Jiro was full, so was Saito: I wanted to go to Jiro because it’s in a documentary; Saito because it’s actually the top sushi place in Japan as shown on Tabelog (this is the Japanese version of Hungrygowhere and I’m sure the Japanese know their sushi). Interestingly, Jiro isn’t anywhere in the top three but I digress. The other top two were full too, Hashiguchi and Miyakozushi, so I decided to go for something familiar and apparently good (as ratings go, it’s got 4.16, Saito is 4.58). For lunch, there are the 8000, 10000 and 15000 yen options. For the benefit of having the widest sampling, I chose the 15000 yen one (about S$185). There were The Sister, BF#2 and me.
It was a lot of sushi, so here goes.
The starter, or amuse-bouche, or whatever it was, was shiroebi (white prawn) and uni (sea urchin) sprinkled with salt (not unlike the signature dish at Waku Ghin). The textures of both were almost indistinguishable, that was how smooth and creamy this was. The prawn had a slight bite to it which was nice because then you don’t feel like you’re eating very rich and expensive baby food. Very delightful spreading of umami all over the tongue.
Kegani (hairy crab) in kanizu (crab vinaigrette). Sweet though there was a slight bitterness and I was not sure why. The sour vinaigrette brought out the sweetness of the crab even more.
Stewed tuna cheek. The outside was soft and flaky; the inside, meaty. This gave the dish a good mix of textures though the ponzu in dish was a little too much so the overall flavor was dominantly tartness. Still, it was light, easy to eat.
I liked the abalone. Sweet and chewy. The chewiness was a good thing because it let the sweetness linger a little longer in the mouth. The Sister wasn’t very impressed though. She whispered, ‘Does this taste like guan tou bao yu (canned abalone)? I don’t think it’s very wow.’ There we go. She loves abalone more than I do and she has, in this lifetime so far, eaten all the lifetime shares of each member of the family.
And now we began the sushi flight.
Karei (above)– Mild fish flavor. Slightly chewy. Shima Aji – Soft. Mildly sweet. Clean and delicate. Akami – I don’t think the akami was aged long enough. The flavor of the akami wasn’t as intense as I’d hope for it to be. A nice piece of akami tastes like good wagyu but without the unctuous fattiness. The richness and depth here were only slight.
Ootoro – Expensive part of the maguro but I don’t think it’s a testament to anything. It’s just fat. Of course it’s gonna be delicious. So what matters here more is the way it is sliced so that it literally melts and you don’t get the unpleasant sinewy bits AT ALL. This one melted. So, good knife skills.
Ika – Slightly tough. I’ve had a more tender one at Sushi Yasuda. Still, it was quite palatable with the kabosu and salt. First salty then sour and lastly sweet but all amalgamating pleasantly in the mouth.
Kohada – This is unbearably fishy in Singapore. But here, this vinegared fish had none of that. Sweet, piquant, meaty. Bonito (above)– I actually liked this better than the akami – it had a much richer and bolder flavor. There was a slight mintiness too which I liked. Kuruma Ebi – Fresh and tasted very richly of the sea. Wholesome meaty texture as you masticate.
Hamaguri soup – The clams were sweet and delightfully soft. The soup was a refreshing course in the middle of the flight. Aji – The shiso leaf which imparted a lightly basilly, cinnamony taste to the fish and rice was a delectable touch. Mirugai – Crunchy, sweet.
Uni – Gratifying as well. Seafoody sweet and it melts in your mouth. I thought the rice was a bit too much for this. Overwhelmed the uni. Anago (below)– This was delicious. The anago had a starchy sweetness to it – it was like eating eel-flavoured bread. Pretty interesting.
We also had tamago which was kinda standard in a sushi flight. It was custardy and sweet. Just the way it should be actually not the cold soggy trash you get here. It was the first time my noob tongue tasted an authentic tamago. I liked it. My sister, who’s been in Tokyo for five years, wasn’t. She did the this-is-mediocre rocking plane hand. We finished off with the negitoro (below) which was also pretty nice.
So the interesting thing about this place is the rice (sushi meshi). It was quite different from what I’ve had. There was a distinct nuttiness to it. The rice is also well-mixed and separated so it doesn’t clump in your mouth but disperses quite uniformly as you chew on the fish, each grain leaving begin that fragrant nuttiness. So that’s in general, the flipside is that the nuttiness didn’t go with all the pieces of fish especially the white fish (shiromi) which was more delicate in flavor – so those with much shorter descriptions, the rice stole the limelight.
The thing about sushi is that it isn’t fresh. This is a great thing because a chef then interprets the fish through his own methods of seasoning and ageing which often, should, result in some pretty sublime and inspiring flavours that would probably require me to steal from the language of art and nature in order to adequately describe them. If you want fresh fish, you go to Noryangjin or wait by a stream, impale an unsuspecting swimmer, maul it against a rock, then rip apart the flesh with your bare teeth and chew. Fresh fish, the way bears eat them, is actually very rubbery and flavourless. Not that the sushi at Kanesaka was flavourless. It just lacked distinction. Nothing stood out and made me associate it with the place immediately. How should I put it? Ah, I think The Sister said it best when asked what she thought—
B/F, Misuzu Building, 8-10-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku,Tokyo
T: + 81 3 5568 4411
How to get there: 5-minute walk from Tokyo Metro Ginza Station [A4] exit OR
5-minute walk from JR / Metro / Toei Shinjuku Line Shimbashi Station [Ginza opening]
Other outlet at Palace Hotel Tokyo
Palace Hotel Tokyo, 1-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0005
T: +81 3 3211 5323
How to get there: 2-minute walk from Metro / Toei Mita Line Otemachi Station [C13] exit OR 8-minute walk from JR / Tokyo Metro Station [Marunouchi north exit]