Dinner @ Sushi Ya すし家 (Tokyo, Japan)

December 10, 2016 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

Sushi Ya topped my sushi-restaurants-to-try-in-Tokyo list when I bought my flight ticket to Japan. I really wanted to dine at Sushi Ya. But haven’t tried making reservation for these top ranking sushi restaurants, I seriously underestimated the difficulty in making one.

Helmed by chef Takao Ishiyama, Sushi Ya is on Tablelog’s list of Tokyo’s 50 best sushi restaurants (2016). But what really made me want to dine at Sushiya was for his mackerel stick sushi (saba bozushi).

Having read that chef Takao Ishiyama could converse in English, I attempted making an overseas reservation. Yes, in English. And I was overjoyed when my call was picked up. Although the date I initially wanted was unavailable, I was given an alternate date. Perfect! I was feeling very optimistic until I was asked, “Which hotel are you staying at?”

Oh, oh. In my excitement of firming up my itinerary, I prioritised restaurant reservation over accommodation booking. Which every foodie would do the same. Erm… No?

The thing about high-end restaurants in Japan is that reservation had to be made by a local or through hotel concierge. The latter is so that if one cancels without giving the restaurant ample notice (like cancelling on the day of dinner), the restaurant would charge the meal cost to the customer through the hotel. Thankfully my IGGF (InstaGram GirlFriend) whom I was meeting to dine at Sushi Ya together (yes, we coincided our trips) had a friend in Tokyo. So we went through her friend and successfully made our reservation. We were told by her friend that we were very lucky to secure such a last minute reservation (2.5 weeks in advanced). And for 3 people, no less!

One had to enter Sushi Ya from a back alley. Locating the restaurant’s entrance wasn’t that difficult as I had a portable internet modem; I used Google map on my mobile to find our way around. And we arrived punctually at 6pm on a Friday night. I was a little surprised to see how small the space was. Rent in Ginza area must be really high.

Chef Ishiyama san, who was standing behind the L-shaped counter that could sit 7 people, was in the midst of preparing our dinner. The staff assisted us with our coats before we sat and had our orders for beverage taken. We weren’t given any menu. “We will start with green tea first.” And with that, we started our omakase dinner with another couple from the States:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Salmon roe (ikura) served with rice and topped with grated yuzu.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Mentis shrimp (shako).

3) Dish #3 (above) – Smoked bonito (katsuo). This was really good. It was such a big and thick piece that it was sliced into thirds for easy consumption.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Codfish milt.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Fermented crab egg.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Black throat sea perch (nodoguro) with scallion.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Smelt fish (shishamo).

8) Dish #8 (above) – Mackerel stick sushi (saba bozushi). And I was absolutely thrilled when I finally got to eat this. It was bigger than what I imagined from instagram pictures. Prepared before every seating, we managed to witness chef Ishiyama san preparing it for second seating before we left. Vinegar-marinated saba was placed on kelp (kombu), before it was further topped with pickled ginger, perilla leave (shiso) and sushi rice (shari) and rolled. 8 slices could be obtained from each roll. And because there was only 5 of us from the first seating. I was left wondering what happen to the remaining 3 pieces since a new roll was made for the second seating.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Salt water eel (anago), served plain.


10) Dish #10 (above) – Assorted sushi including flounder, yellowtail, medium fatty tuna (chutoro), (premium fatty tuna (otoro), marinated tuna (maguro zuke), squid, spotted prawn (botan ebi), gizzard shad (kohada), horse mackerel (aji), clam, sea urchin (bafun uni), hard clam (hamaguri), saltwater eel (anago) with salt and grated yuzu, dried gourd (kanpyo) sushi roll and omelette (tamago). Although I came with a half-filled stomach, I strangely got hungrier with every sushi. Chef Ishiyama san’s sushi was amazing. However, my IGGF didn’t really like the size of his sushi which was on the larger side.

To finally dine at Sushi Ya after seeing so many pictures of chef Ishiyama san’s sushi on instagram, I was thrilled. Could I even say it was a dream come true?

However, while the food impressed, our dining experience was marred by the tensed atmosphere. Before my dinner, a friend (who previously dined at Sushi Ya) told me the critical part of the meal was when we break the formal air and become relaxed. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for us. We were too uptight. Chef Ishiyama san initiated a conversation with us with “Where are you from?” and “I’ve been to Singapore 3 times.” But we were too ‘woodblock’ to continue. In the end, my IGGF and I entertained ourselves by trying to identify the dishes we were served as chef Ishiyama san missed out some introduction. The only time he spoke to us (after our failed attempt at starting a conversation) was when we mistaken the tuna as yellowtail. Oops!

Dinner with 3 cups of green tea and 2 (small) bottles of sake came up to ¥69,120 (after GST and service charge) for 3 people.

Will I return? Well… With so many sushi restaurants in Tokyo to conquer, probably not. Although the quality of food and chef’s skill are important, the ambience is equally important. I guess it’s unfortunate we had no chemistry with chef Ishiyama san. And being in the first seating, dinner felt somewhat rushed when it came to an abrupt end with no desserts and us having to leave for the second seating.

6-3-17 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中央区 銀座 6-3-17 悠玄ビル)
+81 3 3571 7900, Tablelog
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tue – Sun : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tue – Sun : 17:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon