  • Male shishamo tastes better than female shishamo. Shishamo is smelt and kokusan shishamo is Japanese smelt. For about 15 or so years now, Russian or Mongolian smelt are served instead of Japanese smelt since there is a shortage and kokusan shishamo is now hard to obtain. Female smelts are widely served carrying eggs (komochi shishamo) but I barely see male shishamo. I’m not sure if I’ve even had it before. Saito-san also shared that male shishamo is served raw (sashimi) and slightly seared in the spring. Amazing.
  • Kimo is fish liver and the most commonly served fish liver is ankimo (monkfish liver). Fugu (blowfish) kimo is also served — I had no idea. Saito-san told us his first fugu kimo was in a region far up north (I forgot where). When we asked him if it was good, he said: “It’s delicious but I can’t say for certain if it was tasty because it’s so rare or because it is truly tasty. Would I risk my life to eat it again? Probably not.” while laughing. And then he went on to say: “Nothing beats Kawahagi kimo. Ankimo has a kuse.” Kuse, means a distinctness — scent, texture, flavor, what have you — like blue cheese. People either love it or hate it. I kind of think he didn’t really like fugu kimo haha
  • Saito-san trained at Kanesaka and directly under Kanesaka-san. (Kanesaka is now legendary and has two restaurants in Tokyo, several abroad. I’ve only been to Kanesaka once and didn’t really like it but that’s a story for another day.) Saito-san calls Kanesaka-san, Kanesaka jiisan (Jiisan is old man but for Saito-san to fondly address him by that nickname is a huge sign of respect and signifies their closeness) and told us how Kanesaka-san taught him how to crab and fish. Saito-san also mentioned how they used to go together all the time. So cute ❤︎
  • Saito-san can tell the difference between a male and female fish; he said he has to feel them though. That’s pretty mental.
  • The best fugu restaurant in Tokyo is Ajiman

 …I feel like I’m missing some learings so I’ll add if I remember. 

Such a fulfilling meal both physically and mentally, which makes Sushi Saito one of my favorite places on the Earth.

Oden … and the most fucking amazing guide to Tokyo

Excuse the F-bomb in the headline (I know, so inappropriate but whatever. This is my fucking blog and I can fucking drop fucking F-bombs heeeeeeere… weeeeeeeee) but I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to contribute to a once in a fucking (another F-bomb!) lifetime comprehensive guide to Tokyo that nothing out there even fucking (and another one!) comes close to.

There is so much information about everything one requires when planning a Tokyo trip. Beyond that, though, the writing is high quality and puts my writing to shame. (Note to self: step your game up.)

The guide is here and everyone with even a remote interest in Japan and Tokyo needs to smash the bookmark button a bajillion times over and share with all.

…anddddddd somehow, I snuck in.

Still in disbelief I’m included and in no way am I posting this because I contributed. It’s a beautiful, informative, fascinating look into the complexity of Japan from various viewpoints and an excellent guide. My contributions are: decoding conbini (convenience stores), unraveling Tabelog (the most accurate dining compass of Japan) and share mid-range priced sushi; I eat at spots that aren’t expensive as shit and here’s the proof.

Hope you enjoy!

Bonus: you may or may not know this fact but massive editing takes place (of course). My pieces would be NOTHING without the editors. Seriously, they are all stars. But just for shits and giggles (loving the ability to freely curse, obviously) there are several parts of my conbini piece that were massively edited (and for good reason). I wasn’t attached to a lot of the parts the Eater editors vanquished but I just can’t let the oden part go so I’m side-barring here.

On Eater:

Oden

From September to mid-April, there are often large, heated metal trays or pots near the registers of most conbini. Inside the trays are different ingredients — tofu, daikon radish, boiled eggs, and fish cakes — floating in a hot, fragrant (almost pungent) dashi broth. This is oden, Japan’s winter comfort food. While the absolute best typically comes from chefs who have spent a lifetime perfecting their broth and curating the ingredients to pair with it, the conbini version is fun to try.

Butttttttt lemme tell you how I really feel:

From September to mid-April, there are huge pots with weird shaped ingredients floating in a funky broth near the registers. This is oden and a Japanese comfort food staple, delicious when properly prepared. Conbini oden is more symbolic. When we see oden set-up in conbinis, we immediately think: start of winter and once they are cleared, we know that summer is here. I have never seen anyone actually buy conbini oden but if you happen to be here while it is served, it may be fun to try. Oden is best home cooked or at oden specific restaurants where chefs are usually 70 year old men who have spent their lifetimes perfecting their broths and hunting for foods that pair perfectly with their broths.

Oden properly prepared is like this ↓ and I also wrote about it here

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Super Duper Insider Info: New Sushi Mitani

original

Sushi Mitani is notorious for having an impossible waitlist (currently it’s at 3 years). Earlier this year, Mitani-san suffered from a heart attack and was out of commission for a few months. Sidetrack for a second and imagine waiting two and a half — possibly longer — years for a booking only to find out he isn’t well. Man, I don’t know how I would feel and what kind of person that makes me…

Anyway.

So Mitani-san, the man himself, is okay and back making sushi. His first apprentice Takano-san (who was standing in while Mitani-san  was recovering) opened a new shop in July. The other day, it was announced Mitani-san is closing his shop in Yotusya, moving to Takano-san’s shop, making sushi in the private room.

To sit in front of Mitani-san, the wait is still 2.5 years, as Mitani-san moved all the existing bookings from the original Mitani to the new Mitani. But, seats in front of Takano-san are still available.

As I keep repeating, sushi is personal preference and I’ve enjoyed Mitani-san’s sushi once and since I’ve found my favorite go-to sushi spots I will not be booking. But if you are planning a visit, I would recommend eating at Mitani at least once. The man is a legend. And if you’re into Michelin and stuff, he has two stars.

Hurry and make bookings at the new one while you still can! It will FOR SURE become another place where it is impossible to get seats.

Side-note: Mitani-san’s shop was a 2.5 year wait even when Takano-san was making the sushi. Frankly it doesn’t matter if you sit in front of Takano-san or Mitani-san as you will be able to enjoy the same neta (fish) that Mitani-san has access too, which is equally as important as skill.

Kioichō (I hope I’m spelling this correctly in roma-ji but it’s 紀尾井町 三谷) Mitani
03 6256 9566
Drop this into Google Maps↓
東京都千代田区紀尾井町1-2
Open for lunch and dinner (same price, unfortunately. Around $300 USD before tax and drinks); open 7 days.
http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1308/A130801/13198197/dtlphotolst/1/smp2/

Shin Ika #Sushi

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Shin Ika so smooth it looks like a dolphin’s tummy! Shin-ika, like shinko (baby kohada) is a baby squid and are accessible only towards the end of summer. It’s so smooth and sweet and melts in your mouth!! It was so pretty I just had to share.

Of course this is at Takahashi, my favorite sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Takahashi-san is so talented — I only eat his sushi now. I know, I know, I need to get out more. But I can’t help it. I’m now treated as a regular and as a regular’s advantage, I get special dishes like this ↓ (points below)

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I mentioned in passing the other day I loved his aji tsumami (appetizer). It’s aji with the Saito pesto, egg yolk and sesame seeds. It wasn’t included in this menu but he made one just for me!! It was, as always, super delicious and one of my favorites of all time. Love him!!

Also, he served tako (octopus) which I hadn’t had in a while. But the ceramic (kozara) was one I’ve never seen before. Even more amazing is that it’s shaped like the Bat symbol (from Batman!!)

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Highlights:
– steamed awabi, this time with kimo (liver) sauce that was AMAZING
– lightly charred anago with three condiments: wasabi, tōgarashi (red pepper) dipping sauce, salt and his raw shichimi (he shared the recipe with me this time!!!)
– aka mutusu a.k.a. nodo guro a.k.a. sea bream sakamushi (steamed with a sake base) with ponzu and some sort of sea vegetable OMG this was delicious
– tai (snapper) that was kissed with a touch of smoke

…and who am I kidding. Everything was super delicious. Takahashi-san makes me so happy.

By the way it’s almost time for fall foods. I love fall foods in Japan. SOOOOOO pumped!

Sushi in Tokyo Ranking

UPDATE: this is no longer just sushi. Scroll to bottom for all rankings.

Forget Michelin, the Japanese all rely on Tabelog, the Japanese equivalent to Yelp or Trip Advisor. Unlike Yelp or Trip Advisor, though, Tabelog’s rankings are accurate — any place rated 3.5 or higher (out of 5) is 99.99999999999999% of the time excellent.

The reason Tabelog is accurate, is because Japanese are passive. We do not complain directly to establishments when we have bad experiences. We do not tip to show appreciation of places we love. We return to our favorites and become jyōren (regulars). Places we dislike, we tell all our family, friends, colleagues to avoid and… rate on Tabelog. Tabelog is very accurate.

I put this together because I realized most people aren’t food nerds. When people ask for recommendations, they don’t really care about the whats, whys and just want “the best” (whatever that means).

So, for all the list chasers and ‘foodies’ who use Michelin as your food barometers, here you go. Knock yourselves out! Bookings are near impossible though; even through hotel concierges.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  1. Saito
  2. Sugita
  3. Hatsune Hashiguchi
  4. Mitani
  5. Mizutani Sukibayashi Jiro
  6. Tokami Amamoto
  7. Hashiguchi Arai
  8. Sushi Shō Sawada
  9. Miyaba Sushi Sho
  10. Namba Sushi Kimura
  11. Masuda Harutaka
  12. Takumi Shingo Namba
  13. Arai Takamitsu
  14. Kimura Kiyota
  15. Sushi-ya Ichiyanagi Daisan Harumi Sushi
  16. Sushi-ya Sushi Sho Saito
  17. Hashimoto Masuda
  18. Kanesaka Tokami
  19. Daisan Harumi Sushi Uwotoku
  20. Yoshitake

*list updated 4/21/18
Note: Hatsune is closed indefinitely for Hatsune-san’s wife is terminally ill — heartbreaking. See the entire list here (in Japanese)

You’re welcome.

*in case you stumbled onto this post and looking to learn about sushi, I write my take on sushi in Tokyo here

Update 2/21/2017

My Eater piece on Tabelog is here

Update 7/13/2016

Since I get asked for recommendations ALL the time, I’m just going to start listing the Top 10 of everything on Tabelog. So here we go, in no particular order:

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Sushi

Almost a year has gone by since I ate my way through Tsukiji and it’s time to update — especially since revisiting some older posts, my face turned hot and red; I am extremely embarrassed at how little I knew about sushi.

So today, almost 12 months and many, many high-end sushi meals later, here are a few things I have learned. Warning: this will be a super long and ultra nerdy post with barely any photos…

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