Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Right on time - Lunch at Sushi Daisan Harumi

After a gruesome flight out of Hong Kong (which involved a 3-hour delay in the middle of night sitting in a plane on tarmac), I barely made it from Narita Airport to downtown on time for lunch at Sushi Daisan Harumi in the Shinbashi neighborhood in Tokyo.

The restaurant is located on the ground floor in a side alley a few minutes away from the metro station, which was easier to find than I thought even without a map. It's a small restaurant with only 9 counter seats and unassuming decor, and as I walked in a little earlier than the usual lunch hour for the office crowd, I was shown to an empty space in front of Chef Kazuo Nagayama, who's already working behind the counter preparing the ingredients.

Nagayama-san, the chef/owner of this family-run restaurant, was considered a master in his trade, a non-compromising, fundamentalist of edomae style sushi, having written a few books on the subject, including one being translated into English. He's known to pay particular attention to the ingredients used in his dishes. Behind him at the counter there's a sign hung on the wall with the list of what are available on the day and every single details you would need to know about them - where, when and how it's caught, who caught it, the size of the fish, the cut that was used, how it's prepared, etc etc. He also indicated those that are of seasonal catch, and those that he's particularly fond of. And it's not only the fish, he went into details of smaller (yet equally as significant) components such as nori, vinegar or rice being used - premium-grade wasabi was 2.5 years old and from Shizuoka Prefecture, the rice from the town of Tainai in Niigata Prefecture... so on and so forth. Every morning he would actually spend time hand-writing the sign to make sure his customers understand what they are having - and in a way, showed much pride in what he's offering.

There's no menu for both lunch and dinner - it's all on omakase basis, but for lunch you could choose the quantity. I opted for the 10-piece nigiri set and a glass of beer, then Nagayama-san began to work. Throughout the meal he also made sure I understood every piece being served by showing me laminated pages from his sushi book in English with detailed explanations. While not as elaborate as some of the dinners I have had, from a lunch standard this is probably as good as one can get or at least close to it.



I started with a delicious hirame (flounder), followed by ika (squid). The squid is said to be of the seasonsal (primed from May to July) and rarer aori-ika variety coming from Nagasaki, and cut into long threads to serve. It's amazingly sweet and firm. Generally I am very satisfied with the nigiri sushi that were served that afternoon - particularly the Kohada (Gizzard Shad) from Kumamoto which has a refreshing taste and rightly seasoned with a light brush of soy sauce; Mirugai (cockles) which was crunchy and flavorful - taste almost like sea water and the Shimaji (striped jack) garnished with grated ginger was firm and fatty. I also liked the otoro (fatty tuna) that was my finale piece - feel like the meal's ended on a high note.

Kuruma-ebi done 2 ways - on top it's the sushi, and the shell was grilled in salt and served towards the end of the meal as well
But out of all, the clear winner of the day was the kuruma ebi. It's net-caught off Oita Prefecture in Kyushu. It's served slightly warm with slightly tangy rice (from the red vinegar), and the size is huge and the meat is tender.

In comparison, I was a bit disappointed in a few gunkan-style sushi that were served that day. Shako-tsume, or mantis shrimp claws, was interesting and was supposed to be one of the special items of the day, but I personally didn't quite like the texture, and it seemed to me that the portions for both ikura (salmon roes) and uni (sea urchin) were a bit small as well, even though they were both very tasty. It has probably more to do with lunch being less fanciful with smaller portion which was somewhat expected given it's about half the price than dinner.

As I said, this is probably among one of the better sushi lunches I had in Tokyo, and definitely set the yardstick high to the later meals I had throughout this short trip.

More pictures on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/sets/72157644837746161/

Where? Sushi Daisan Harumi, 1-17-7, Shinbashi, Minato-ko, Tokyo
第三春美鮨 東京都港区新橋1-17-7
Menu Highlights: Kuruma Ebi and Otoro nigiri sushi
Web: http://harumi-sushi.sakura.ne.jp/

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