Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sushi Takumi Shingo - An evening with 40 courses and 6 sakes

Of course we wouldn't leave Tokyo without at least one proper meal of sushi. This time, we made a booking at Sushi Takumi Shingo, an 8-seat only restaurant in Aoyama Itchome. I am a fan of Chef Keiji Nakazawa and his Sushi Sho restaurant in Yotsuya, which was a league of its own with his unique, old-school style of serving sushi. Over the years chefs trained under him have opened up new restaurants under the same "Sushi Sho" banner and my experiences with a number of them were nothing but superb.

Sushi Takumi Shingo is no difference. Chef Shingo Takahashi worked in Sushi Sho for a number of years before opening his own place 2 years ago, at a commercial neighborhood round the corner from Aoyama Itchome metro station.

Unlike Sushi Sho with its lively atmosphere, the restaurant was much quieter and subdued. The eight seats were arranged in a straight line in front of the counter with Chef Shingo the only one working behind, assisted by his apprentice who doubled as the front waitstaff from time to time, and presumably another staff in the back kitchen. The place was spacious and streamlined, with the light-colored hinoki wood counter being the highlights and between us and the chef, a few glass-door chill cabinets with all the ingredients neatly arranged inside.

The meal was served in typical "Sushi Sho"-style manner - both sushi and otsumami courses were served in intertwining order which almost seemed random. It seemed a bit silly to go through each piece one by one and coming up with a 3-paragraph description for every one of them - to be honest I couldn't keep record in such details anyway, but for my own benefit here's the list of items we had that evening: 1. Umi-budo (sea grapes); 2. boiled asari clams; 3-5. koi (carp), hirame (fluke) and hirame engawa (fluke fin); 6. Ika (squid - stuffed with rice); 7. Aji (Jack Mackeral - rolled with ginger, shiso and cucumber); 8. Sumi-ika (squid - nigiri sushi); 9. Akami-zuke (marinated tuna); 10-12. Hotate (Scallop), Tairagai (Pen shell clam) and Mirugai (Geoduck clam); 13. Torigai (Giant Cockles); 14. Hohboh (Red Gurnard); 15. Kuruma Ebi (Prawn); 16. Katsuo (Skipjack Tuna); 17. Tako (Octopus); 18. Iwagaki (rock oyster); 19. Hotaru-ika (Firefly Squid - grilled and served as skewer); 20. Mini Kani Meshi (Crab rice served in a small bowl); 21. Takuan (pickled daikon with yuzu zest); 22. Awabi (Abalone); 23. Scallop coral marinated with leek and salt; 24. Hamaguri (Hard shell Clam); 25. Sakura Mesu (Rosy trout); 26. Amadai (Tilefish - grilled); 27. Bafun Uni (Sea Urchin); 28. Chutoro Zuke Maki (Marinated Fatty Tuna Roll); 29. Ankimo (Monkfish liver - served with Uri no narazuke or Nara-style pickled melon); 30. Kinmedai (Golden eye snapper - served with daikon radish); 31. Kajiki Maguro (swordfish); 32. Botan Ebi (Spot Shrimp); 33. Saba (Mackeral); 34. O-toro (Fatty tuna); 35. Anago (Saltwater Eel); 36. Shijimi Jiru (Clam Soup); 37-38. Tamago (Eggs); 39. Sakura Icecream Sandwich; 40. Strawberry Sorbet

All of them were pretty decent actually - and here are a few highlights among them. The small piece of hirame engawa, or the fluke "fin" served near the beginning had the right balance of flavor, fat and texture, and the Aji (Jack Mackeral) served in typical Sushi Sho style with finely-cut threads of ginger, shiso and cucumber rolled inside has a clean, fresh taste and the slightly bouncy texture. I also loved the shell-fish tonight - most of them were done without much marinating and they were all flavorful, especially the Mirugai (Geoduck clam) and Torigai (Giant Cockles).

Kajimi-Maguro aged for 3 weeks
Chef Shingo customized each piece of sushi with different type and proportion of vinegar - so he only worked with a tiny batch of rice at one time and kept changing throughout the evening. In particular the kuruma ebi (prawn) served with rice in dark vinegar and the kinmedai (golden eye snapper) served with a lighter vinegar were both prime example of the different rice bringing out the best of the fish. I also liked the temperature of the rice served - most of them slightly warm - even though I thought the grip was a bit too soft. For a few pieces the rice was almost about to fall off as I grabbed them. Like the other restaurants from the same school of style, some of the fish served were aged - like the chu toro used in the maki roll was aged 2 weeks, while the kajimi-maguro was aged for 3 - but I felt it's bit toned down compared to others, with more emphasis on the original, clean flavors of the fish instead.

Mini Kani Meshi (Rice mixed with crab meat)
Iwagaki Nigiri Sushi (Oyster)
The best of the evening was the bowl of Kani Meshi - in the middle of the meal Chef Shingo brought out the picked crab meat and a few spoonful of rice and started mixing them together. It was then put into 2 small bowls and passed to us. The rice was a bit salty on its own, but somehow with the crab in every bite, you felt the dish was in perfect harmony. Another of my favorite was the rock oyster - the piece came from Kyushu and it was so plump and not of the overly briny/mineral type, which worked amazingly well with the light vinegared rice. It's certainly the best piece of oyster sushi I have ever had. I thought the ankimo (monkfish liver) sushi, served with a piece of pickled melon underneath, was not as memorable as the first time I had at Sushi Sho, perhaps not in its prime season, but it's still remarkable with the good balance of the fatty liver and the sweet pickled melon.

With someone to eat and drink with this time (unlike in previous times I was usually dining by myself) I managed to drink a little bit more than usual. Every time I finished with my glass, Chef Shingo would just bring out a new bottle that suits best with the sushi he's going to serve - I ended up with 6 different sakes, which must have been a personal record in one night. Among them my favorite was the Naraman Junmai Muroka Nama Sake from Fukushima which was very fragrant and sweet. I especially liked when it's paired with the amadai - the grilled tilefish was a tad salty on its own but well balanced with the sweetness from the sake. 

Not a lot of English was spoken but we could generally follow and understand what we were having. It's quite a busy evening with customers coming in and out, but Chef Shingo handled the flow well for everyone and with much confidence and flair. The place was very reasonably-priced too even with the sheer amount of food and drink we had. We were very satisfied having this as our only sushi meal in Tokyo this time.

More pictures in Flickr:

When? March 26 2015
Where? Sushi Shingo Takumi, 2-2-15 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
匠 進吾 東京都港区南青山2-2-15 ウィン青山 1F
Hitakami Cho Karakuchi Junmai (日高見 超辛口純米 -宮城県 平孝酒造)
Saikyo Junmai Takehara (誠鏡 純米たけはら - 広島県 中尾醸造)
Emishiki Sensation 3 Black (笑四季 特別純米 黒ラベル - 滋賀県 笑四季酒造)
Naraman Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu (奈良萬 純米無濾過生原酒 - 福島県 夢心酒造)
Hyakusyun Junmai No 7 Muroka Nama Genshu (百春 純米 7号 直汲み 無濾過生原酒 - 岐阜県 小坂酒造)
Akisika Junmai Nama Genshu (秋鹿 純米生酒 全量山田錦-大阪府 秋鹿酒造)
Tabelog Site:

(Part of the Japan Rail Trip 2015 Series - a journey through the Tohoku region by rail in Spring 2015)

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