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Jun 14, 2010 02:10 PM

Kyubey Ginza impressions

Two months have now passed since I returned from Japan, but I'm only starting to write down my culinary experiences there.
Our first "big" meal (discounting the ones we had at Iwaso) was at Kyubey in Ginza. I had never tasted sushi in Japan before, and my best experience for this kind of food was at Yasuda, which I ranked as one of the best meals of my life. Needless to say, I had great expectations.

All in all, it didn't disappoint, but I didn't leave totally satisfied either.

The good: the mood is very relaxed, with our chef (the owner's son) joking with us in English, always smiling, etc. Even if we were late and confused, the staff didn't seem to be offended or anything, and we were really well treated. We also had a chat with the owner, his son and a local customer who spoke very good English, which made the whole experience even more enjoyable.
Also, I loved the rice there. I remember it being warmer than most other sushi places I've tried. It's got a good creaminess too, without being too soft.
As for the fish, for my virgin palate, it ranked from very good to sublime. We tasted things we didn't know at all before (like the ark shell), but what really impressed were the pieces of fish we're used to, that didn't taste the same at all... in a good way! The grilled toro was amazing too, as were the enormous prawns, and many many other things.

So what was the problem? Well, I found that they use too much seasoning for my taste. As I'm a newcomer to this grade of sushi, I would rather have tasted the fish in a simpler way, with less sauce and condiments getting in the way. Not that it didn't taste good, but I was wondering if, maybe, this was sushi for people already tired of excellent traditional sushi.
I guess this also could be a matter of preference, as my experience confirmed what I read before going: there's a lot of difference between different top sushi places, so everyone will probably have his/her favorite...

More extensive (not necessarily better) write up here:
and photos here:

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  1. thank you for your report.
    i have never been to kyubey (even though i have heard of it a few times) so reading your experience was very interesting/informative.
    well, sushi in ginza is usually considered to be the very best, but there are also other places that are known for certain toppings such as squid in otaru, hokkaido. so i believe everything (both toppings and maybe seasoning) in ginza is not necessarily the best...
    but someday, i want to eat toro in kyubey...
    anyway, thanks for reporting.

    1 Reply
    1. re: yumyumyumyum

      A sushi chef in Hakodate told me that extreme market driven items like tuna usually go through Tsukiji (which is less than 10 minutes from Ginza). That is, the tuna I was eating in Hokkaido had been procured in Tokyo. But top shops in Ginza and Tokyo are more likely to get the best of these items because people will pay premium for them there. Tsukiji is also a global destination for items, so seasonality is less of an issue. Eating in places like Hokkaido means you are accutely subjected to the seasonal tems available locally I would presume. That all said, I actually prefer eating sushi outside of Tokyo.

      1. re: Silverjay

        That is true.
        Also, did not find it over seasoned.

        1. re: Silverjay

          Do you mean it's the genuine romaji transliteration of their actual name? I just wrote Kyubey as it's the way it's written on their website...

          1. re: olivierb

            LOL.. Yeah, it should be "i", not "y" by virtue of standard romanization rules. I've seen other places do this deliberately as well. Guess they all just want to be different.

            1. re: Silverjay

              The failed and overly expensive Hong Kong spinoff of Kyubei, which I hear eventually closed, is listed as Qubey or something wacky like that.

        2. Looks pretty good to me! The amount of sauce used in the pictures you shared seems about the same as would be used in any high end sushi restaurant applies sauce to the sushi for you. Most people who spend ¥20,000 or more for sushi have had each of those items dozens if not over a hundred times in their lives, and I do not think that soy sauce/ginger/wasabi/tare really interferes with the taste of the fish when you are that familiar with it. Although I have often seen sushi beginners sometimes eating sushi without soy sauce in order to "appreciate the true flavor" of fish, many professionals say that without adequate salt (provided by soy sauce) the flavor of the fish cannot be revealed. To each his own I guess.

          By the way the fish you have listed in your album as "maguro" is bonito/skipjack, or "katsuo" in Japanese.

          4 Replies
          1. re: la2tokyo

            Also "ark shell" is "akagai" in Japanese.

            1. re: la2tokyo

              Maybe it's because it was our first time to such an upscale sushi restaurant. The following meals at Masa and Sawada didn't leave me with the impression about the seasoning. This may be a matter of getting accustomed to it, I don't know.

              Also, thanks for your remark about the mislabeled fish.

              1. re: olivierb

                Did you take pictures at the Masa and Sawada? I was looking for them on your blog but I couldn't find them. Also, how much did you pay at Kyubey?

                1. re: la2tokyo

                  I believe I paid something between 35 000-40 000 JPY, for two omakase, a few beers, and some additionnal sushi. Not a bad deal.

                  Light was particularly difficult at Sawada, so the pictures aren't great at all. They're a little bit better for Masa.
                  They're up on my picasa gallery:

                  There's nothing on the blog yet as I didn't take the time to write about it, but it'll come...
                  In short, Masa was fantastic, especially with the grilled pieces and a fantastic value at 45000 JPY for two. Lunch at Sawada was my best sushi experience overall, even for someone not accustomed to that quality, the difference between Sawada and Kyubey and Masa was clear.
                  I paid about 40 000-45 000 for two, but this was lunch and sushi only (20 pieces or so). I believe dinner can be way more expensive.

            2. This looks SO good, and I am so relieved to hear that this restaurant's staff is not stand-offish the way some high end sushi restaurants are. I have bookmarked your review for my next trip to Japan.

              1 Reply
              1. re: lasysjane

                There is an utility to that ''stand-ish'' attitude. In fact, the clients will be as equal. Respect or marginal ? Center the distribution and not wait is the must !!!