Category Archives: Sushi

It never gets old

It never gets old.

Cinematic Japanese Food

Have you seen Kill Bill?

Remember the restaurant that housed the big fight scene when Uma Thurman killed all those guys?

Did you know that is based on a real restaurant in Tokyo?

This is how many conversations begin, which culminate in a trip to Gonpachi. As one of the most well-known Tokyo establishments, Gonpachi offers a casually minimal, though consistently adequate foray into non-sushi Japanese cuisine. Of course, they have a sushi bar as well, though the real draw here is the atmosphere.  Gonpachi, run by the massive restaurant company Global Dining, has locations in Ginza, Shibuya, and Odaiba as well, in addition to Fukuoka and Bevery Hills (!) but any Tokyoite can tell you that the one to wow visitors with is the Nishi-Azabu branch.

The soba is not only homemade, but arrivers can watch chefs knead the soba dough through big pane windows. The tempura is perfect, as are some of the “grilled things-on-sticks”. We recommend the duck with wasabi, the toro (bluefin tuna belly), the foie gras, and especially the Gindara, a stupendous black cod glazed with miso and grilled so the consistency is soft and flakes off into bite-size morsels like sea bass. Everytime I’m there, I ponder just asking for 10 orders of gindara.

The drink menu is not only extensive and covers all the basics, but they threw in a few interesting cocktails to wow your parents. The dessert menu was created by Stephane Vieux, which means the presentation always competes with the combinations of tastes; for an unforgetable end to your Japanese barn dinner, indulge in a Warm Chocolate Cake & Sesame Ice Cream or the Kuzumochi & Kinako Ice Cream with Black Sugar Syrup.

Ok, I need to admit something. Almost all my Japanese friends hate this place. Seriously. To them, this is not fine dining, barely Japanese food, and overpriced stereotyped Lonely Planet fodder. I don’t necessarily disagree in premise, it is after all, a big wooden barn decorated to look like a Japanese restaurant on a movie soundstage. Although for visitors, Gonpachi may just fullfill the basic Japanese sterotypical dishes which are so often lost in the modern Tokyo of nouvelle and fusion. This is the kind of restaurant that your family will write group emails to their middle-aged European friends about. Just ask Quentin Tarantino.

Gonpachi

03-5771-0170

1-13-11 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031

http://www.gonpachi.jp

Tuna as Interior Decor

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Jige

I think we may have eaten every part of the fish. Down the street from where tourists rise and shine to check out huge frozen tuna on auction at Tsukiji Fish Market is Jige, an excellent fish restaurant in an area filled with fish restaurants. Its unassuming exterior on a small side-street may not proclaim that it is a special place, but seek it out, it is.

We started with tiny fish grilled on charcoal in front of us, the house service, eaten whole, and a perfect start to impress our out of town guest. Next came fresh vegetables to dip in a paste of seaweed or mayo, and a plate of cool fresh sashimi. Simple and perfectly prepared, these dishes were somewhat predictable, which made the dishes that followed a series of excellent surprises.

The sanma sashimi, slightly salty and bright pink, was wet and delicious in tiny slices. Sides of sushi rice formed into little balls arrived, as if someone had began to make sushi but never got around to adding the fish. They were a nice palate cleanser and helped those of us who were getting hungry for something more substantial. By this point, our taste buds were perfectly primed for the main event: the head (shoulders? chin? ) of the tuna. Cooked in dark sweet sauce and served with grated daikon, we pulled the dense, dark-colored meat off the foot-long, curved bone that we suspected came from somewhere below the tuna’s head.

The great size of these fish is something that goes unnoticed as we consume tuna sushi and sashimi, a staple of any sushi dinner. As we all pulled bites off of the main serving dishes we marveled at how huge the fish must’ve been, and felt lucky to have gotten the last one left. After all, while one tuna can provide for plates and plates of tuna rolls, there is only one head for each, making this a hard dish to find. More surprises were in store for our next dish, the lean, dark red tuna found by the fish’s lungs, spine, and ribs. The bones came, impossibly large again, covered by a thin layer of meat that we scraped off with the provided seashells. Although were were originally told this should be a dish for one person, ten of us shared one order and were each able to eat the equivalent of about two pieces of sashimi.

We ended the meal back with simplicity in the form of black sesame ice cream. On it’s own, Jige seems like a rather plain restaurant: uninteresting storefront, little to remark on in terms of interior decor. And yet, add the head and the lungs of a big tuna on the table, and things suddenly start looking brighter.

jige

Tokyo, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 2-14-3 NIT Tsukiji Biru

TEL:03-3248-6332 (1F) 03-3248-6333 (B1)

What the Japanese have

Daikoku Sushi

“The French have foie gras, the Japanese have ankimo,” I am told, as I begin my two hour course that quickly becomes a lesson in all things fish at Gyotoku’s Daikoku Sushi. My unsuspecting professors are the three well-seasoned Japanese gourmets at my table, as well as the head sushi chef, his wife (who prepares all the cooked dishes), and his son, also a sushi chef. They are correct about the ankimo of course (pictured below). As I press the cool, smooth monkfish liver against the roof of my mouth, I note that despite its creamy similarity to the French delicacy, it is surprisingly light and fresh tasting with its topping of shaved scallions and tangy sauce.

We move on to the seared katsuo, topped with shaved myoga ginger, daikon radish, and onion, and served in a cool, sweet sauce. A classic dish, and one that I had always thought I disliked until trying Daikoku’s version. Because it loses its freshness after only one day, katsuo was a fish truly sought over in the Edo Period, and it was even fashionable to borrow money just to purchase it, says our presiding gourmand. There seems to be a lesson about each course, and I am starting to instinctively reach for my notebook.

We move on to a delicious nuta: sashimi and wakame seaweed in a thick yellow miso sauce. From there, we dig in to a immaculately presented sashimi plate (pictured above), served with a side of boiled intestines of the tsugai shellfish whose sashimi we also enjoyed. Highlights of the sashimi plate included the raw fin of hirame (grey sole), as well as the aoyagi shellfish, also known as bakayagi (essentially, “stupid clam”, due to its habit of biting it’s own tongue). At our particular table, this is followed by a discussion of how to tell hirame from kare, which, while I won’t go into the specifics, results in the sushi chef bringing out whole, dried fish as visual aids to our lesson. I just hope I won’t be quizzed later.

We then feast on arani, the steamed parts of fish that don’t get used in sashimi, and hamaguri (Japanese clams, distinguishable by their curved, not flat, shells), and dobimushi, a fragrant soup of matsutake mushrooms, lime and shrimp. We drink the smoky hirezake, a sake with broiled blowfish fin that you light on fire briefly before drinking (see photo below). All were unusual and flawlessly executed.

And yet, we still have yet to taste any sushi. But at last, it arrives, on a simple traditional wooden plate, classic and easily palatable to any casual sushi eater. Of course it is impeccable, but my highlight is the care behind the second tray that arrives: fearing for the inexperience of my foreign tongue, the sushi chef has prepared a plate of yakitoro sushi (slightly grilled tuna) just for me.

Each time I visit Daikoku, I learn something new about fish and inevitably try dishes I have never heard of. On the wall is a large wooden plaque, listing the fish vendors with whom Daikoku has exclusive relationships, as well as the other Daikoku restaurants around Japan. This is not simply one of a chain, however, rather a network of apprenticeships. After spending years studying and working at a Daikoku, they will allow the budding chef to use the Daikoku name when he or she opens their own sushi shop.

In the way that it does business, in its family atmosphere and kind service, Daikoku is a truly traditional place. This is the ideal place to trust the experts and just ask for omakase (chef’s choice). Your wallet may not thank you, but it will be a meal not easily forgotten.

Daikoku Sushi

〒272-0133
Chiba-ken, Ichikawa-shi, 2-12-13

Near Gyotoku Station, Tel: 047-395-0009

SUSHI IS ART party @ DAIKANYAMA

Last year`s Sexy Sushi party turned out to be amazingly delicious!!! (see Sexy Sushi Party post) . Now it`s time for the 2008 version of sushi party entitled “Sushi is Art”. Be there and be raw to enjoy great sushi which defies gravity, meet sushi lovers, meet artists who turn raw fish into asymmetrical amorphous sculptures of sanguine sumptuous sushi and enjoy the unique eclectic atmosphere created by the sound of uni sliding down your tongue.

WHERE: A Secret Club (Which is incidentally the name of a continent) DAIKANYAMA. Sorry.. but you will have to figure the rest out by yourself. It is secret. But we are reasonable people… sending us an email might help as well.

WHEN: MARCH 15th (SATURDAY)

From 22:00pm
Reduced club admission fee in the club (incl. 1 drink) >> men and similar 2000yen, girls 500yen.

Sushi: basic set 1500yen, collector edition 2000yen.

To get the discount price at the door of the club… guests have to say they came for the “GIRLUZA sushi party…”

Reinventing the Wheel… (or at Least Adding Avocado)

SushiiiiiiiJapan has some customs that are regarded as indelible such as not wearing shoes indoors, or thou shalt not stick chopsticks vertically into food. At the risk of sounding blasphemous to my Japanese compatriots, California may have a thing or two that it can teach Japan about creativity in the sushi world.

Coming from someone who eats sushi daily and has learned to appreciate the subtleties in the texture of hirame, having avocado and waterfall-like salmon gnawing at my unagi eel definitely induced winces. My friend thought avocado was just a food Californians ate to show the rest of the world how pretentious they are. And I admit, telling Japanese people how to reinvent sushi doesn’t exactly help my case.

San Francisco and L.A. are full of restaurants which produce salmon/mango/macadamia nut rolls by the dozen, but finding these Calimaki institutions in Tokyo was a bit of a surprise. Still though, with a prime location amidst Tokyo’s foreign population in Azabu-Juban and a extensive drink menu with many top sakes and such novelties as white wine mojitos, Rainbow Roll sushi makes up in taste and invention what it lacks in tradition.
restThe restaurant’s namesake, a crab-avocado California roll covered in generous slabs of shrimp, salmon, squid, and nobiko is succulent and unique, as is the Dragon Roll, soft warm eel embracing avocado. The ambiance is sleek and modern, and though the basic sashimi selection was fresh and well-prepared, I wouldn’t go back unless I wanted to experiment. There are myriad impeccable sushi restaurants in Tokyo, but only one where making fun of Californians is so much fun. Don’t take your Japanese grandparents… They probably won’t get it.

Rainbow Roll Sushi

Monte Plaza 2F, 1-10-3 Azabujuban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
(One minute walk from exit A5 of Azabu Juban Station on the Oedo and
Nanboku lines)
Tel.03-5572-7688

How sexy is your Sushi Party?

Sushi 1

What? Has TokyoFoodie.com turned into an adult site? Well, not yet anyway! But the sexier that sushi gets these days, it’s little wonder that the above picture might be censored by your Japanese company’s internet security. A new underground group of architects, designers, and sushi chefs in West Tokyo has created a series of sushi parties, in which expert sushi chefs (think Tsukiji) combine top-quality sushi with modern sculpture-esque creations, chill lounge music, and a deep red speakeasy-like bar replete with models, sushi connoisseurs and designers. It ain’t cheap, but that manages to weed out the kaiten-sushi scum crowd. As red lounge music filled the warm air, bursts of raw hirame wrapped around asparagus covered with black pepper filled our taste-buds. Soon after platters of salmon nigiri, came the toro, more than satisfying the purists who gave suspiciously peering eyes at the ikura wrapped in warm avocado on a bed of soft marinated cabbage.

Sushi 2

The hamachi decadence and aforementioned Avocado wrapped in alternating layers with tuna heaven will thank you for bringing your appetite. The concoctions were accented with spices and novel combinations of fish and vegetables which look like mini cities filled with ikura people and mackerel freeways. Keep an eye out for these secret sushi extravaganzas happening around Tokyo. Sushi is in evolution.

Sexy Sushi Party

Secret Locations around Tokyo on the Den-en-toshi line.

Watch TokyoFoodie.com for announcements.

Yum.

Sushi 3