Dear Food Diary:
While making my list of Tokyo eats, I stumbled upon a “guide” from travel.cnn, where Shinji Nohara (local food gps) mentions Sushi Sho with the quote: “This place kicked out the Michelin researchers. The master told me they were rude and didn’t know how to appreciate sushi.” Intriguing…
Upon further web search, ChubbyHubby (just a coincidence on the Chubby part) declares Keiji Nakazawa as “The best sushi chef in the world.” In his detailed post, he clarifies that the chef didn’t kick anyone out per se, but simply pointed out the inspector’s lack of sushi knowledge. Ouch!
By dissing the Michelin man, Sushi Sho isn’t on the guide, but who cares! This was the best sushi experience I’ve had yet.
Reservation in advance is a must (in Japanese only)
Due to my lack of Japanese, I begged the front desk lady from the adjacent building (we don’t have concierge in our apt.). She reluctantly agreed and we had our reservation 3 weeks in advance, just in time to celebrate StalkerBoy’s birthday.
Tucked in a small alley in Shinjuku without any English sign, we were lost as the dot on our Google map stood still. I carefully pulled open the wooden door and worked up the courage to ask “Sumimasen, Sushi Sho?”, the response was an echoing “hai…” in multiple friendly voices, setting the tone for the evening.
In his 10 seat restaurant Sushi Sho (Sho is Master in Japanese), chef Keiji Nakazawa gloriously and masterfully serves up Edomae style sushi. He has played a big part reviving this technique where fish is aged, some for up to two weeks.
The idea of aging fish baffled me. Isn’t great sushi synonymous with freshness!? Nakazawa-san proved me wrong a few bites later by bringing out flavors not found in the flesh counterpart.
During dinner, they serve Chef Omakase at 20,000 yen (about $200, the exchange rate has been favorable). As with most places in Tokyo, lunch is usually significantly cheaper ($20-30) and less elaborate.
There was an air of seriousness, but also harmony, calmness and respect for each other, the ingredients and every customer. Service was very attentive and warm.
As the night progressed, Nakazawa-san and his apprentices made jokes here and there. Being able to communicate during a meal like this really makes a huge difference. Though some names of the fish were lost in translation, forgive me, we tried our best.
Sea Grapes aka Green Caviar
We’ve never seen these before. Roe like, it tasted of seaweed, though the texture couldn’t be further apart. Each little crunchy pop was a mini splash from the sea. Served with ponzu dipping to add flavor.
Thank goodness for ginger. I was ready for my next piece…
5 Day Aged Squid
Before this piece, I haven’t had squid that wasn’t chewy. What a contrast. This was so sweet, soft and incredibly tender. Aging does squid good. I’m guessing like beef, it tenderizes it.
Skillfully crisscrossed pattern. This was like perfume, if perfume was edible, in a mild way of course. I never had anything like it. I wrote down what the Chef said, but upon further research, kiss fish seem to reside in aquariums? Say what?! Regardless, it was an unforgettable mouthful.
Shrimp with Head Roe Powder
I’ve never been a fan of cooked ebi, but this changes everything. So sweet with a bite to it, the texture was almost like lobster. Head roe made into powder, how genius! I hate it when it goes to waste.
10 Day Aged Tuna
Not as fatty but very flavorful. A perfect balance of meaty with a light brush of soy. I see what he means about bringing out the flavor of the fish with his aging techniques. Tuna will never be the same again, heck, sushi will never be the same again, period.
So sweet and creamy. The deep rich flavor was as good as hairy crab roe. The rice is brushed with soy and a pinch of sea salt made it one dreamy mouthful. This moment called for closing my eyes and smile. I felt loved.
Nodoguro with Yuzu (aka blackthroat seaperch or rosy seabass)
OMG! I don’t mean to go all valley girl here, but OMG. Amazing. Crispy on the outside, an explosion of oil so fragrant, it will most definitely be remembered for the rest of my life. No bite has ever given me such elation. Melted on my tongue, the spicy yuzu gave me a tingle with a fruity burst. Wow.
Chawanmushi (literally means “tea cup steam”)
Smooth egg custard with strings of salty scallop. A nice piece of tender but toothsome abalone. Great plays of texture with a hint of smokiness. Obscene amount of sweet uni on the bottom, the salty ikura (salmon roe) pops balanced it all.
At this point our omakase was complete. We were both full, but couldn’t resist just a few more pieces. Actually StalkerBoy asked for more and I just had no self control…
Kinmedai aka Golden-eye seabream
So succulent. The chard melt in my mouth piece erupted with an oily umami that coated each grain of warm rice. Another winner of the night, though everything was truly spectacular.
Chopped Tuna Ohagi
Ohagi are usually rice balls made with glutinous rice. This savory version had chopped fish that almost taste like soft and tender minced meat. An onion pickle and sesame topping. StalkerBoy closed his eyes. I think he made a wish for more on his next birthday.
Wasabi Ice Cream
It had all the flavor without being spicy, except for a faint after taste. I asked how they made the flavors so intense yet kept that burn out and they all shouted “secret” as we all burst out laughing.
Kinako (Roasted Soybean Flour)
So nutty, I wished there were mochi to go along with it. No photos because I was too eager to try it and totally devoured it.
Our meal officially ended, but the table next to us ordered the tomato sorbet (we could only choose two flavors and none of us ordered it). However, my stare and drooling must of been soo obvious that Nakazawa-san took pity on me and asked the waiter to bring me a scoop. Bless him.
Total bill for two: omakase + additional pieces + drinks
Overall, this was an exquisitely memorable meal, worth every single penny. Pretty reasonable considering all the pieces and quality we had. I discovered so many new flavors. Fish I’ve never had or in ways I’ve never been presented.
The warm temperate of the rice and their different level of vinegar was individually match to each fish only a true sushi master could. Each grain was distinctively unique, some bites chewier or softer than others. All perfectly paired.
Nakazawa-san was an Iron Chef and apparently a great sensei. His protoges have gone and opened successful sushi restaurants of their own, which he documents in his book “Sushiya no ningen-ryoku” (The Abilities Behind the Sushi Bar).
Though I haven’t been to the infamous Jiro (I read non Japanese speakers are sent to their other location, reservations are overly complicated these days, plus 20 minute meal seems strict) or other big names (will have to try next time), this was by far my best and most unique sushi experience in Tokyo yet, actually ever. Alain Ducasse seems to agree.
Yorindo bldg 1F, 1-11, Yotsuya