Tokyo

Daisan Harumi, Tokyo


Daisan Harumi

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).

Aori Ika

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)


Chutoro (Medium fatty 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.

Tamago

Abalone

Kohada (Gizzard Shad)

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.

 That damn clock, I want one now

 


Kuruma Ebi

Grilled ebi heads


Ikura

Hamaguri

Uni



Anago

Tuna Roll

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Tokyo, Uncategorized

Sushi Kanesaka, Japan (**)

My food journey in Tokyo began at Sushi Kanesaka. One of the first things I did when I was planning for my trip was to look for a sushi restaurant, the buzz surrounding the release of “Jiro dreams of sushi” only reminded me how badly I wanted to try sushi of tip top quality. After doing much research, and (surprisingly) discovering that Jiro himself isn’t very highly regarded in Japan, I narrowed down my shortlist to Sushi Saito and Sushi Mizutani. Saito was booked out when I called, but I managed to get a place at Mizutani; finally, I would get a chance to try 3 starred sushi. I held onto the reservation for a good month, before people started to tell me that I might not enjoy my experience at Mizutani-No photos are allowed, very little english is spoken, the air of the place is like a graveyard, very intimidating and somewhat stern. I have never had a fine dining meal at a bar in front of a chef prior to this Japan trip, and all these stories only exacerbated my worries about the meal.

I eventually cancelled my reservation at Sushi Mizutani and went with Kanesaka instead. Perhaps it was a reactionary knee jerk response- I read many accounts talking about the friendly chefs, who speak a decent amount of English, and there is an atmosphere about the place that sets everyone at ease, a stark contrast from what I had been told about Mizutani. Despite knowing that Chef Kanesaka has a branch in Singapore- Shinji by Kanesaka, I still managed to convince myself that it would make a decent replacement for Mizutani, and for half the price as well, surely I could reinvest the money saved in other meals.

Kanesaka is not easy to find. I had the address keyed in to google maps on my phone and I still spent a good 15 minutes trying to locate it. Its in the basement of an unmarked building, there are other blogs offering photos of what the building looks like, there is one that has actually drawn out a map of where it is located. I’ll offer you a photo of what the street opposite Kanesaka looks like, meaning if you were standing at the building where Kanesaka is located, this is what you’ll see.

The walkway to Kanesaka, it is located at in a basement

My chef for lunch. Awesome that I had the whole place to myself

   

Seaweed Salad

Lunch started off with a light seaweed salad. The seaweed used was thin and very smooth, the sesame seeds used to garnish the dish had a surprisingly strong fragrance to it, considering there wasn’t a lot used. The portioning of the daikon to the seaweed was a little off, there was a significant amount of seaweed left when I had already finished the daikon, and the dressing used in the salad was a little too acidic. Okay

   

Tai (Snapper)

The snapper didn’t pack much flavor, which made the sauce stand out quite a bit. Rice was well seasoned and slightly warm, Okay

   

Shimaji (Stripe Jack)

Flavor of the fish was subtle once again, but the texture of the fish was beautiful, very smooth, slippery, almost silky. Good

   

Meguro (Lean Tuna)

Cut from a 220kg tuna, the rice seemed to detract from the taste of the tuna. Okay

   

Chutoro (Medium fat tuna)

This was my favorite of all the 3 tuna cuts that were served, which seemed to surprise the chef that I picked it over the Ootoro. The oil in the fish made it taste almost creamy, but it still had a good bite to it. Good

   

Ootoro (High fat tuna)

Very creamy, lacked any kind of bite at all, it just melted in your mouth, literally. Chef must have been cursing this gaijin sushi newbie, picking chutoro over premium ootoro. Okay-good

   

Ika (Squid)

Very sweet and creamy once again, soft enough that it didn’t need much chewing to break down, scoring the ika lengthwise helps with this as well, if I understand the chef correctly. Good

   

Kohada (Herring)

This is a very traditional fish selection for sushi. It was too delicate in flavor and was brushed with too much sauce in my opinion, all I could taste was the soy. Bad

   

Kuruma Ebi(Japanese Imperial prawn)

Easily the sweetest and most fragrant ebi sushi Ive ever had. The tail section was good, but the head section, where they pull off the shell but leave some of the prawn head innards hanging, was out of this world. That extra burst of flavor just complimented the sour vinegar notes in the rice perfectly. Very good

   

Aji(Horse mackerel)

This was served with mashed leek and finely sliced shiso leaves. This gave the sushi a wonderful aromatic note that didnt detract from the flavor of the fish at all. The Aji itself had an incredibly smooth consistency. The best fish sushi of the meal. Very Good

     

Katsuo(Bonito)

The texture of katsuo was quite similar to that of tuna(similar family of fish), albeit slightly softer and with a more melt in your mouth texture, but with a more subtle and delicate flavor. Okay

         

Shako(Mantis Shrimp)

This was my first time eating mantis shrimp in sushi form. This is the season when prized pregnant shako is served at sushi restaurants, unfortunately, it had a very dry, powdery and unpleasant texture. This was the only sushi that I truly struggled with during the meal. Very bad

Hamaguri(Clam)

Easily the sweetest clam I’ve ever had. As you chewed it, it just kept releasing wave after wave of this complex sweet, briny taste, slightly similar to uni sans the creaminess. Very good

         

Shimiji soup

Very intense briny taste. Flavors were clear and crisp, similar to a consomme. Okay

             

Kohashira(Baby clam)

I may have gotten the name wrong for this, but it was a letdown after the hamaguri. Flavor was really subdued, but clams had a nice bouncy texture. Okay

         

Uni(Sea urchin)

Uni is probably my favorite sushi of all time, so its not hard to understand why this was my favorite piece of the meal. But Im not doing the uni justice, this was exceptional- the most complex sweet briny taste(again, similar to the clam), but with an added dimension of creaminess, the crisp toasted nori added a little contrast of texture but it was all about the uni. It was also served cold, which gave it a very refreshing and clean taste. I truly madly deeply regret not getting another one of this. Superb

         

Anago(salt water eel)

I don’t get to eat a lot of this in Singapore, its usually unagi that we get, but the two could not be more different in texture. This was grilled with a beautiful char, brushed with sauce before serving. It was unbelievably soft and sort of disappeared on the tongue. Good

         

Tamago (Egg)

You probably already know that tamago is a true test of a sushi masters skill, and if you’ve watched videos of how it is made, it is quite a complex task trying to make sure the center portion of the tamago doesn’t overcook. There were no discernable curds or layers in this tamago, it was like a cake. Im not a very big fan of sweet egg, but the technique here was quite astounding. Good

               

Kampio maki (sweet pumpkin)

Not a pickle per se, the pumpkin had a soft texture that made it quite a long way off from the traditional pickled maki’s that Im used to(Im starting to believe sushi outside of Japan is nothing like Sushi in Japan). The sweetness from the pumpkin made it almost like a dessert. Good

Kanesaka made for a very enjoyable meal, the service is very professional, yet I was never uncomfortable throughout. The chefs are friendly and very respectful, exactly as other blogs have described. One criticism I have of Kanesaka is that I felt their rice is too heavily seasoned with vinegar, which basically means that it is very prominent on the palate. As I understand, the philosophy of sushi is to bring out the best and natural flavors of the fish, the strong rice worked for some of the sushi that I had, but at times, clashed with the more subtle tasting fish. Regardless, the quality of fish cannot be put it question, and prices are very reasonable for lunch, I would happily recommend Kanesaka to anyone that wants a quality sushi restaurant that is English speaking friendly.