Monday, December 4, 2017

Sasa Sushi Lunch

I happened to walk by Sasa Sushi in Taipei on Friday afternoon so I went inside to make a booking for lunch the next day. A bit random I know, but we are always eager to check out sushi restaurants while we were in town, as they were often of great quality and reasonably priced.

This sushi-ya is just round the corner from the main street of Zhongshan North Road in a quiet neighborhood. The façade of the shop is traditional Japanese style with Shoji window covering and sliding door, and the similar theme extended into the interior, where there’s an L-shaped counter made of hinoki wood which can seat 15, plus the private room hidden on the other side. There’s plenty of space for the chefs to work behind the counter as well, with another kitchen behind the door for the cooked food item.

We were seated at the corner, with a few other customers well underway with their meals. After we settled down, the wait-staff came over to explain the menu for us – for lunch it’s purely based on omakase but one could pick from the different price points, and each varies in terms of both quality and quantity of the courses. We decide to go for one right in the middle of the range, with a number of otsumami courses, six pieces of sushi, then finished with a grilled fish course, soup and dessert.

We started with a couple of pieces of Hata (grouper) from Hokkaido, served with a mild vinegar on the side to go with this firm but mild piece of sashimi. Next was a small bowl of warm shijimi-jiru (clam soup), which reminded me of the one served at Tokyo’s Sushi Sho, with the same intense umami flavor. I must say the piece of buri (wild yellowtail) served after the soup was one of the best I have tried – it was super fatty with soft, almost melt-in-your-mouth texture with intense taste. The chef seemed to be pleased of my compliments, proudly telling us this is of the most prized Tenjo-buri from Hokkaido which was in season right now.

A few more small dishes were served and all were excellent. The asari (little neck clams) were steamed then chilled and served in a small cup with sansho added to the juice for that extra kick, and the katsuo (skipjack tuna) was marinated then served tataki-style with drizzle of soy sauce and diced onions and scallions on top. In between there’s a little skewer of salt-baked gingko and then a warm bowl of chawanmushi with picked crab meat and pumpkin puree on top for the hearty flavor.

While we were finishing up our appetizer courses, chef began to prepare our sushi courses. We began with aori-ika (bigfin reef squid) with the softest texture and a light sprinkle of sudachi zest, then Shimaji (striped jack) topped with dried fermented soy from Iwate prefecture (the residue from soysauce making), which gave the piece a mild saltiness and an interestingly crunchy bite.

We were right in the prime season for sujiko (fresh salmon roes) and the ones we had were outstanding with the bright red color, plump like it’s about to burst, and with a much firmer bite as compared to the previously chilled ikura. They were served in a small bowl topped with a dab of wasabi on top with rice at the bottom. Murasaki uni was another piece I love served as a small gunkan sushi with crispy nori wrapped around.

We gradually moved to a couple more pieces served with rice mixed with red vinegar, which has higher acidity and worked better with fatty fish - First Aji (horse mackerel), then the Oma Chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) from Aomori Prefecture. We finished with the soft and mildly seasoned anago (seawater eel), a piece of tamago (egg), miso soup and a grilled fish course at the end. (I wanted to say it’s some kind of mackerel but I wasn’t too sure) And then there’s also dessert and fruit platter.

It’s only 80% full on the day of our visit (not sure if it’s due to the fact that the original head chef just left recently and opened his own restaurant), so the chef took his time and served us in a leisurely pace, which we enjoyed since we were not in hurry. We must say so far our Taipei sushi experience was a bit of hit and miss, and this one I thought was the best so far. And oh by the way, they also had the best pickles - I couldn't stop eating them!

When? October 28 2017
Where? Sasa Sushi, No 6 Lane 42 Section 2 Zhongshan North Road, Taipei
笹鮨 台北市中山北路2段42巷6號
Menu Highlights? Tenjo-buri

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