Wednesday, June 15, 2016

50 Hours in Tokyo: Sushi and Sake

I never planned the weekend in Tokyo to be a hardcore food trip per se - I wasn't even making any particular restaurant reservation until the week of departure. But I still thought I should at least do one proper sushi meal at some point during the weekend, so I made a dinner booking at this cozy sushi-ya in Ginza for Saturday evening.

Sushi Hakobune belongs to a restaurant group specializing in nihonshu or sake from Hokuriku region, a geographic term covering the prefectures of Ishikawa, Fukui, Niigata and Toyama along the northern coast of Honshu. The restaurant is located in the basement of a building on the west side of Ginza at a small street just behind the Sony Building, with a rather discreet entrance with a flight of stairs going down to a cozy dining room with counter-only seating for 8.

Torigai and Umibodo
I started with Ishikarei (stone flounder), thinly sliced and served with sudachi and salt. A few sashimi pieces were served after, and I particularly liked the torigai (giant cockles) served raw that has a good fresh taste as if it's just pulled off the shell, and the couple pieces of katsuo (skipjack tuna) coming from the fattier part of the fish with soy sauce, chopped onion and daikon mash as garnishes.

I was very impressed with the pair of cooked dishes that were served next - first a small piece of nodoguro (blackthroat seaperch) fillet which was probably one of the best in my recent memory, with a rich and balanced taste of fish oil, a perfect crispy skin and delicate texture. Second was a piece of giant scallop, which was slightly torched and eaten by hand with a piece of dried seaweed.

We then moved on to the series of nigiri sushi – 14 pieces all together plus the handroll. The selection of the evening was definitely on the fatty side - beginning with the first piece of kinmedai (golden-eye snapper) cured in kelp. Nodoguro was next, lightly torched with a hint of smokiness and as fatty as the one I had earlier.

There were more to follow. I thought the Aji (coming from Kagoshima prefecture as I was told) was flavorful with firm texture. After the kohada (gizzard shad), a trio of tuna were then served in order, all coming from the same fish caught near Okinawa, from the leaner akami-zuke (marinated tuna), chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) then o-toro (fatty tuna). I thought they were slightly leaner than what I used to have, but the o-toro was great.

Bafun Uni
Aori ika, Kuruma ebi and Torigai were served, then it's a pair of uni sushi - I thought the murasaki uni served nigiri style looked better than its taste with not enough flavor, but the bafun uni served in gunkan form fared much better with a hint of impeccable sea urchin sweetness. Two other pieces - this time the Anago (sea eel) - were served side-by-side at the same time, with one topped with salt and yuzu zest, and the other with a light brush of tare sauce. At the end was a temaki of tuna and a small piece of egg castella cake.

Haneya "50 Tsubasa" Junmai Daiginjo
They have a very decent list of sakes exclusively from Hokuriku region, available either in carafe (ichi-go size) or bottle, some from the more familiar breweries, up to bottles that were harder to find. While my first carafe of Kikuhime yamahai junmai was always my favorite simple kind of drink, I also love my second carafe of a dry and rich Junmai Daiginjo from Toyama Prefecture, which seems to go very well with the fatty fish with its rounded body. (P.S. a week after I tried it, the sake just won the Gold Medal at the annual IWC competition)

Chef Sakamoto Isamu
The bill came a bit on the pricey side I think, partly because I asked for the premium menu and party because I went through 2 full carafes of sake by myself (could have gone for a third one but then I wanted to be able to walk back to the hotel sober) And I did go through quite a bit of courses and they were more than decent. I wouldn't mind coming back some time.

More pictures on my Flickr album:

Check out the rest of the travelogue series: 50 Hours in Tokyo!

Where? Sushi Hakobune, Basement, Kunimatsu Biru, 5-4-14 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
鮨 日本酒 方舟 銀座店, 東京都中央区銀座5-4-14 国松ビルB1
Menu Highlights? Grilled Nodoguro
Kikuhime "Yamahai" Junmai - Kikuhime Goshigaisha, Ishikawa Prefecture
菊姫 山廃純米 -石川県 菊姫合資会社
Haneya "50 Tsubasa" Junmai Daiginjo - Fumigiku Shuzo, Toyama Prefecture
羽根屋 純米大吟醸50 翼 -富山県 富美菊酒造

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