Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sushi Garyu - Crouching dragon, or one that yawns?

I came across Sushi Garyu at Yotsuya San-chome when I was in pursuit for lesser-known yet highly-rated sushi restaurants in Tokyo. This restaurant is ranked among the Top 30 on Tabelog, consistently above even some of the more famous ones in town, so I was curious to see if there is any truth to this, and I asked the hotel concierge to help book a seat for me to check it out one evening.

The 9-seater restaurant, located on the ground floor of an apartment building about 5 minutes away from the metro station, was not busy on the night of my visit. When I arrived, the group of 3 was just finishing up their meals, leaving me as the only customer occupying the L-shaped counter. Chef Adachi Keiichi was trained in Sushi Rosan in Shinjuku prior to opening up this restaurant 2 years ago in this quiet neighborhood.

I started with a platter of appetizers served in "hassun" style with small portion of tarako (cod roe), shirasu (whitebait) and mozuku-su (seaweed marinated in vinegar) served on small bowls. That was followed by an array of sashimi pieces including kinmedai-uni "maki" (sea urchin wrapped with goldeneye snapper), saba (mackeral), shimaji (striped jack), akagai (arc shell) and shako (mantis shrimp). They were all very good, especially the saba which was slightly cured with salt. Autumn was also the season for ankimo (monkfish liver) and Chef Adachi used ankimo as "sauce", mixed with finely cut tai sashimi (snapper) and served on a ceramic spoon placed in a bowl. I love this combination of rich flavor of the liver, and the bouncy texture of the fish.

What came next was my favorite of the evening. Kanokani (加能ガニ) is female snow crab from Ishikawa Prefecture which has a limited fishing season from early November to January next year only. During that time of the year its body was filled with roes which were fantastic when eaten with light ponzu as dipping sauce. The plate got quite messy as I tried to dig inside the shell to get to the meat and roes, but it's finger-licking good. Afterwards it's the Shirako (cod sperm milt), another seasonal item. It's served warm and covered with chives and sprinkles of shichimi togarashi (chili powder). An acquired taste this might be, but I just loved the creamy texture and the unique umami taste that wasn't found in anything else.

A dish of warm egg roll and marinated burdock with roasted sesame was served to conclude the appetizer/tsumami courses, before moving onto sushi. All together nine pieces of sushi were served in sequence and ended with a kanpyo maki (dried gourd roll). The choices of sushi were quite predictable actually - starting with ika (squid), shimaji (striped jack), tsubugai (whelk), akami and chu-toro (tuna and fatty tuna), kohada (gizzard shad), ikura (salmon roes), uni (sea urchin) and hamaguri (giant clam) - of which I loved the shimaji most. Overall the ingredients were excellent and chef's technique was spot on, but I didn't feel his heart going into making the sushi, which did have an effect on what he served. I also found the rice a bit bland - the vinegar taste was almost unnoticeable - which was not of the style I like most, and the service a bit rushed and sometimes even distant, somewhat to my bemusement. These may be things I could have conveniently overlooked if I was dining in a casual establishment, but not in a proper sushi-ya. Guess it's an expectation thing.

The meal started off with great tsumami dishes - the shirako, the crab and the tai sashimi with ankimo were all spectacular - but I felt like it ran out of steam a little bit towards the end with the sushi courses. I would still call this above average, but with this price range I was expecting more to be honest, something that would blow me away. The name of the restaurant (臥龍)- which in kanji meant crouching dragon literally - might suggest it's of a hidden talent waiting to be discovered, but after my meal I wasn't 100% sure about that declaration. For those familiar with Tabelog's rating scale, this is at most a 3.5-3.6 (out of 5.0), not bad a score to show forth but in my opinion, not in the level of the 4.2 it has received.

Full set of pictures on my Flickr page:

Where? Sushi Garyu, 1-18 Funamachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan
鮨臥龍 東京都新宿区舟町1-18 ロイクラトン四谷1F
Menu Highlights? Kanokani (Female Snow Crab)
Drinks?  Toshimori Akaiwa Omachi Junmai Ginjo-sei (赤磐雄町 純米吟釀生酒-岡山縣 利守酒造)

1 comment :

Unknown said...

Nice review. i love the pictures. It makes me hungry. Sushi is the best Chinese food I have ever had.