The difference between high class and reasonably priced sushi restaurants is the amount of devotion to the quality of the “neta” (topping) that sits atop the rice. In Tokyo restaurants, chefs head out to Tsukiji fish market early in the morning and select freshly caught fish and seafood following very strict standards to ensure exceptional flavor. Particularly superior neta include “toro” (fatty tuna), sea urchin, abalone, and salmon eggs called “ikura”. Toro is the tender, fatty belly portion of the tuna, with the fattiest “otoro” type practically melting in the mouth.
Despite the sea urchin’s thorny exterior, the edible reproductive organs inside have a very soft texture.
Aside from fish and seafood, sushi topped with Japanese-style egg omelet called “tamagoyaki” is popular, with innovative styles at different restaurants.
The standards of sushi prepared by hand are said to fluctuate widely depending on the skill of the sushi chef. Some chefs are even more concerned with the quality of the rice than the neta. Attention to detail and well-honed skills in aspects such as rice temperature, quality of the pressing, and ratio of vinegar in the rice is required for top grade sushi at the best restaurants.
Many sushi restaurants are based around counter seats similar to those found at a bar, and the chef prepares sushi to order. If you sit at a counter seat, you will most likely be able to see the amazingly efficient hand movements of the chef. It’s best to eat the sushi you are served right away, before contact with the air begins to alter the flavor.
The market price for fish can change with each day, so some restaurants don’t have set prices. If you’re not sure what to order, you can try telling the chef your budget and then saying “omakase”, which means “I leave it to you”. The chef will prepare some sushi for you with the recommended toppings for that day. If there’s anything that you don’t like or cannot eat, you should mention it up front.
(Two stars in the Michelin Guide, 2017)
Launched by a young owner, Nishiazabu Taku stays open until one in the morning (a rarity among sushi restaurants) making it a fun place to drop by after a taste of Nishiazabu’s nightlife. The sushi is of course delicious, with wine and champagne on the menu, too. Relatively close to Roppongi Hills (approximately 15 minutes on foot).
Photo: eatpia. com
Average cost:JPY 18,000 –
Business hours: 6:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Closed: Sunday & National Holidays
Kapalua Nishiazabu Bldg. 1F, 2-11-5 Nishiazabu Minato-ku Tokyo
(One star in the Michelin Guide, 2017)
This much-talked-about restaurant was launched in 2009 in collaboration with sushi restaurant “Kanesaka”, which has two Michelin stars of its own. The young kabuki and film star Ebizo Ichikawa conceived the interior design, drawing even more public attention. Sushiya Mao is especially proud of its prime ingredients, acquired through the same supply chain as “Kanesaka”.
Average cost:Lunch/5,250 -, Dinner/ 15,750 – (Plus table charge)
Business hours: 11:30 a.m. -2:00 p.m. 5:00 p.m. -10:00 p.m.
Closed: Open year-round
Hotel Seiyo Ginza 1F, 1-11-2 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo