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Bizen in Great Barrington

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Any thoughts on Bizen for sushi in Great Barrington?

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  1. best of the few options for sushi in south county. everything is relative.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hitch

      I went to Bizen last night. The interiors are amazing. =) The sushi was done well. I had the "medium" Toro- a hint of old age and a little bit of connective tissue at one end of the cut... not the best I have had. The rolls were tasty as was the things on the robota menu. The mochi yaki was a bit too salty for me though. Great sake selection. I think I would go for the seafood nabe the next time we go. Apparently there are 4 kitchens so the food came out in a strange order. Enjoy!

      1. re: chris

        Bizen is by far the best sushi restaurant in a town which boasts 3 competitors--in fact, it rivals many a NYC establishment both in the quality of its ingredients and the imagination of its presentation and decor. Fish is extremely fresh (the owner boasts that he gets his fish from the same dealer as Nobu) and the menu is varied and interesting. Well worth a visit

    2. We ate twice at Bizen in July, 2006. I thought the food was really delicious. Even details - like the sushi rice - were great.

      1. I really do not understand raves for Bizen--I prefer any of the other sushi restaurants in the area--and if you're coming from NYC, why would you want sushi in the Berkshires when NYC is rife with GREAT sushi? I find Bizen's food MUCH too salty--gives me a hangover--and if you're not having sushi they have only a couple of sauces that makes everything taste the same--hence the characteristic odor of the place. The wait staff is not good at telling you, either, that you've ordered two dishes with the same sauce. I've also had their Kaiseki and could hardly get through it. The place is noisy and brusque--if you must have sushi try any of the other places in town, all good.

        1. Actually, you might want to give Fin in Lenox a try. There are really wonderfully creative fat rolls; the sushe is great; the hot food is very very good.

          1. We've never been fans of Bizen. I'm reluctant to add to Fin's praise, because it's tiny and noisy and gets overcrowded as it is. But the sushi is truly extraordinary, even by NYC standards. Lots of the cooked dishes are excellent also. Try the fried calamari, the ookonomiyaki, the daily specials. Noodle dishes are not their strong point. For fish freshness and quality, can't be beat.

            1. Bizen's food can be delicious. But the service is so frequently bizarre and brusque that we have sworn off going back. For example, on one occasion, miso soup (normally very flavorful there) arrived tepid. We requested that it be heated. It came back just as tepid. We sent it back. It came back just as tepid. The server explained, "That's as hot as the machine makes it". As another reviewer noted, dishes come out in random, unsynchronized order so diners frequently eat at different times from their companions. Bottom line, the service is so indifferent and unwelcoming, that even though the food is good, Bizen is just not an enjoyable dining experience.

              1. Bizen is delicious. I recommend ordering your sushi from the "special" menu. The rolls in this menu are unlike any other sushi you can get, including in NYC, in terms of uniqueness and creativity. They taste pretty damn good too. My favorite is the Yo Yo Ma Ma, a mango and tuna roll wrapped in rainbow tobiko or the uni, sea urchin. For cooked food, I recommend the steamed greens with both sauces on the side or the macro-vege platter with perfectly cooked vegetables, tofu and tempe, with a sesame teriyaki sauce. The owner works behind the sushi bar and makes all the pottery including the plates, which give the place a well cared feel. The only downside is the service. The wait staff is impatient, cold, and ignorant of the the workings of the restaurant or the contents of the food. I continue to go to Bizen because it is so good, but have debated not returning because of the wait staff. Still, I give it a strong recommendation.

                1. I hate to be negative about a cornerstone restaurant in GB, however, we have gone to Bizen 3 times with high hopes and each and every time were let down. I am particular about sushi and yes, NYC has some of the BEST in the Country, however, the Boston Globe says it's the "best sushi outside of Japan" and to me that is a HUGE stretch. Let me explain. I find the restaurant dirty, yes I said it. And if you go there and think it's clean, look again. The floors and tables and chairs are pretty dirty and well worn. Atmosphere is fun, especially if you can get a booth. The service is rough and abrupt and every time we felt rushed. They wanted us out of the chair so they can fill it again. Now mind you were weren't "lingering" at all. The sushi menu was appaling. I think that Gordon Ramsay would have a field day here. They have such an array of different items, and the menu(s) are torn, hand written, and crossed out. The "sushi roll and special" menu had about 75% of it's offerings crossed out. The sushi was mediocre at best. We found that the rice was too starchy and had too much vinegar in it. We also felt that the yellowtail and the salmon was too "fishy" and probably a bit old. In MY opinion (not everyone feels the same way...that is why we have Chowhound).... I would say go to Shiro for sushi in GB the sushi there has always been decent (not spectacular).

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Anastasia

                    Anastasia, I can only repeat, try Fin in Lenox. Its sushi beats everyone's, including Shiro's. It has its own downside, small, noisy, NOT leisurely dining. But it's delicious. And if you're careful in your ordering, you can keep the price down to a reasonable level also. As well as the dishes I recommend above, try baby yellowtail if they have it, and the torched salmon sushi. Even in small things, Fin stands out: their wasabi and their ginger are both outstanding. Who ever thought about wasabi and ginger?

                    1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                      I agree wholeheartedly BerkshireTsarina. By the way..... I've seen many of your postings and it seems we have very similar palettes.

                      1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                        sorry for the late reply BerkshireTsarina, I will try Fin FOR SURE. Thanks for the helpful info! I will report back soon

                    2. I still feel Fin is much better; and, also, living in Lenox and having a great sushi restaurant six minutes away is great for me. Yeah, it can get noisy and crowded, but if you are a local, you'll run into people you know, and that contributes to the party like ambience in cases like that. Also, in the summer, when having dinner there, I have watched Nick and whoever is working with him that night engage the non locals and chat them up. It is a very friendly atmosphere contrasted with that of Bizen.

                      1. Thanks to all for posting about Fin. Friend & I are planning to try it soon. I started eating sashimi/sushi at Shuji's (now defunct) and Shuji always said to never eat sushi prepared by someone not trained in Japan as a sushi chef.......so the training at Fin made me suspicious to try. But now I will!

                        18 Replies
                        1. re: mjoyous

                          although Nick (the sushi chef) at Fin was not trained in Japan, I find it hard to believe that in this day and age where the world is at your finger tips that one couldn't find the best training not only in Japan but outside as well. There is no "hidden anatomical secret" to fish that only the Japanese know about. Try Fin, it is the best in The Berks for sushi.

                          1. re: mjoyous

                            If Shuji's was the place upstairs at the Triplex --- it really was fantastic. Much sorrow when all those intricate restaurant deals were being "put together" and in the end --- it all fell apart, and Shuji was no more, anywhere.

                            1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                              Actually, Shuji's was in New Lebanon, New York. It was the real deal...it was open from April to November as Shuji and Michiko spent the winter in Florida, and the house was impossibly expensive to heat all winter. It was at the crossroads of 22 and 20 in what was once Governor Tilden's mansion, and they maintained it beautifully. For me, it was a rite of spring to go the first weekend it opened. At one time, Shuji was chef for the Japanese Diet. And, it drew from Albany and those areas as well as the Berkshires.

                              1. re: nidanlou

                                So Shuji's is where Josh Needleman first "entered" the food business, although he ended up in chocolate, rather than sushi! Then who was the Japanese sushi chef who had the small sushi bar in the loft area of the Triplex? When we first moved here (2002) that was our sushi place of choice, but I never knew the name of the chef, or have forgotten if I did know.

                                1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                  I think the Sushi Chef at the tri-plex name was Hideo or was that at Kintaro?

                                  1. re: Jude Stahl

                                    Wasn't Hideo the chef at the Sushi place that used to be on Rt. 7 in the Econolodge in Lenox (now the Malaysan Rest. Flavours)??
                                    I seem to remember midnight sushi in the summer.....

                                  2. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                    Yes, Josh Needleman started as a dishwasher at Shuji's. I cannot remember whether it was Hideo who worked upstairs at The Triplex; HOW,ever the same guy who worked there and AT Bizen also teaches Aikido...he has a dojo in Great Barrington. I think his name is Sato.

                                    1. re: nidanlou

                                      Sato was actually the baker for Bizen. Hideo Kikuchi was first the sushi chef at Kintaro, which used to be in G.B. He then helped Michael Marcus open up Bizen. He then had the small sushi place in the Triplex. I believe that Sato and Hideo worked the Triplex place together. Shuji's in Lebanon will be missed. Truly authentic Japanese cuisine.

                                      1. re: Lenox637

                                        I also miss Shuji's greatly. I had my 50th birthday party there (going on 14 years ago)...jus' 30 of my closest family and friends. Michiko made sure we had a great time...at least Fin is like having my own neighborhood sushi restaurant.

                                        1. re: nidanlou

                                          Nick is a childhood friend of mine. He is a perfectionist by nature.

                                          1. re: nidanlou

                                            Another aha and thank you. Planning on Fin in the next few weeks. I'm also one who laments the loss of Shuji's--it was my local restaurant, and I had my 40th b.day party in one of the tatami rooms. We ate there at least twice a month while it was open.

                                            1. re: mjoyous

                                              Finally made it to Fin. Thanks all for the recommends. Had 2 lovely plates of sashimi, including a beautifully butterflied yellowtail (guess that's my mercury overload for the year). Shared one of the hot appetizers with friend--good but not great (beef rolled around a scallion, forget the name.)
                                              But mirror-watched someone eating the tempura, and think I'll try that next. Has anyone tried their tonkatsu?

                                              1. re: mjoyous

                                                Glad you liked it! The sushi and the sashimi are really the very best things. I've never eaten a negimaki (beef/scallion roll) anywhere that I've thought was better than modestly good; I've concluded it's the dish, not the preparation. Haven't had the tempura or tonkatsu, we stick to "small dishes" of which the calamari salad is outstanding. Ookonomiyaki (the Japanese pancake) is interesting, and you don't find it a whole lot in the US. And the torched salmon, either roll or sushi, is MMMMMMMMMMMM!

                                                1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                                  Yum. Will try the torched salmon and the Ookonomiyaki. I didn't know what that was, and forgot to ask. Sounds delicious. Am trying to get some non-local acquaintances to eat there for a large family/wedding dinner soon.

                                                  1. re: mjoyous

                                                    Just as a matter of curiosity, unless you take over the whole restaurant ---- where will you put them? It's so tiny (and noisy)!

                                                    1. re: mjoyous

                                                      Since they do not take reservations, I would suggest that the whole party show up at Fin 20 minutes before they open. Otherwise there is no way that you will all get in. There is a slight chance that you could "rent" Fin for the evening but that would be exorbitantly expensive. Unfortunately they do not cater.

                                                      1. re: Lenox637

                                                        Thanks for the concerns! Fortunately, it's not mine to plan. Have passed along the info and recommend to the right folks, and I guess it's up to them. I'd go for the "be there 20 minutes early" part myself.

                                  3. re: mjoyous

                                    (Cross post) Sorry, but I can't get on the Fin bandwagon. We have been there several times (always hoping...), and we are always disappointed. "Disappointed" took a step back last visit, and became "appalled." Since it was winter, we shared the place with only two other tables. We ordered edamame, and a variety of sushi and sashimi. Not too difficult. We waited... and waited... and waited, easily 30 minutes. We could see the sushi chef, and while we we were waiting, he was chatting up a young lady sitting at the sushi bar. It was not until she left that he even began preparing our order. While we waited, however, the phone rang, and the server took a sushi take-out order from the owner (who has several other restaurants in Lenox). He came in ten minutes later, picked up his order, and still we waited.

                                    Add to this a blaring radio in the kitchen; the fact that the sushi chef was paying more attention to his friends than his work (which really made me nervous since we are talking about raw fish here); sushi that was no better than ordinary; and a very high price... Well, let's just say that all hope is gone, and we won't be returning.

                                  4. Thank you for the tip about Fin --will certainly try it this summer, when we're there for vacation., though Lenox is a bit far for us to go (we're right across the border in New York State.) Shiro is a good restaurant, nothing to complain of there, but Bizen is a wonderfully eccentric place where the food is equally eccentric. I LOVE the sashimi there! If you sit at the sushi bar chances are good Michael will make your lunch (we only go there for lunch) and he does an extra-great job . Don't miss the salads! They are some of the loveliest, freshest salads you will ever have. (And I'm still experimenting in my kitchen to see if I can duplicate the ume scallion salad dressing. It's amazing!) Go for the really odd sashimi --the copper river salmon is just one example, but he sometimes gets in some unusual oysters. Try the tempura....you can get it by the piece, which most Japanese restaurants won't offer. The fancy handrolls are also good, though some are a little too imaginative for me. Stick to essentials and you won't go away disappointed.

                                    1. With all of this talk about sushi, I thought I would chime in. I like Fin better than Bizen, as many have said, and wanted to share a new discovery in Northampton, Moshi Moshi. It is tiny, a la Fin, but their sushi is some of the best I have ever had. It is across the street from the larger, flashier Zen, and much better. It's not to be missed next time you are in NoHo!