Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lunch at Sushi Kanesaka

Our itinerary started at Tokyo and then off we went to the Honshu heartland of Gunma, Nagano and Niigata prefectures, and as final stop, we stayed a few additional days in Tokyo, both for cherry blossom sightings, and more importantly, for more food.

Sushi Kanesaka was our first stop as we stepped off the shinkansen train from Echigo-Yuzawa, where we spent a night with good sake, rice and local cuisine in the region known as the "snow country" (which I am sure will be covered in a future blog). The restaurant is located in the basement of a commercial building in Ginza 8-chome, and it's not hard to find once you were able to orientate yourself among the tall buildings, many side streets and shops in Ginza. As we stepped in, we were greeted by Chef Takashi Usuba at the far end of the table with two seats ready for us in front of him. Usuba-san spoke perfect English - having spent time at the restaurant's Singapore branch (called Shinji By Kanesaka at The Raffles) - so communication is easy.

Chef Takashi Usuba

For lunch you can pick the sushi menu from different price points, or the sushi plus sashimi omakase, same as what's being offered at dinner. As we are trying to save ourselves for dinner, we opted for the middle, 10000 yen sushi lunch menu.

Chu-toro. Medium Fatty Tuna Belly. Just the right balance of fat.
We started off with shiromi (white meat fish) in progressing level of flavors - from the lighter karei (sole), tai (sea bream) and then to the stronger shima-aji (striped jack). I particularly like the shima-aji with its firm texture and fresh flavor. We then moved on to the tuna - first Akamai-zuke (marinated lean tuna), followed by the chu-toro (medium fatty tuna). Not being the fattiest o-toro and this being the lunch menu, I was still pretty impressed with the chu-toro with a good balance of creaminess and firmness. It melted in my mouth with memorable aftertaste that stayed long after.

Karuma-ebi. Not the best I have tried but decent. And it looked great in picture!
Turned out we had quite a bit of shellfish this afternoon, and I guess that's the reason why Usuba-san opted to pass us a piece of karuma-ebi sushi at this time instead of towards the end of the meal as in the more usual serving order. It's not huge like the one served at Sukiyabashi Jiro but it has a nice texture and taste.

Kasugodai - Baby Sea Bream. Only available in March/April every year.
After the shrimp (and before that, the ika, or squid), we moved back for more fish with four impressive pieces. Kohada (gizzard shad) and Aji (horse mackeral) were served in such pretty shape (thanks for Usuba's excellent knife skills) with the latter served with a dollop of shiso, green onions and ginger paste. Came next was my favorite of the afternoon - kasugodai (baby sea bream). It's only available in spring time and characterized with its pinkish, almost transparent color, just like the cherry flower petals. This is why it's also known as sakuradai, which literally means cherry blossom sea bream. It's slightly charred - almost unrecognizable - and has a delicate texture, shiny appearance and enticing color, with slightest hint of the burnt aroma of the skin to match with the fresh flavor of the fish. What an awesome combination on the palate. After kasugodai, we also had the sayori (needle fish) which was also nicely prepared.

Katsuo. Caught off Kyushu.
By this time we must have at least ten pieces of sushi but they still kept coming with Aoyagi Clam (surf clam), Katsuo (bonito), Hamaguri (giant clam), Uni (sea urchin) and anago (sea eel) waiting in line. The anago sushi must have been one of the most softest I have ever tasted, grilled with just a hint of sea salt, which I prefer over the usual sauce. We finished the meal with the tamago (egg omelet which is spongy like a cake) and kampyo maki (my favorite type of sushi roll).

I would say the lunch was a bit ordinary - in terms of fish selection - but nonetheless sumptuous and well-executed - that represented excellent value for money (dinner would have cost twice as much). I am not going to compare lunch with dinner elsewhere but I definitely think it's at least on par, if not above other great sushi lunch spots around the area, and I like the cozy atmosphere of this small restaurant. I also love the balanced flavor and slightly warm temperature of the rice and for fish, the seasonal kasugodai was clearly the winner here this afternoon. Charlotte loved the karuma-ebi but I think it's a bit small. The service was decent and Chef Usuba-san was great in keeping us entertained and stomach full and satisfied. He's also patient in explaining every dish to us.

Sushi Kanesaka was consistently rated as one of the top sushi restaurants in Tokyo according to Tabelog users and also with a Michelin star in its latest edition (a downgrade from 2 stars in the previous one but who really cares). I certainly recommend this place for lunch and would love to come back for dinner some time if I have a chance.

More pics on my flickr page:

When? March 27 2013
Where? Sushi Kanesaka, B/F, Misuzu Building, 8-10-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
鮨かねさか 東京都中央区銀座8-10-3 三鈴ビル地下1階 
Menu highlights? Kasugodai Sushi

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