Monday, April 22, 2013

A suiting finale meal - Ginza Harutaka

With only a short 2-day stayover in Tokyo after swinging by a few other places in central Honshu the days before, we were careful in picking the restaurants we would like to try and make arrangement well in advance to avoid any dissappointment. We didn't necessarily go for the ones with the most stars or the highest ratings, but wanted to look for new places that were consistantly good and recommended by some of our foodie friends. (you can read some of the other meals we had in Tokyo here and here)

On our last evening in Tokyo, we dined at Ginza Harutaka, constantly mentioned as one of the top sushi restaurants in Ginza. We had our reservation at 8:30pm - rather late by usual standard but since the restaurant opens til quite late, we decided to shop til we drop before heading over - with most shops and department stores close at 8 that gave us plenty of time to spare (and spend). The restaurant is located on the third floor of an office building in Ginza, and as we walked in, we were greeted by young Chef Harutaka Takahashi and were shown to the two empty seats right next to him on the side of the counter. There were around 10 seats at the counter plus a private room at the back, with Chef Harutaka and his sous chef manning behind the counter.

We started with some sashimi - actually I was a bit surprised by the number of appetizer dishes that were served during the dinner. We started with a small dish of vegetables - lightly seasoned with vinegar and garnished with bonito flakes, then moved on to a few sashimi dishes included one with makogarei (turbot) with awabi (abalone). Both were meant to be eaten with just a light dip of wasabi and soy sauce served on the side. I love the texture of the awabi and it's served slightly warm.

Next Chef Harutaka brought us a small dish of fugu sashimi served with daikon mash. It tastes quite subtle but with good texture from that of the fugu (blowfish). I also enjoyed the sumptuous pieces of uni (sea urchin) which filled the entire dish that came next - that was so simple yet so good.

After the uni, two more dishes of sashimi were served - needlefish (sayori) which was slightly pickled and served with shiso and sawara (similar to mackeral but fatter) which was char-grilled and served with sprinkles of green onions, nori and soy sauce. It's hard to believe we were only half way through our dinner by now. If I have to pick my favorite so far - it will be a toss between the uni and sawara - for they were both quite a league of their own. Sayori was not far behind with its unique texture and the aroma from that of shiso.

After numerous small dishes (and plenty of sake to go with it) Chef Harutaka asked whether he could start serving us sushi, we nodded. I tried making physical and mental notes of what I had and their serving order but I think I might have missed a couple while too busy gazing at and appreciating the beautiful sushi pieces. Anyway, here's what (I believe) were served: Ika (squid), Kobashira (baby scallops), Amadai (lean tuna), Chu-toro, O-toro, Kohada (Gizzard Shad), Hamaguri (Clam), Aji (Spanish Mackeral), Karuma-ebi (shrimp), Kasugo-dai (Snapper), Mirugai (geoduck clam), Akagai (Arc Shell) and Anago (sea eel)

It's no doubt that the seafood Chef Harutaka sourced was of top notch and he was excellent in techniques and execution. All sushi pieces came out so perfectly with consistency - when we observed our own and also ones for other customers. At times I did find his rice a bit on the salty side and almost shielded the vinegar taste - that would be my only complaint, but I like the rice served slightly warm. I can't really say which ones were my favorite of the evening as they were all very good - I guess if I must I would pick karuma-ebi, o-toro, aji and anago.

Karuma-ebi was served the same way as the one I had at Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi a few months ago - it's cut into 2 pieces because of the sheer size of it. (well, Chef Harutaka was trained under sushi master Jiro Ono as well so their styles are similar) O-toro had a right balance of fish taste and fat - sometimes I prefer chu-toro over the fattier o-toro because I like some texture, but this time the fatty one came out as the winner. The akamai and chu-toro were very delicious too, I have to say. Aji came after the toro and kohada, and was cut beautifully and I love its firm texture and fresh taste, and anago was one of the creamiest I have ever had. I thought we already had the best anago at Kanesaka the day before at lunch but this one still came up even better.

We finished with the piece of tamago - amazingly spongy and full of egg favor. No matter how many times we tried this we still found it impressive for something so simple and on top of that, this is certainly one of the better versions we had.

Chef Harutaka didn't speak much English but he's still able to explain to us the dishes by simple words. At most times he's at ease pacing himself and the customers so we never felt rushed or having to wait a long time for the next piece of sushi etc. Service was also attentive. Oh, in case you wonder, the bill came to around 27000 yen per person including drinks - we probably had around 2-3 carafes of cold sake (well I lost track) - so I would say that's more than reasonable for restaurant of this level, with the amount of food we had.

Overall it's a very enjoyable dinner and we would love to return next time when we were in town. Our original plan was to save the best until the last and we did manage to do just that. With the Japanese yen continuing its downward trend and the realization of so many things we have yet explored in Japan, I bet it won't be too long before we made our way back here.

Here's the other pictures at Ginza Harutaka on my Flickr page:

When? March 28 2013
Where? Ginza Harutaka, 3F Ginza Kawabata Building, 8-5-8 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
銀座青空 東京都中央区銀座8-5-8 かわばたビル3F

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