Monday, August 17, 2015

Sushi Lunch on My Splurge Day

I decided to splurge a bit on food on my last day in Tokyo, starting with lunch at Sushi-ya, a secluded, 8-seater restaurant in Ginza. I was eager to give this a try since a few of my friends went and liked the food there.

Many have commented the place was hard to find, and I understood why once I got to the neighborhood where the restaurant was located. Google Map or whatever GPS application you use could get you as far as to the block where the restaurant is located, but the entrance was actually hidden in the narrow side alley next to the building. I am pretty sure I wasn't the only one walking into that art gallery at the front, thinking the entrance was somewhere inside. As a public service, you can see the picture below for the way to the entrance door (just follow the red arrow)

I asked the hotel concierge to make the reservation for me about a month ago just as I finalized my itinerary and a day later, they came back with my preferred timeslot confirmed. I arrived at the restaurant at noon, just as Chef Takao Ishiyama and the team just got ready to welcome their customers. Most of the 8 seats around the L-Shaped wooden counter were soon filled with customers - half of them foreigners and half of them locals. The restaurant was relatively new - opened in 2012 and took up the space of what used to be Sushi Iwa, which has moved a few blocks down then. 

During the day, customers could opt for the sushi-only menu, either the basic set with 11 pieces or the premium one with 14, or the full omakase menu with both sashimi and sushi, just like the one normally served at dinner. I picked the premium sushi set with 14 pieces and ordered a carafe of sake to go with my meal. I started with a small bowl of junsai (water shield) in mild vinegar as appetizer before the sushi was served, starting with the milder pieces and worked towards the richer ones.

The first 2 pieces were both white fish - the karei (flouder) and shimaji (striped jack), for which I loved the shimaji for its good fatty texture. It's great to observe how Chef Ishiyama-san applied soft touch of his fingers against the sushi piece on his palm in a smooth, coherent flow of action. Two pieces of tuna followed - first the fatty chu-toro than the akami-tsuke which was marinated in the sauce for a good 5 minutes.

Everyone around the table were all amazed at the excellent knife skill chef showed when he prepared the squid, or sumi-ika in Japanese. He first sliced it thin - 3 times in total - then cut the paper-thin pieces into strips before putting them together. It's served with a dab of salt and a light squeeze of sudachi, and I thought the texture was superb.

Then a few shiny-skinned fish followed, and all of them were excellent, starting with shinko (baby gizzard shad), saba (mackerel), aji (spanish mackerel) and kasugodai (baby sea bream). I particularly loved the shinko and aji both for their clean flavors. And in between shinko and saba, I also had a piece of shiro-ebi (white shrimps) topped with shiokara, which could be translated as salt-fermented squid guts. The contrast between the light-flavored shrimps with the strong, almost pungent shiokara was interesting.

Towards the end I had a few pieces of clams. The hotate - scallops - came from a gigantic piece of scallops sliced thin. While the original size was impressive (almost the size of my fist), I thought the flavor was only okay and a bit too cold. And I thought the sauce on top of the hamaguri (giant clams) was too sweet but I like the smoky flavor. The uni (sea urchin) served gunkan style with a light brush of sauce was well-made and delicious.

The tasty anago (sea eel) was served with a generous sprinkle of salt with no additional sauce brushed on top, and the kanpyo maki (dried gourd roll) was fine also. But if I really had to be nit-picky, I could live with the nori a little bit more dry and crispy - the one I had with both the uni sushi and the kanpyo maki was a bit soggy which affected the overall texture. Could have been the weather, or it could have been the sheet was left in the open for a little bit longer than it should.

Overall the rice, or shari if you must get technical, has a mild vinegar flavor and served at slightly cooler than room temperature throughout the meal, which reminded me of the style of rice served at Sushi Kanesaka. That shouldn't be a surprise given Chef Ishiyama-san was trained in their kitchen before. I thought the portion of the sushi looked a bit on the smaller side, but with 14 pieces all together, at the end it felt just right. I also love the little piece of castella egg served at the end - it had the perfect soft texture and slightly wobbly inside, like a pudding that you could hold in your hand.

I enjoyed the lunch very much and thought it's more than reasonably-priced for what I was served - both in terms of quality and quantity. I had a glimpse of what the omakase meal looked like when Chef Ishiyama-san served to the couple customers next to me, and a few pieces looked very impressive. It did make me wonder for a second maybe I should have ordered that instead. Would love to be back some time in the future, for lunch or dinner.

More pictures in my Flickr album:

When? July 28 2015
Where? Sushi-ya, Ginza 6-3-17, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
すし家 東京都中央区銀座6-3-17 悠玄ビル 1F
Drink? Gorin Yamada Nishiki Junmai , Shata Shuzo, Ishikawa Prefecture (五凛 山田錦 純米 - 石川県 車多酒造)
Web: (Tabelog)


Jet Galen Siy said...

Would you remember how much the lunch sets cost? Thanks!

gary s said...

I think I paid 10000 yen including sake.


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