Sushi Zen Shibuya?
Turns out this place is a sashimi place, mostly ( very little rice), incredible in terms of sake and generally pretty amazing. Very very glad it is not tabelogued, and if you want to go: 1. Be able to speak Japanese; 2 bring an enormous ampunt of cash; and 3. Do not expect rice. Do expect the best awabi and, oddly, iwashi, ever.
Thanks for the feedback, Asomaniac.
High grade sashimi and an absence of rice means it could be the ideal place for Aunty Yabai and I.
I had a look at one of the (two) comments on tabelog, and they mentioned there was Juyondai on the sake menu - nice.
Is it the sister shop of this Sushi Zen?
I am pretty sure that this one is not related to the Hokkaido / Ginza chain - the website lists all locations, which does not include this one.
You are right, they have Jyuyondai, which I drank there. Also other classics such as Isojiman and the like. But lots of other great stuff that is lesser known as well.
You're right. I kept waiting for the sushi but it only arrived towards the end of the meal. There was some good kohada and uni on top of a small bowl of rice, but those were not stand-outs. Some of the sashimi was excellent - I particularly enjoyed the abalone and the sardine - but what I suppose really did it for me was the combination of the format (i.e., lots of sashimi and lots of excellent sake) and the atmosphere (very friendly master and fun regulars). Over the course of the evening, the atmosphere became quite boisterous and fun, the opposite of the serious funeral-like atmosphere in some sushi restaurants.
The one thing that I found incomprehensible was that a person was allowed to smoke inside (there was an ashtray outside which most smokers used, but one person actually smoked inside). I am not a massive anti-smoker, when I have had something to drink I enjoy the occasional cigarette as well, but I would not dream of smoking in a room where people are trying to enjoy the subtle flavours of sashimi, and I was amazed that the master allowed it.
Aso, it seems you will have my comments soon !! Hihi !!
Sushi Zen in Ginza, I did try it, it is ok but not more than that. The point is 'fresh product' from Hokkaido, and that is not enough to be exciting. Some pieces were more elaborate, using different texture, but overall, the work of other Ginza sushi is far better...
Kohada and maguro, that was the highlight of the sashimi degustation. And the sake selection was excellent... even if I I can't remember the names.
So I will follow with the list of the sashimi course. The 3 nigiris I had were not that great in my opinion, but the sashimi was all season impact, and the chef selection, even if small, was fine.
-Torigai (raw, good as it was thick, as the chef kept some muscle)
-Tairagai (alright, not more)
-Kohada (2 sorts, on-day marinated and saturdays i.e. 3 days). The salt on the day, and marinated on the day was bringing freshness, more oily with umami, and the 3 days was superb, allowing to enjoy the season season through the fish flesh... a good point there
- boiled shrimp (half raw, just alright in my opinion)
- maguro raw (good, very good small maguro of 120 kg, served half with chutoro and akami, enjoyable..)
- Aji sashimi (very good)
- nakaochi maki (maguro)
- hatsu katsuo (spring bonito, my favorite, even compared to the fatty autumn strong flavor one...)
- shiro ika sashimi (good)
and 3 nigiris..
I looved the kohada.. and the maguro was full of flavor, fresh from Tosa. The selection of sake is changing a lot, like every week... and we had 7-8 sorts already... oh god, each one was beating the other one. So, a place for regulars, and the chef is so friendly that you want to go there daily for 1-2 a year..
I second Asomaniac and Ninisix's observations: this is not so much a sushi destination as it is a place for high-grade sashimi and sake - and what glorious sashimi and sake it was.
The three day cured kohada was a standout, as was the akami/choutoro (sublime) and the hatsu katsuo (perfectly seasoned).
I passed on the sushi, apart from some very nice nakaochi maki at the end, in favour of devoting space to the sake.
There are no menus at Sushi Zen, so everything is Imaizumi-san's recommendation. Ninisix and I ended up trying all seven of the sake he had in stock, and each was fantastic. I was excited to find he had some of my favourites: Nabeshima, Hiroki, Isojiman, Suigei, Juyondai; and was more than delighted by two new varieties for me: Michisakari (my first time to try sake brewed with Matsuyamamii rice) and Tomizou (another great Shizuoka sake to add to my favourites list).
What I really enjoyed about the experience was the warm, convivial atmosphere which encouraged neighboring diners to quickly become drinking companions.
Imaizumi-san was a lovely host and incredibly generous with the time and care he took to give us detailed information about the fish, its origin and migration habits. It was a fabulous night as well as a great education.
Many thanks to my charming and knowledgeable dining companion and to Asomaniac for the inital recommendation.