Sushi Ichiyanagi, Hatsune Sushi, Oshidori, Sushisai Wakichi
Due to some scheduling issues, this turned out to be a week with too much sushi.
Starting with Ichiyanagi - a slighly awkward meal - we were alone in the shop, and the chef had nothing to do but feed us an extraordinary amount of food that I imagine is responsible for his very high score on tabelog. About 25 pieces into the meal we surrendered, but momentum carried the chef on for another 5 pieces or so. It was almost certainly the most sushi we've eaten in one sitting and the meal only lasted about 75 minutes. As for the quality - I thought the sashimi/tsumami portion was very good, with some pieces like the awabi ranking among the best, but then the nigiri had issues that you don't expect in a top of the line shop - rice temperature was out of sync with fish temperature all through the meal (for example, right at the beginning, a very cold piece of hirame with still too warm rice), some pieces were just too big for our modest sized mouths (a good sized whole fillet of aji, cut into four, the ends tossed, and then more than a quarter of the fillet used to top each piece of sushi!). Mrs. Gargle made the observation that there was no cohesion - nigiri just felt like a piece of fish plopped on top of a small rice ball. I probably sound too critical but I think a fair observation would be that this shop is better than Kyubei, etc. but not in the top 50 sushi shops in Tokyo. (p.s. no English, but one of the staff speaks excellent Spanish, in case that helps any of you communicate)
Out in the sticks, Hatsune Sushi, our fifth meal here. Some things have changed, most notably he's using koji impregnated white rice instead of the red vinegar rice he was using previously (not sure if this is permanent), and he now proudly presents his invoices so you see just how ridiculously expensive the ingredients you're getting are. I can increasingly see why tabelog denizens are unhappy with his spiel (I mean, how many times can you hear that story?) but the sushi is top quality. Pieces here are on the large size too, but somehow they fit.
Then off to Sapporo, for a weekend of eating and drinking - starting at Oshidori - nominally a sushi place, but really a shop where you can enjoy a great range of seafood from rumoi, practically all of it fished the night before. It's more than slightly educational to try shirako, uni, tsubugai, etc. in this state - free of any decomposition/stress related flavors that you necessarily get when they've been through the distribution chain. In addition, Oshidori is a veritable stand-up comedian and a good source of information on all things Susukino.
Sushisai Wakichi, near Maruyama-koen, is a mom and pop (and kid) shop, which immediately reminded us of Hatsune, and as it turns out, the chef and Hatsune are friends. The sushi was very, very good, with the rice packed perhaps a bit too tight for my preference but not excessively so. Prices might have been cheap for Ginza, but not for places like Namba, Hatsune or even Sho and Shingo. I felt like foreigners were more tolerated than outright welcome here - in particular, it was more than slightly offensive when after the obligatory jokes about Tokyo (these seem mandatory in every meal in Sapporo), one of the suburban wives started making jokes about foreigners without any discouragement from the chef. Granted, she was on her fifth sake for the evening, but still...
Don't let anyone read this, but the kaiten-zushi place in the sapporo airport is only a little bit worse than Yasuda. (ok, I'm overstating it, but not by much)
More sushi tonight.
Meal #7 at Namba, that was the last sushi of the week. It's hard to think of a reason not to go to Namba. It's convenient (for me), even if conceptually it's all the way out there in Asagaya. The owner shops in the same places that Sho, Miyako, etc. use in Tsukiji. The rice is almost always excellent (I did have one meal when it was on the hard side for me, but his assistant had just been in a car accident back then) and I think with the exception of tuna, which is really not his specialty, the fish is invariably great. Again, tabelog is probably scoring him a bit high because of modest prices, but I feel like this is more justified than in the case of Ichiyanagi. Much more so.
p.s. octopus, if you're lucky, is going to be some of the best you've had this side of Galicia.
We tend to prefer washoku but when we are in the mood for sushi, we really enjoy Namba. It doesn't have the consistency or precision of the "top places" (whatever that might mean) but there is always a great variety and diversity and many of the high points are the equal of much more expensive places.
Sushi Ichikyu, at first, I was disappointed to have his assistant doing the nigiri, but in the end, I didn't have usual beginner's mistake of his of doing different size nigiri. Which is yurk, for me !! I know Kanesaka San sponsored him, but behind Kanesaka San in fact there is a big fan of sushi, the actor of Kabuki Ebizo !! I am not sure this idea of sponsoring is good anymore...
The use of sake kasu, ama sake is quite common, but usually the change of shari means clients that loved his style (red vinegar shari/zuke neta) might not like it, as there may be contrast, don't you think ? About the invoices, I totally agree with you, eating at sushi yasan feeling with the chef is as important, and you don't want to eat your nigiri with the 'price sticker' on it !!
Do you mind if I ask what the 'more expensive' menu is? I'm trying to book a table at Oshidori but was advised that I have to have the 12000JPY menu but it seems like there might be a more premium one?
My intention was to visit a sushi restaurant in Hokkaido since Hokkaido is well known for it seafood. Although Oshidori is not a full sushi restaurant, I'm guessing it does showcase Hokkaido seafood very well?
Your thoughts on Oshidori would be great as I'm trying to decide if this is a good choice considering that my original intention was to visit Sushi Tanabe, Hidetaka etc but failed to get a reservation.
Also, I'm assuming they don't speak any English but are welcoming to non-native speakers as well?