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Any Suggestions for the Best Mid-Level Sushi in Tokyo?

m
marcus68 Jan 21, 2012 11:36 PM

Hi everyone. I'd love some help with a sushi recommendation:

I spent a lot of time searching and reading through chowhound posts, but everything seems to be about the best 'cheap' sushi or the best superlative, 3-star sushi. But if I missed a thread somewhere on this topic, please point me to it.

I would like to have some mid-level sushi. I don't want to spend 3000 yen and I don't want to spend 50,000 yen or more. I would like to eat some good value sushi in the 10,000 to 12,000 range (give or take 20,000 yen). I know it's debatable whether or not this price range should be termed 'mid-level' — I just don't want cheap and I don't want astronomical. Also, I would prefer to pay for the food rather than the decor. I will be going with a Japanese friend, so language will not be an issue. Ideally, somewhere broadly between Ginza and Shibuya would be great.

I will be in Tokyo next week, for a week. I would like to have a weeknight dinner (although outstanding lunch specials could be fit in on other days!) Since the trip is soon, it needs to be a place where I could to get in at short notice (ie. not super popular).

Thank you!

  1. m
    MoGa Jan 22, 2012 02:19 AM

    Go to the entrance to Tsukiji Market where the Sushi restaurants are. Join a queue (it means you are likely to be at Sushi Daiwa or Dai Sushi.)
    When you get to the front present a 10,000yen note to the chef (better still, present a neat piece of paper with ¥10,000 written on it and politely say "Omakase onegai shimasu" and bow your head respectfully.
    This could likely yield the best and best value sushi you'll ever eat.
    I did this on first day on my first trip to Japan nearly a decade ago, just with half this amount. It was years later and somewhere much more expensive - in the 'top end' - where I finally got to try anything that surpassed this experience.
    Save your budget and have something more modest at premium cost dinner time.

    If you are intent on a sushi dinner then there's Sushi Gin in Azabu Juban. Take care not to go over your budget (you can have a decent meal at the price you've given) and it ticks all your boxes.
    http://shoku.otoshu.com/4827/7382/739...
    Plug すし銀 麻布店 into google images for a preview of the sushi, the restaurant and the location.

    20 Replies
    1. re: MoGa
      m
      marcus68 Jan 22, 2012 03:28 AM

      I appreciate your reply, MoGa.

      Perhaps I should have explained that I am not a Japan newbie. I lived there for a couple of years a decade ago, and return frequently. I have tried many of the places at Tsukiji, including Daiwa and Sushi Dai. Ten years ago the wait was perfectly fine, but these days, I'm too old for that sort of thing. But more importantly, I really do need to be able to have my 'mid-level' sushi meal in the evening.

      But maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree. Is there perhaps no 'good-value' sushi at this price point? I'm not expecting sublime, but I thought maybe I could have a nice evening with 'very good' sushi at this level.

      I will check out Sushi Gin.

      1. re: marcus68
        Robb S Jan 22, 2012 05:43 AM

        There's always Kyubei - I've found them quite reliable at that price range.

        1. re: marcus68
          Silverjay Jan 22, 2012 07:27 AM

          Kozasa in Shibuya, which was so highly rated on Tabelog, was surprisingly a very good value at 15,000 per person, including several rounds of drinks.

          1. re: Silverjay
            m
            marcus68 Jan 22, 2012 09:21 AM

            Thanks, Silverjay. Coincidentally, I will be staying at a friend's home in Shinsen. I also just read your review of Kozasa and it seems like an excellent choice. My only concern is that, while your bill was in my price range, your visit was a year and a half ago. Tabelog seems to imply it's rather more expensive (not 100% sure, I don't read kanji). But I will try to go regardless.

            Also, in regards to your Kozasa review, have you ever been to たもいやんせ? I need a good local izakaya too, and I love me some kyushu-ryori and imo shochu.

            Thanks again!

            1. re: marcus68
              Silverjay Jan 22, 2012 10:56 AM

              I dined at Kozasa exactly a month ago today...Yes, Tamoiyanse is a great Kyushu izakaya. It's right next door. Also, if you want nihonshu, you can walk down the hill to Ikejiri and check out Tsukushinoko- http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1317/A131... .

              1. re: Silverjay
                Silverjay Jan 22, 2012 11:04 AM

                And since you're on the Inokashira line, you can also look into Sushiya Uoshin in Shimokitazawa. It's a reasonably priced place in a small chain of fish restaurants owned by a seafood wholesaler. I haven't been to that incarnation but went several times to their old location in Naka Meguro.

                1. re: Silverjay
                  m
                  marcus68 Jan 22, 2012 11:15 AM

                  Awesome! Thanks Silverjay.

                  When you say Nihonshu, do you mean sake or shochu? I'm more of an imo-shu man — and I believe they call it Nihon-shu down in Kagoshima.

                  (Sorry, I mis-read your Kozasa review post date. Your first post, after you couldn't get in, was a year and a half ago.)

                  1. re: marcus68
                    Silverjay Jan 22, 2012 08:03 PM

                    Nihon-shu is nihon-shu everywhere as far as I know. Sake is generic term for alcoholic drinks, but can refer to nihon-shu in Tokyo. I've heard it can refer to shochu down south. If you want imo-chochu, go to Tomoiyanse or there is an izakaya closer to Shibuya Station that is actually called Kyushu. I'm sure that they will have a nice selection. On the other side of the station up Aoyama Dori, is GEN, which is a tiny underground bar that claims to have 5000 types of shochu. I've only been once. The shochu menu was huge and they do seem to have a lot. Service was a bit flaky. More of late night drink spot if anything.

                    1. re: Silverjay
                      m
                      marcus68 Jan 23, 2012 03:45 AM

                      Thanks again Silverjay! I managed to secure a reservation at Kozasa for Thursday night and at Tamoiyanse for Friday night. My week is shaping up nicely!

        2. re: MoGa
          PommeDeGuerre Feb 7, 2012 01:18 AM

          Off topic, but the price doubled in less than ten years with a terrible economy for four of those years? That is an insane inflation rate. No excuses of increased global energy demand, lease rate increases, labor costs or scarcity from increased fish consumption can explain that. Someone is getting paid! :-)

          1. re: PommeDeGuerre
            killersmile Feb 7, 2012 01:32 AM

            no, the price is still the same. you don't need a 10,000 yen note unless you are paying for 2 people.

            1. re: killersmile
              PommeDeGuerre Feb 18, 2012 04:32 PM

              Actually MoGa stated that nearly ten years ago he/she did the same for half the amount. That means that the price doubled in my book.

              1. re: PommeDeGuerre
                Silverjay Feb 18, 2012 05:01 PM

                The current cost of the set at Sushi Dai is 3,900. It was about 3,500 when I ate there 10 years ago...and it's never a good idea to throw down cash at the beginning of a meal in Japan, nor is it necessary to bow to people at restaurants.

                http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/22_su...

                1. re: Silverjay
                  PommeDeGuerre Feb 20, 2012 04:11 PM

                  The set is the same meal as the omakase? Isn't a set usually a bargain meal that is the same every time and omakase is more of a no holds barred/seasonally influenced meal to the price point?

                  1. re: PommeDeGuerre
                    Silverjay Feb 20, 2012 06:24 PM

                    The website says "seasonal omakase sushi set". It's a tourist value spot not a high-end omakase place where you sit and and milk out the experience. It's been popular for years for what it is....Japan's problem is high yen value vs. other currencies, not domestic inflation. There's no conspiracy as you allude to and, as killersmile pointed out, you seemed to have read the post incorrectly.

                2. re: PommeDeGuerre
                  killersmile Feb 18, 2012 05:05 PM

                  No, you read the statement wrong. MoGa recommended to present a 10,000 yen bill and ask for omakase, meaning that you want a meal within the amount presented. He said that a decade ago he did this, but using a 5,000 yen bill instead. You could still do the same with a 5,000 yen bill since that is more than the cost of the set. There is no need to use a 10,000 yen bill.

                  1. re: killersmile
                    m
                    MoGa Feb 23, 2012 06:52 AM

                    killersmile - absolutely correct
                    I presented 5,000yen because I was young, had just been clubbing all night and that was all I had left to spare. I didn't recommend this amount (although it's perfectly feasible to do so) as I'd suggested that 10k "could likely yield the best and best value sushi you'll ever eat."
                    My experience as a first timer at Tsukiji was heightened by a fellow female diner who I'd been queuing with. I didn't speak Japanese at the time (still barely do) but I did know a lot of food words and she did a beautiful job of guiding me through the whole experience and told me what I was eating (for instance I thought the soup was chicken broth but she explained that the 'meat' was toro). She also exchanged some of my sushi items for more 'deluxe' versions from her, more expensive, selection. This is how I first fell in love with uni (which didn't come in the 5,000yen omakaze).
                    I am still overwhelmed by this lady's kindness and generosity, but she also showed me why it's worth spending more on sushi, particularly at Tsukiji where the value is so high.
                    The benchmark for judging sushi is well set after coming here and when you do spend more money at higher end joints it's much better to understand what you are paying that premium for (and part of that premium involves not parting with money up front like an ignorant pleb!)

                    1. re: MoGa
                      PommeDeGuerre Feb 25, 2012 01:45 AM

                      So, for 10,000 yen you received premium items not included in the "regular" set?

                      1. re: PommeDeGuerre
                        m
                        MoGa Feb 25, 2012 10:39 AM

                        To be honest, I don't know what the lady next to me paid, but her omakase (if it was omakase) had a much wider variety of items than mine. Which means that the 5,000yen I paid didn't quite cut the wasabi and this is why I've recommended spending more. There's no guarantee you'll get a gracious and charitable benefactor next to you to fill in the gaps in your sushi education and show you what you're actually missing by not paying the extra.
                        And this was 2002.

                        1. re: MoGa
                          PommeDeGuerre Feb 25, 2012 11:44 AM

                          Thanks for the info, MoGa, and for confirming that you were not talking about eating the 3900 yen set.

          2. n
            Ninisix Jan 23, 2012 02:14 AM

            I will recommend also Sushi Kozasa, but reservation one week in advance might be too short. When i went there last September, the chef Kozasa recommended me the Sushi Taichi in Ginza, but at that time, i already knew that sushi place, having tried it 5 times. The diner 'omakase' at the sushi Taichi is at 14,000.-yens. The place is difficult to find, so it is better to meet your friend on the Sotobori Dori on the other side of the Sony Building.. Besides the chef loves fishing and is well-connected with the fishing industry...and friendly.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ninisix
              m
              marcus68 Jan 23, 2012 03:47 AM

              Thank you Ninisix. I managed to get a reservation at Kozasa, but I will definitely keep Sushi Taichi in mind for next time, or maybe for another day on my trip.

            2. m
              marcus68 Feb 7, 2012 12:41 AM

              Trip Report

              I have now returned home from my trip to Tokyo. Here are some notes about the suggestions made to me in this thread, and a great, reasonably priced, sushi recommendation:

              Kozasa was indeed very good. The restaurant is VERY hard to find, but inside it is nice and welcoming. The service was very slow. The master had no kitchen help and often disappeared into the back to prepare foods. The only other staff were two women who focused on hosting and serving drinks. The sushi was very good, but very expensive. We ordered 'omakase' and received only nigiri sushi. We also ordered a couple maki sushi at the end. It wasn't a huge amount of food (we went for ramen afterwards). We were three people. We drank two flasks of junmaishu sake and had three beers to start. The bill came to just over 40,000 yen. (My wife and I went with a young Japanese acquaintance who, it turned out, had never previously had 'high-end' sushi. He had no idea about ordering and we missed out on what would likely have been excellent appetizers. But then the already high cost would have been much higher.)

              I did find another 'mid-level' sushi place on this trip that I whole-heartedly recommend. It's a little out of the way, but if you lack Japanese language and/or sushi ordering experience, it's an ideal place. Although it's the kind of restaurant for locals, where everything is in Japanese, they employ a cute young girl as a hostess/server who happens to speak perfect English. She could guide you through the appetizer and drinks menu, and assist with your sushi course selection. We had some delicious white fish tempura (sanma, I think) seasonal vegetables in a yummy sesame dressing, one huge oyster each and a fantastic selection of sashimi. We followed the starters with the omakase nigiri course, which was really good. (Some diners were ordering cooked dishes. The braised fish head looked awesome.) We finished with about three extra nigiri each and one maki each. We drank several beers and had at least a half dozen flasks of junmaishu sake. The bill was just under 40,000 yen for all three of us. The place is called Sushi Kurami. The address is 3-5-6-103 Kachidoki, Chuo-ku, tel. 03-3534-9598. The master, Kimihiko Kobayashi, used to work at the well known Sushi Dai at Tsukiji. It seems a little out of the way in Kachidoki, but it's actually just a short taxi ride from Ginza (where we had drinks afterwards). I will definitely be back!

              I also ate at Tamoiyanse, the Kyushu izakaya. Because they focused on Miyazaki cuisine, a good deal of the menu was for chicken dishes. Their well know chicken and leek hotpot (tori-negi nabe) was a highlight. They also served perhaps my most favourite kyushu dish of sweet soy braised porkbelly with egg (the name escapes me at the moment, the menu refered to the dish as pork ragu). Speaking of the menu, it had English translations of all the dishes (very rare for izakaya), although the translations often seemed like they were done by Google Translate, and somewhat confusing.

              I really wanted to get to Sushi-ya Uoshin in Shimokitazawa, but I didn't have time.

              Thanks again to all for your help!

              11 Replies
              1. re: marcus68
                r
                ruprecht25 Feb 7, 2012 01:07 AM

                The braised pork dish you had at Tamoiyanse is called buta no kakuni (豚の角煮 or just 角煮). Their menu is posted online at their website at the below URL.

                http://tamoiyanse.com/

                1. re: ruprecht25
                  Silverjay Feb 7, 2012 06:45 AM

                  Looks like they opened up a Shinjuku location last year.

                2. re: marcus68
                  n
                  Ninisix Feb 10, 2012 04:58 AM

                  The tempura you mention seems to be 'kisu', it is a white fish, very delicious in tempura!! 
                  Right now, I want to hibernate. I might try that in Hokkaido, as Mimi seems to have found there a niche with 'opus sea food'. Same concept, but you don't have to go that far: in Higashi Ginza, there is sushi Dai Ichidai Yugo, with a omakase nigiri beginning from 6,000.-yens, where you can ask for what you want (better ask in the beginning of your orders) like 'maguro(tuna)-hikarisakana(silver fish)'. But the level of their 'neta(fish material)' is not the same as at Sushi Kozasa(for tsumami, before the nigiri, i have had awabi, uni bowl, ikurazuke, grilled anago, amadai no kombushiru, aji with nori)... 

                  1. re: Ninisix
                    m
                    MattR Mar 13, 2012 03:52 AM

                    Hello,
                    I have a question about 'mid-level sushi'. I found very different prices for lunch omakase at Sushi Kanesaka. Can anyone help with this? What are the current options?
                    thanks!

                    1. re: MattR
                      n
                      Ninisix Mar 13, 2012 08:53 PM

                      Lunch omakase at around 5000.yens might seem a good opportunity, as nigiri pieces are small and supplement per piece between 2500.- to 3000.- yens, my recommendation will be to order some more expensive omakase. After, Kanesaka-San group has 3 sushi-yasan in Ginza : sushi Kanesaka, sushi Mao, sushi Iwa(that I recommend- smaller counter).

                      1. re: Ninisix
                        m
                        MattR Mar 14, 2012 12:07 AM

                        Thank you ninisix, very informative as usual. Is English spoken at sushi Iwa as well? And what are the omakase lunch prices there? Thanks!

                        1. re: MattR
                          n
                          Ninisix Mar 16, 2012 02:45 AM

                          At Sushi Iwa, if i remember correctly, there are 3 different omakase between 4500 to 8500yens. In the Kanesaka-san group, i understand that every chef speaks english, sushi Kanesaka, sushi Mao, sushi Saito(before he came independant), and even if i didn't check it directly, i think the master at sushi Iwa will be able to explain in english some pieces... i think his pieces are more prepared than Kanesaka-san one, but that is my opinion !

                          1. re: Ninisix
                            m
                            MattR Mar 16, 2012 06:17 AM

                            Thanks Ninisix. A quick additional question. Should we agree on the kind of Omakase over the phone before going or when we get there?

                            1. re: MattR
                              n
                              Ninisix Mar 16, 2012 06:36 AM

                              The chef at sushi Iwa described me the number of nigiri pieces in each omakase, but I didn't take note soon after, so I did forget about it !
                              If you want to have sashimi with your omakase, you'd better agree before commanding ! And a phone call might be easier.. for the 'nigiri' omakase, it is not necessary.

                              1. re: Ninisix
                                m
                                MattR Mar 20, 2012 07:54 AM

                                Thanks Ninisix. I have called and they mentioned 10 pieces at 4500 and 13 at 8000 (in case someone else is interested). Because the price almost doubles, am I correct in thinking those 13 pieces are not just more but also 'better', higher quality ones?

                                1. re: MattR
                                  n
                                  Ninisix Mar 21, 2012 02:48 AM

                                  Difference, regarding the lunch omakase, is on the menu, so pieces served are dissimilar compare to the cheaper omakase. 
                                  Sushi, between sushi-yasan(shop), difference is so distinct, that even in high end you will be able to distinct it clearly..
                                  My advice is to stick to the omakase, supplement pieces are expensive, for exemple a piece might cost you between 1,000 to 3,000yens in the high end sushi-yasan
                                  After that, the thing you can do is ask if they have 'shiro ebi(white small shrimp)' ? Usually this practice is done when you visit a sushiyasan a second time, so you can switch a piece of your preference, and included in the omakase !

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