When does Kinme (Splendid alfonsino) taste the best?

No one is more sensitive to the changing of the seasons than sushi lovers. This must be because the taste of sushi toppings is directly tied to the seasons. There are terms to describe this such as Hashiri (early season), Peak (in-season) and Holdover, and using these words to understand what state the sushi topping is in allows you grasp and enjoy the various different flavors. There is nothing that says a sushi topping is less delicious because it has a lower fat content.

For example, everyone wants to get in there and be the first eat early season toppings. It’s obvious that these would all be toppings with low fat content. But early-season toppings have a liveliness that you can’t find in other foods, and some believe that eating these types of food will give you new vitality.

Once a fish is in peak-season, we eat it as sushi. This is because the fish has grown as it approaches breeding season, gradually gaining more fat, and at this stage in its development it has a richer flavor.

And the ‘holdover’ perhaps means that since the season is about to end, we need to get our fill now. While we may feel a bit sad that the season is ending, we can look forward to it coming around again the next year.

On the other hand, there are sushi toppings that don’t seem to fit into the seasons, although the seasonal dishes are one of the important reasons that Japanese food was registered under UNESCO World Heritage.

Those are deep sea fish such as Largehead hairtail, Japanese bluefish, Pollack and Splendid alfonsino.

Deep sea fish live at least 200 m below the surface of the ocean. For example, Splendid alfonsino lives at a depth of between 100 to 800 m deep, so it would generally be thought of as in-season in the winter when it has the highest fat content. However, except just before and after spawning season, the flavor of the Splendid alfonsino doesn’t change much throughout the year. Therefore, even high-end sushi restaurants always keep it in the topping case and it’s a popular choice.

Therefore, Splendid alfonsino is never actually “in-season”.

Since very little light reaches the deep sea, the water temperature remains more or less constant. In other words, there aren’t really seasonal (temperature) changes. The concept of season may not exist there.

Even so, you can think of it as especially delicious in the winter between December and February, when it has a higher fat content. Otherwise you might start to think of it as a fish that is “in-season” all year round, like salmon, and that just doesn’t feel quite as splendid.


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Revision date: October 28, 2019

A Michelin Guide secret eater from the US?!

The other day I had a very interesting guest at Sushi University from America. I’d like to introduce them to you. It was their first time in Japan and they stayed in Tokyo for a week. They planned to see Asakusa, the Shibuya scramble crossing, Meiji Shrine, the robot restaurant and all the other usual tourist sites. However, the conversation all seemed to be focused on food.

I asked what they planned to eat. They answered that they would be going to restaurants like Tsunahachi (Tempura), Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta (the first ramen restaurant in the world to be awarded a Michelin star), and Steakhouse Sato. They had already lined up early in the morning at the Sugamo ramen restaurant, Tsuta, to collect a numbered ticket apparently.

The thing that surprised me most is that they were going to Sukiyabashi Jiro the day after their Sushi University experience.

If you are visiting Japan, I hope that you too will come to Sushi University before going to an expensive Michelin Star restaurant, so you can learn a bit about Edo style sushi. The reason is that sushi masters are just humans who want to provide something delicious to customers who will understand their sushi. For example, just slightly different parts of tuna have a totally different tastes. In order to understand these kinds of details for your chef, you need to have some knowledge of sushi toppings and Edomae-style sushi.

If you like sushi, you can’t continue to only judge the toppings on freshness and the fat content. Even if you don’t speak Japanese, with repetition, I hope you will reach a level that you can meet the challenges set forth by the sushi chef (understanding the Edomae-style techniques that have gone into each piece).

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with a special trip to visit a restaurant with a Michelin star as part of your vacation so you can boast about it with your friends. I have also visited Paris’s Guy Savoy and Florence’s Enoteca Pinchiorri, and treasure those memories myself.

Returning the conversation to the American guest, they did already have impressive knowledge about sushi. Even their sushi chef was impressed at their knowledge. They had also done their own research and were talking about Ginza’s Sawada (two Michelin stars) and SUSHI BAR YASUDA. On top of that, they had come to Sushi University to test their skills and took that knowledge to Sukiyabashi Jiro. In the major American cities, there are a wide range of omakase sushi courses that cost over $300, at which they had eaten many times and had negative comments.

They didn’t want California Rolls, they had an interest in traditional Edomae sushi.

Perhaps they were a Michelin secret eater.

If so, that’s perfectly fine. You can find sushi delicious even if you don’t have the knowledge. But with each learning experience you will enjoy the sushi even more. I hope it helps in improving your experience, even if it’s just a little bit.


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Revision date: March 12, 2019

What are good sushi restaurants!

You can determine how good a sushi restaurant is just by glancing at the topping box (neta-bako). The toppings should all be bright and shiny. This seafood was selected that very morning throughout Tsukiji Fish Market. Even when marinating in vinegar, it’s clear how lively and fresh the fish is.

Every single good sushi restaurant is small. The maximum counter space for a single sushi master to keep up with each customer is 10 seats. These excellent restaurants also have a number of regular customers and almost seem like an exclusive club.

The master conditions his customers to enjoy the toppings that he believes to be the best and the customers train the master into making the dishes they like. After all, making sushi may be a single profession, but it is a relative business and it takes time to build this deep understanding between the chef and customers.

Good sushi chefs do not play favorites to their regular customers. Good regular sushi customers are well-mannered and don’t make an unpleasant atmosphere for first-time customers. Both the chefs and customers are educated in this way. There is this sense of pure pressure in the restaurant.

Good sushi restaurants close their doors early. They need to get to Tsukiji Fish market first think in the morning.  This means they need to get to bed by midnight. So the regular customers at these restaurants get up to leave when closing time rolls around. Somewhere along the way they’ve been trained to do this.


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Revision date: June 25, 2018

Are the most prestigious sushi restaurants all in Tokyo?

It is called Edo-style sushi, so the most appropriate place to eat it is Tokyo, formerly known as Edo. The skills of chefs raised in this long history of sushi. The best fishery products in Japan — no, in the world, are all found at Toyosu Market. There is no question that combined with the veteran sushi experts, Tokyo is the battleground for sushi restaurants and where you’ll find the most prestigious locations.


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Revision date: July 16, 2019

Sushi Sho (in Hawaii)

Sushi Sho (in Yotsuya) is a restaurant where you cannot make a reservation easily. Its founder, Keiji Nakazawa, can be described with a keyword of having raised so many disciples. And the point, they run sushi restaurants that are also hard to make reservations, leads to how Nakazawa’s ideal sushi master should be. Having such a great intriguing personality, Nakazawa left his safe haven “Sushi Sho” in the hands of disciples. September 2016, he opened up Sushi Sho (in Hawaii) in The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach on Oahu. We can’t take my eyes off that now.

Address:383 Kalaimoku St, Honolulu, HI 96815

http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/hawaii/waikiki/dining/sushi-sho


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Revision date: October 9, 2017

Kozasazushi (in Shimokitazawa)

Kozasazushi (in Shimokitazawa) was opened by the legendary sushi chef, Shuzo Okada (passed away in May 2004). His successor, Tsutomu Nishikawa was, of course, his apprentice. The Omakase course is not an option at this restaurant. The only way to order is to look at the topping board and choose for yourself. This is a shop for experts and may be difficult for guests who can’t read or speak Japanese.

Address:3-7-10 Daizawa Setagaya-ku, Tokyo (10 minutes walk from Shimokitazawa Station)


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Revision date: September 29, 2017

Surprisingly, there are sushi restaurants established from over 100 years ago in Tokyo.

 

About 200 years ago (around 1810-1830), Yohei Hanaya opened up the oldest nigiri sushi restaurant in Japan. It is said that this was the beginning of edomaesushi. As expected, none of the restaurants remain to this day, no matter how popular they were in those days. However, if relating to those lasting more than a century, as many as 10 still exist in Tokyo. It is such a surprise and many respect that they’ve managed to survive, still keeping their business running now. We will introduce those old restaurants in the order of its establishment.


KUDANSHITA SUSHIMASA

First started as a stall in 1861 at Nihonbashi area, relocated to Kudanbashi and then opened the restaurant in 1923. The beauty of wooden architect managed to survive the war and it has a 100-year history. They carefully prepare sushi ingredients with appropriate amount of vinegar and salt. Take Kohada for instance, they adjust the amount of salt depending on the thickness of fish fillet, fat content, temperature and humidity of the air. Check the glossiness of the vinegared kohada fish, and decide the best timing to serve. Enjoy superb sushi prepared with the traditional recipe passed on for generations.


JANOMEZUSHI HONTEN Established in 1865


BENTENMIYAKOZUSHI Established in 1866


YAHATAZUSHI Established in 1868

During the end of Edo period, many of samurai lords who had served for Tokugawa government lost their jobs. Many of them disguised themselves as dango rice dumpling seller. The first owner of Yahata-zushi was one of them, started the business as dango rice dumpling stall and then the second generation owner began serving sushi. The fourth and fifth chef now run the kitchen behind the counter. The fourth chef has a 62-year experience and he is the respected patriarch chef in Tokyo and serves traditional Edomae-style sushi with careful preparation. The fifth chef adheres to basic principle of sushi making while embarking on new-style. He uses sun-dried salt produced in the French Basque Country for well-matured akami red fish such as tuna, and sea urchin from Hokkaido. Other must-eat ingredients are, the highest quality tuna from long-time partner vendor at Tsukiji market and rare tuna caught at the sea near Miyakejima island and matured for good five days.


OTUNASUSHI Established in 1875


YOSHINOSUSHI HONTEN

Opened in 1879, Yoshino sushi has served excellent Edomae-style sushi. Now the fifth-generation owner runs the restaurant. The second-generation owner first started using Toro, fatty tuna meat while most of the chef discarded it. That was because food freezing was not in widespread use at that time and fatty content of fish went bad quickly. Soon Toro was quickly raved by their regular customers as delicious treat. First it was called “abu” as it came from “abura” meaning fat in Japanese, but it didn’t sound as good as it tastes, so they changed it to “toro” meaning mild and tasty. They will feed you interesting stories to go along with sushi dish. One of them is that they had never considered Gunkan roll of ikura and uni sea urchin as sushi since Gunkan never requires hand rolling techniques as other hand roll sushi does. They use only salt and vinegar to make sushi rice not a slight use of sugar and mirin. And then they carefully prepare fish ingredients to go with vinegared rice. Enjoy delicious sushi dish however you like in a casual atmosphere.


JANOICHI HONTEN Established in 1889


ASAKUSA SUSHISEI Established in 1891


KIBUNZUSHI Established in 1903


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Revision date: April 11, 2017

Relax and Enjoy under Cherry Blossoms off the Beaten Path!

More and more visitors from overseas are making a point of timing trips to Tokyo during the cherry blossom season. Guidebook in their hands, they head to Meguro River, Ueno Park, Sumida River, Chidorigafuchi Park, or another popular spot. It goes without saying that the blossoms are beautiful in all of these locations.

However, to be frank, there are so many people sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re there to see blossoms or to see crowds. If you’re visiting Japan and you’d like to really experience cherry blossoms, we recommend Shakujii River.

Around 1000 trees bloom on both sides of the river and there are very few people, making it perfect for enjoying cherry blossoms on a stroll. There are actually more cherry blossoms here than on Meguro River or at Ueno Park.

After enjoying the scenery, stop by Makitazushi, established in 1972. Entering this flagship shop of Nakaitabashi is like stepping back in time to the Showa era (1926-1989). Make sure to splurge and order the special sushi selection for JPY 3024.

Location : A few minutes walk from Nakaitabashi Station on the Tobu Tojo Line

Cherry Blossom Season : April 3-April 9

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Revision date: March 28, 2017