Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Eating in Tokyo: Sushi Yoshitake

If the old sayings that "the best way to judge a sushi chef is by the toro he serves" hold any weight, I am certain that Chef Masahiro Yoshitake is the best I have ever encountered.
Sushi Yoshitake
Well sh*t happens at work and that brought me to Tokyo for a few days - but with the opportunity to return to my favorite place on earth, I secretly called this blessing in disguise. The trip may be arranged at very last minute, but it didn't stop me from calling Amex Concierge to arrange a few dinner reservations for me before departure. They got back to me within an hour with 2 confirmed bookings - my hats off to them for such efficiency and high level of service.

Dinner at Sushi Yoshitake is the first "serious" meal that I have booked. The restaurant is located on the third floor of a small office building in Ginza 8-chome - near the Shibashi station end of Ginza shopping district, in an area populated by high-end sushi restaurants. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the most populated Michelin star building block in the world - with at least two 3-star restaurants in the proximity.

I arrived promptly for my 8pm booking. Armed with a Google map, it's not that hard to find as it's only a couple block off the main road (Chuo-dori) and the subway exit. The restaurant has a very intimate setting - through the sliding door, there's only one small counter that can seat a maximum of 8 people, and the place so small that you almost have to squeeze by to get to the other side. I was greeted warmly by a lady and the young Chef Yoshitake himself. I came at just the right time as the first group of customers just finished their meal so the chef could slow down and took his time. We chatted a little bit with limited English, and he even offered to come out to take a picture together - he's super friendly.

The sashimi courses were the ones that set this place apart from the other traditional sushi restaurants - here Chef Yoshitake went the distance to mix and match fresh raw seafood with fascinating combinations of sides and sauces. To me, the highlight was the abalone - which was well-trimmed and served with a think sauce made of abalone liver and stalks of crunchy white asparagus on the side.

Uni and oyster - with shiso and oyster juce jelly

Other ones I had tried include sea cucumber served with its roes and wasabi stalks, adamai with light ponzu and extract of fish bones, squid with squid eggs and sprinkles of sansho peppers and yuzu zest, oyster and sea urchin served with shiso and jelly made of oyster juice, and more. Each of the dishes just blown my mind away, and it's not surprising that it caught the attention of the Michelin inspectors as well (the restaurant got the most-coveted three stars in the latest guide in its first time being listed)

The nigiri sushi that followed was a more old-school affair, but equally impressive. My eyes were wide open as Chef Yoshitake pulled out the goodies box - inside were well-kept pieces of tuna of various cuts and grades: the regular akamai (lean tuna), akamai-zuke (which has been marinated), chu-toro (the medium fatty tuna), and the best of all, the o-toro. It's probably the best piece of fish I have ever tasted - I was almost in tears having experienced such heavenly taste.

I wish I knew Japanese so I could interact with the chef better, but that doesn't really matter - with food being the common language, there's no barrier. I love this place, and I can't wait to go back.

when? March 5 2012
where? Sushi Yoshitake 鮨よしたけ 3/F Suzuryu Building, 8-7-19 Ginza, Chūō-ku, Tokyo 東京都中央区銀座8-7-19すずりゅうビル3F


johannes said...

heri haven't been BLOWN AWAY by sushi pics or prose for a long time, but you've done it, Gary.
(& on my birthday as well~!)
What a feast for my eyes & brain. It must have been a raw seafood extravaganza on your tongue as well.
i'd love to taste that abalone someday soon.

gary s said...

yeah, so good that it's almost unreal. and happy birthday to you, Johaness. =)

Bruno said...

Didn't chef Yoshitake speak english? According to their website, he lived in NYC for some time.

gary s said...

he spoke a little english - so good enough for simple communications (like describing the dish you are having)

D.A said...

excited to read your post. i have a reservation to dine there next week. just wondering if it's omakase all the way or is there a menu?

gary s said...

DA, I didn't specifically ask but as in any fine sushi restaurants, I assume it's always omakase. And it's always good to let chef decide what's best on day to day or season to season. you won't regret it.
Thanks for your comment! Hope you enjoy yoshitake. I love it so much!