Tuesday, April 1, 2014

More Tokyo - Lunch at Sushi Iwa

On the last day of the trip, I hopped on to the train on Marunochi Line for one last time to Ginza for lunch before my early evening flight out of Narita. This time I decided to check out Sushi Iwa because it's been on my "to-do" list for a while and is only one of the few finer restaurants in town which was open on a public holiday (it was the Spring Equinox Day then)

Actually I was a bit surprised to be able to make a booking at this 6-seater, counter-only restaurant only one week in advance, and I showed up promptly at the door, which is located on the ground level at a commercial building at Ginza 8-chome, at my reservation time at noon. For lunch, two menus were offered - 4000 yen for 10 pieces or 8000 yen for 13 (and presumably with chosen ingredients), or you could opt for the full omakase menu which they normally served at dinner.

(From left to right) Top: Madai, Kinmedai; Middle: Sawara, Chu-toro; Bottom: Akamai-zuke, Kohada
After I made my choice for the 13-piece set course, the Sous Chef Tsunoda began to prepare the ingredients to serve while I munched on the small dish of wakame (sea weed) with my glass of beer. I started with three kinds of "white fish" - madai (red seabream), kinmedai (golden eye snapper) and sawara (spanish mackeral). I particularly liked the kinmedai with the pinkish flesh which was firm and sweet. There's nothing wrong with the taste of the sawara, but it's a bit sinewy, not to the extent of being unchewable, but I would expect any skilled chef should have that removed prior to serving.

What followed was two tuna pieces - I think the marinate for the akamai-zuke (marinated lean tuna) was a bit too strong for the fish but the chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) was perfect with soft texture and the right fatty taste. Kohada was another one I liked and quite possibly the best of the afternoon - love the combination of the tender fish and the seasonings.

(From left to right) Top: Hotate, Kasugo, Torigai; Bottom: Shiro-Ebi, Kobashira, Anago
Unfortunately I am not a fan of how the hotate (scallops) sushi was prepared here today. It's heavily cured which I think got rid of the fresh, clean taste I wanted for my scallops. So needless to say I very much preferred to the kobashira (small scallops) sushi served later on which was served fresh without any curing.

Other than those mentioned, there were also four other pieces - the seasonal kasugo (young seabream), torigai (cockle), shiro-ebi (white shrimp) and anago (sea eel). Both the kasugo and torigai were quite decent; the shiro-ebi was okay (not too much of a taste by itself) and I personally found the anago portion a little too small even though it's quite tasty.

The shari/rice here was very average in my opinion. The taste is balanced and the serving temperature is right, which reminded me of the one at Sushi Kanesaka, but other than that, I felt like it's lacking character and didn't do much to elevate the overall flavors. And at times I think the chef's not applying wasabi in a consistent manner, which left me with too strong an after-taste and shielded anything I tasted thereafter.

Concluding the meal, chef made four different kinds of maki rolls which I shared with two other fellow diners on my side. The presentation was colorful and both the kanpyo and toro maki were delicious.

Overall my verdict was mixed - it's not bad per se, but obviously didn't quite reach the top level as some I have set foot in before, something that I would expect given their reputation and how much they are charging for the meal. They have recently opened a branch in Hong Kong which I am still interested to try, and I may even consider coming back for lunch in the future, if I ended up in the same situation needing to find a place to eat on a public holiday. For the basic lunch menu of 4000 yen for 10 pieces of sushi, this is good C/P ratio especially for those wanting to experience a Michelin starred sushi restaurant at a bargain, but honestly, I would hesitate to come back for dinner given there are better choices out there.

Where? Sushi Iwa, G/F, 8-5-25 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Menu highlights? Kinmedai, Kohada and Chu-toro Nigiri Sushi


Peech said...

WOW! A sushi restaurant that opens on a day when Tsukiji isn't open?! Hmmmm...

We ended up doing teppanyaki precisely because no decent sushiya would open on that day.

gary s said...

Well I don't think they have time to serve same-day ingredient for lunch anyway so I wasn't too bothered by it. But still, in retrospect I should have joined you for teppanyaki instead!