The last post of my Japan trip(finally) is at Daisan Harumi. I was introduced to the restaurant by Asomaniac of the chowhound forums, whom I met during my meal at akasaka kikunoi. Daisan has a very reasonable weekend set menu priced at 7000yen for both lunch and dinner. What makes daisan Harumi so special is that it ranks higher on tabelog(the Japanese equivalent of hungrygowhere/yelp/openrice) than a lot of Michelin starred sushi establishments, including the infamous Sukiyabashi Jiro (although Jiro isn’t very highly rated on Tabelog).
One thing you’ll quickly learn about the restaurant, is that chef Nagayana Kazuo is obsessed with sushi; he is considered a sushi expert in Japan and has written one of the most informative sushi books I’ve laid my hands on, going into the explanation of the philosophy behind sushi, the proper etiquette to enjoy sushi, he then goes on to talk about the different kinds of sushi served during each season(of course, fish and therefore sushi is very seasonal). If that isn’t an attestation to his love for sushi and attention to detail, how about the fact that he harvests his own seaweed? In fact, it is so sought after that there is a 2 year wait list for this nori.
Tairagai (Pen Shell)
Besides being a full time sushi master, he also dabbles in caligraphy and pottery. Most of the serving dishes are served on plates made by the chef himself. All this sounds fine and dandy, and you might be wondering at this point, why doesn’t he have any stars then? The answer becomes evident the moment you step into the restaurant. From the strange looking lizard clock hanging on the wall, with it’s tail wagging back and forth as each second passes, right down to the plates made by the chef himself, remember those? I might have forgotten to mention that they are incredibly ugly. This collection of items, combined together with the decor, look so out of place in the restaurant.
Maguro (Lean tuna)
But I digress, what about the food? I tend not to trust sites like tabelog, I find hungrygowhere to be a very rough guide and overall, pretty inaccurate, so I was skeptical to say the least. But the sushi turned out to be good, my only other ‘proper’ sushi experience was at sushi Kanesaka, so I will compare against it as a rough gauge- I’d say the sushi was pretty on par, if not slightly better than Kanesaka, I did prefer the uni at Kanesaka, but I preferred the tamago at Daisan- it was more like a very soft, moist omelette, than a cake-like texture at Kanesaka. Other standouts for me were the hamaguri, ikura, kuruma ebi, abalone, and gizzard shard. It should be noted that I topped up an additional 3000yen to get an additional 4-5 more pieces of sushi, and the Uni was part of this addition. So all the photos of sushi you see came up to 10,000yen.
At 7000yen, the set menu is of incredible value, it’s hard to get the quality of sushi that you get at Daisan Harumi for a lower price. Even the finer details of Daisan start to grow on you after a while(except the god awful plates, those are unforgivable) as you begin to grow comfortable with the eccentric personality of the place, you stare at that annoying lizard clock and it slowly begins to amuse you, you enjoy the lack of servers waiting around you, it makes you feel more at ease, most of the customers are kicking back, enjoying the sushi with a glass of beer, the sushi chef doesn’t wipe the serving plate after each sushi is served, and no one seems to be bothered at all. It’s a fuss free environment, because everyone at the restaurant is here for the sushi and the sushi alone. I would strongly recommend daisan to anyone visiting Japan, go for the set weekend meal, and budget an additional 2000yen to buy his incredible book.