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Jan 6, 2010 12:38 AM

Sushi in Tokyo

Ending up a two month visit to Japan, primarily in Tokyo. When l came l knew l was not a huge fan of Japanese cuisine, but said l could eat sushi 6 times a week. Well trip is almost done and my pre trip thoughts are pretty much on the money. Had a great yakitori, a few good ramen bowls, super okonomiyaki in Hiroshima, great conch sashimi in Okinawa and the best thing of all was unagidon at the farms in Chiba that was world class, but in general did not love the kaisecki meals that were very pricey and very subtle and do not eat fried food so tempura and tonkatson were lost on me. However, back to sushi, have eaten 58 times in two months and each time keeps getting better. The amazing thing is not that it was good, the amazing thing is it was never bad. Yes, some places were much better, but none were bad. Ate supermarket, stand-up places, conveyor belt places, 11 places in Tsukiji, great just get me an apartment there and l can come down in my jammies and fuzzy slippers and scarf down chutoro all day long. Had a few meals at the palaces and one was great and one found lacking
Dai San Harumi was awesome, best rice l have ever had, mackeral, wonderfully chewy clam, deep deep red magura even the tamago was excellent
Sawada did not work for me, all or most fishes were aged, cooked, marinated or messed with in some way that took their freshness away and made them less interesting.
In Tsukiji waited with all 3-4 hours for Sushi Dai, and it was wonderful, very friendly people. helpful, generous and fab fish, had a golden snapper and a monkfish liver that were both in top form. In addition their tea was perfect, must have drunk 8 cups.
Different day went to Daiwa Sushi, line moved far faster and was in in 40 minutes, but the reason the line moved so fast was the assembly line method of the place.Yes the magura was stunning but felt had to eat as though a watch was in someone`s hand and l was found lacking.
SushiBun had no line, great tuna in a myriad of forms, had collar there, never before or since.
People were welcoming. Here they do not seat you until all seats empty then everyone at once comes in, your order has to be placed before you get in, thus mostly sets.
Three other places with no name, at least to me also came up great, texture of fish melted on your tongue, every place, every time.
Also interesting to note that while products varied and portions did as well, but all seemed about the same price point, 3000-4000 yen. l learned that for me do not get the standard sets that most people get as l do not like squid or non-fatty fishes, or raw shrimp so l learned what l liked and that was all l ordered. If you saved a little on the set, for me it was lost as did not like some of the pieces served.
In Tsukiji there are a number of restaurants called Sushizanmai, part of a larger chain,one is just that, one is Bekkan. They are both in outer market and here you could eat like a sumo wrestler and still not have to rob a liquor store to get by.The owner is a chubby fellow who was there on 12/31 and posed for pictures with all the customers who gave him a round of applause. This morning, they had a chutoro special, thus with considerable regret l admit l had 10 pieces of chutoro, 10 pieces of albacore, and a few thises and thats and the total was under 3000 yen, a veritable steal, and melt on your tongue fish. l will miss Tsukiji, as it is supposedly moving shorly,but will miss more when back in states when will pay a lot for very mediocre stuff, and worse now know how mediocre it really is. As with Maryland crabs, Cotes du Boeuf at L`Ami Louis, and pizza in New Haven l have been spoiled and suspect will not look at sushi anywhere else in the same way again. Thus my loss and my gain as well. l will have to return.

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  1. When you get back to your home, you should go to the doctor and get checked for mercury in your system. It seemed like you've eaten 10-20X more sushi than the average Japanese in your month-long visit, and it seemed that most of those items you've chosen to eat are fish at the top of the ocean food chain that are associated with higher mercury levels. Most Japanese enjoy the variety of neta, including white fish, silvery fish, shellfish, and a more modest amount of those higher-food-chain fish. That balance is key to good health.

    7 Replies
    1. re: E Eto

      Of course you are right, but two months not one and my philosophy of life has always been 20 great years instead of 40 mediocre ones. Started that 40 years ago.

      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        I can't believe you waited in line for that long for Sushi Dai. Was it really worth standing outside in the cold for 4 hours?

        Converter belt sushi in Japan is one of my guilty pleasures especially if they have those computer screens to place special orders. It makes me feel like a little kid again.

        If you think sushi is bad in US...have you tried them in Paris? It took all of my strength not to spit it out in front of everyone. I'm sure there are decent sushi to be had somewhere in Paris but it's so not worth the effort.

        I'm really glad that you've enjoyed your days in Japan enough to want to come back. Next time, you might want to consider venturing out to Kanazawa for sushi and Osaka for Okonomiyaki (there really is no comparison, they do it the best).

        1. re: kikisakura

          Tokyo Japan Sushi ! Best toro(fatty tuna)? Best uni(sea urchin)? What piece did you liked the most ? Dai San Harumi has his own character sushi like Katsuo toro (fatty bonite)…
          In Japan, Tokyo, seafood products are already great, and Sawada-san or Nagayama-san has enough skill to upgrade the taste. Ras is minimalist, and sushi-ya uses carefully raw produtcs. Depending on the way the fish is killed/stored/prepared, the ATP(=energy)/oxydation varies on the essence and with calculation will be served as sashimi (=ATP20) or as sushi (=ATP40>80). Finition will be a touch of the master.…. Now, It is necessary to imagine the fishermen in France in US reading the manual worker of the “’perfect killer”” of tuna and the different ways…

          1. re: Ninisix

            Not the type of person who would be bold enough to say something is the best,especially when l do not consider myself an expert in the subject, that being said, my best list: Magura-Daiwa Sushi, for me best ever, almost beet color, looked like whale. Best of all these uni, chutoro, and salmon roe was from fish market in Chiba where small enough and non busy enough that they took the time with me and showed me the options and let me taste samples.
            Both the uni and salmon roe were from Hokkaido and l bought a large tray of both for a party that night. The chutoro l ate at a sashimi place aross from the Chiba fish market, ten thick slices four days in a roe, perfect fat, temp, and cut. And if you pinned me down and l had to eat once piece of nigiri it wouldbe albacore.

          2. re: kikisakura

            It was a beautiful day, had an excellent book, Pulitzer winner from the 40`s on Inuit life,met a beautiful woman in line ( My new dating strategy will be to chat up women in places they cannot run from) and talked to others. Was it worth it, of course not. However, glad for the great experience,but been there, done that. My philosophy of impatience has always been that l would not wait 20 minutes for Christ to walk on water. Should l go by and the line isshort, will go again, but if not short too many super other choices to take.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              In the book of Philippe Sollers about the mysterious Mozart, who was a great gourmand, just a pork cotelet might have been reason for one trip ! Now, “Mozart” uses elevator, taxi,… After, well, back to usual Sollers. Your portrait of sushi, for a 2 months stay, was a beginning of enjoyment as you`ve said on this open topic… anything is… NeXT will be a new orchestra on chopsticks…

          3. re: Delucacheesemonger

            That's right. If you're going to go, at least go in style.

        2. Hi Delucacheesemonger,

          Thanks for the report back. :) So for the Tsukiji places, which would you say was your favorite? I noticed you enjoyed aspects of all 3. Thanks. :)

          1 Reply
          1. re: exilekiss

            Sushi Dai, but wait too long regardless of when you go. My go to place would be Sushizanmai for the albacore alone. Daiwa sushi for the magura, sushi bun for being just like Daiwa but no line. One place specialized in toro as chirashi, very good, but cuts were to large to eat properly,

          2. I'm going on a business trip and will be staying at the New Otani in Chiba. It sounds like I need to visit the place across the street from the fish market. Do you know the name or can you describe the place? Any other suggestions in Chiba?

            1 Reply
            1. re: purplescout

              Across the street, thus on the other side of the parking lot is only one restaurant open in the morning, that is the place. chutoro sashimi, no sushi, l am dreaming of it even now. Find someone who has a car and knows Chiba for the unagi farms. There are two restaurants across the street from each other, one is big and plush, one is a shack. Get thee to the shack, favorite meal in two months, cheap and fabulous. While in Chiba there is a koi seller near the unagi farms that should not be missed. Had a lecture on why some koi go for $2000. Still not sure, but lecturer was very passionate.