[TOKYO] Day 22: SUSHI SHO – Tokyo’s best sushi experience by chef who dissed the Michelin man

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - entrance, door

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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Sushi Master Keiji Nakazawa

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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - fish display

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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Sushi Master Keiji Nakazawa at work
We were lucky enough to be seated right in front of the master himself. His English was limited but sufficient for explaining what and how we were eating each precious morsel.

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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Sparkling Nigori
Sparkling Nigori to start our much anticipated meal. Deep fermented flavors with a hint of sweetness and bubbly.

Sushi Sho - sea grapes, green caviar, seaweed

Sushi Sho - sea grapes, green caviar, seaweed 2
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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - appetizer - start
I forgot what these were, and didn’t write anything down. My mesmerizing moment with the above sea grape might have been to blame.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Sweet clam with Yuzu
Clam with Yuzu and Wasabi
So sweet. The citrus and wasabi really opened up my senses.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - squid and rice
Squid with Rice
So tender and not chewy at all. Warm rice in the center.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Horse mackerel with ginger and shiso leaf
Horse Mackerel with Ginger and Shiso Leaf
Usually fish served with skin have a bit more fishyness, but the ginger and shiso leaf brighten up the oily bite.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Baby Spanish mackerel
Baby Spanish Mackerel
Melt in my mouth like the fattiest of tuna, only softer and more tender.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Bonito with onions
Bonito with Onions
One word, fantastic. Perfect match of meaty fish and that sweet/tart onion on top. The intense flavors lingered for a while.

Thank goodness for ginger. I was ready for my next piece…

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - 5 day aged squid
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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Agemaki Clam
Agemaki Clam
Sweet with a little soy. Bouncy and chewy without being rubbery.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Kiss Fish
Kiss Fish
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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Cooked shrimp roe head powder
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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Sardine with seaweed and shiso
Sardine with Seaweed and Shiso
Sesame flavored seaweed wrapped around sweet and vinegary fish. Not salty or fishy as I first suspected.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Hachimoro samma
Hatsumono Sanma
Soft flesh with a snappy playful texture. The green onion “relish” added a great bright flavor.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - trout roe sack
Trout Roe
The egg sack stuck together. Soft and delicate to the touch, this was fishy in the best way possible. A burst of salty and oily pops.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - 10 day aged tuna
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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Hamaguri clam
Hamaguri Clam
Sweet like candy, seriously. With a beautiful yet subtle sprinkle of citrus peel.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Pickled Eggplant
Pickled Eggplant
A nice “palate cleanser”.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Hambagua Kyushu uni
Kyushu Uni
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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Nodoguro with yuzu
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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Torigai Cockle
Tori-gai (Cockles)
Sweet bright sea aroma. Tender crunch texture so particular, the only fair comparison would be tender tripe. Therefore, I name it “tripe of the sea”.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Bota prawn
Botan Prawn
Meaty and torched to smokey perfection. So tender and sweet. Prawns in Japan are fabulous and this did it justice.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Bota prawn head
Botan Prawn Head
Now we were really talkin’. Smokey, creamy sweetness. Umami to the power of ten.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - uni, abalone, ikura, scallop chawamushi 3Sushi Sho - Tokyo - uni, abalone, ikura, scallop chawamushi 2
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…

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Kimeski
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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Ankimo. Monk fish liver
Ankimo (Monk Fish Liver with Baby Watermelon)
Crunchy, slightly sweet and tart fruit “pickle” contrasting the creamy foie gras of the sea. Sweet like unagi sauce.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Chopped tuna ohagi
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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - Anago sea eel
Anago Sea Eel
Chard crispy edge, very soft and buttery center. Not overly sweet, so natural flavors were center stage.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - clam soup
Clam Soup
All good things come to an end, ours ended with a broth that tasted like all the shells in one pot. Clean and sweet way to finish the best omakase we’ve ever had.

 

For dessert:

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - wasabi ice cream
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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - black sesame ice cream
Black Sesame Ice Cream
Intense and unmistakable.

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.

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - tomato sorbet with sea salt
Tomato Sorbet
Concentrated, the sprinkle of sea salt brought out the flavors even more intensely. Sweet, tart and savory. Such a beautiful replica of summer tomatoes from the farmer’s market.

 

Total bill for two: omakase + additional pieces + drinks

Sushi Sho - Tokyo - final bill, price for two

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.


P.S. Chubby’s Rating
chubby rating 5

Yorindo bldg 1F, 1-11, Yotsuya
Shinjuku, Tokyo
03.3351.6387