Lunch @ Tenzushi Kyomachi 天寿し 京町店 (Fukuoka, Japan)

May 26, 2020 in Japanese

There are a few masters in the Japanese culinary world that I really want to meet. And chef-owner Isao Amano of Tenzushi Kyomachi is one of them.

So while planning my itinerary to travel South for my (2 early) 2019 trips, I thought I should at least try securing myself a seat at head chef Amano san’s sushi counter even though I heard it will be super difficult. And I guess one can say it was with much faith when I decided to use Tableall for the onerous task. Keke. If one has been following my blog long enough, one would know I always relied on Tableall with my harder restaurant reservation.

And so… I sent my request to Tableall in mid October ’18. After exchanging a few emails, Tableall managed to snag a seat for me in early April ’19. Woohoo! And I must be really lucky to book with only 6 months notice because when I was dining at the restaurant (in April), I learnt that they were fully booked for the remaining (8 months) of 2019.

One should also know that while Tenzushi is in Fukuoka Prefecture, the shop isn’t in Fukouka (the capital city of Fukouka Prefecture). Well… Am sharing that cause I didn’t know prior. Sheepish grin.

Now… I used Tableall a few times now, but it was a first when Tableall specifically asked me to be 15 minutes early for my appointment. I would normally reach the restaurant before my reservation time, but that message got me reaching a little way too early. For my 12pm reservation, I reached at 11.20am. Ha. And no surprise that the entrance door was closed and I had nowhere to wander about.

But I was really excited when I finally set foot in the restaurant. To finally be able to dine at Tenzushi, and to be welcomed by head chef Amano san who was smiling so brightly behind the counter. And being the first to arrive, I was given the option to sit in the middle or by the side. Normally, I would be too shy to go for the best seat. But that day… Of the 5 counter seats, I bravely requested for the middle seat. Big grin.

And after everyone arrived and settled down, we commenced our ¥38,000 lunch with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Lean tuna (akami).

2) Dish #2 (above) – Premium fatty tuna (otoro) with salt.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Red squid (aka ika), flying fish roe (tobiko) and multi-coloured sesame seeds (nishiki goma).


4) Dish #4 (above) – Tiger prawn (kuruma ebi). And one’s eyes should never leave this sushi as head chef Amano san place it on the plate because it moves! I wasn’t expecting that because it was not as though he deshelled the prawns when they were still alive. I mean… The prawns were slightly cooked!!! I have no idea how he did it, but it was definitely a first for me. And certainly hoping to have more of these in future! Keke.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Vinegared mackerel (shime saba) with spring onion and kelp.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Penn shell and sea urchin. And for this, it was interesting to watch head chef Amano san cut a slit such that the penn shell opened up like a flap which he put the sushi rice (shari) within.

7) Dish #7 (above)

8) Dish #8 (above) – Flounder (hirame).

9) Dish #9 (above) – Belt fish (tachiuo) with pickled plum sauce (ume).

10) Dish #10 (above) – Tiger prawn (kuruma ebi) head.

11) Dish #11 (above) – Marinated medium fatty tuna (zuke chutoro). And by sheer luck, I was seated beside a famous influential instagrammer. Through him, I got to learn that the fish was marinated in dashi made from tuna flakes instead of the usual bonito stock for enhanced sweetness. And this was so good.

12) Dish #12 (above) – Sillago/Japanese whiting (kisu). And for this, the aftertaste of yuzu pepper continued to linger in my mouth…

13) Dish #13 (above) – Horse mackerel (aji) with powdered soya sauce, ginger and sesame seeds. And for this, I was told the intention of the powdered soya was to allow us to taste the ginger and fish before the soya sauce. Totally brilliant.

14) Dish #14 (above) – Red snapper with its liver.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Whelk and ladyfinger. Now… When head chef Amano san introduced this sushi (as “sazae”), I must have looked really confused. Because honestly, I didn’t quite get it. And he got his staff to bring a book to show me the picture of the ingredient. And I was totally thankful for it because I definitely enjoyed it better when I knew what I was eating. Keke.


16) Dish #16 (above) – Sea urchin from Kyushu.


  

17) Dish #17 (above) – Sea eel (anago). And it’s totally crazy but only females got to enjoy this in 2 different ways. Woohoo!

  

18) Dish #18 (above) – Minced tuna and spring onion (negitoro) with sea grapes. Another highlight piece of my meal. I loved how the sea grapes introduced a acidic fresh crisp kick and a crunch many crunches to the hand roll.

19) Dish #19 (above) – Egg omelette (tamago).

20) Green tea (above)

21) Dish #20 (above) – Musk melon.

Lunch at Tenzushi was simply amazing! Head chef Amano san was very friendly. He could speak pretty good English, and had a good sense of humour too! But what I really liked was how he was always smiling, and how his eyes sparkled as he gazed gently at us. It’s undoubtedly because of him that Tenzushi is a happy sushi place to be at. And I honestly rather be nowhere else.

Head chef Amano san’s sushi was also very different from the Edomae style that I was so accustomed to. Known as Kyushumae sushi (Kyushu style), I noticed he used orange juice instead of the usual soya sauce on quite a number of his sushi pieces. And it’s through blogger eatyourkimchi‘s interview with head chef Amano san that I learnt Kyushu style was about adding more to create new flavours. As opposed to Edomae style which was subtraction. Ie, stripping back to its simplest essence. Did head chef Amano san made his more delicious than the original? One could say his sushi was almost like… A palate cleanser? A very refreshing change. And I liked that.

And I was stoked when he gave us a CD of his recent appearance on NHK (Japan television channel). When my neighbour asked for his signature, I couldn’t help but ask head chef Amano san to autograph mine too. Keke. Such a precious souvenir!

Would I return to Tenzushi? Hell yeah!

TENZUSHI KYOMACHI 天寿し 京町店
3-11-9 Kyomachi, Kokurakita, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan (福岡県 北九州市小倉北区 京町 3-11-9)
+81 93 521 5540, Tablelog
Overall: 9
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 10
Wed – Sun : 12:00 – 15:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Wed – Sun : 17:30 – 21:00 (Dinner)
Value: 9
Service: 10
* Closed on Mon & Tues

Lunch @ Komatsu Yasuke 小松弥助 (Kanazawa, Japan)

June 2, 2019 in Japanese

My friend was trying to book Komatsu Yasuke for his December 2018 trip to Japan in September 2018 but was told they only had table seats to offer. Since counter seats are the best for sushi-yas, he was advised to call back in November 2018 for February 2019 reservation. So when my friend shared his update with me, I was like “I also want (to go Komatsu Yasuke)!” Yes, we were coinciding our trips to Japan in February 2019. So thanks to my friend, a weekday lunch reservation for 2 was secured successfully at Komatsu Yasuke. There are 3 seatings; 11.30am, 1pm and 2.30pm. My friend booked us for 1pm.

Komatsu Yasuke was previously a by-introduction-only sushi restaurant. But in 2015, head chef Kazuo Morita (suddenly) announced that he will be taking a break. And at that point, many took it that he was retiring because he was already 84 years old. So imagined everyone’s surprise relief when head chef Morita san returned in 2017. And of course, I was delighted to know upon his return, Komatsu Yasuke started accepting reservations directly from non-locals too. Yes! In English.

It’s a 10 to 12 minutes walk to Komatsu Yasuke from Kanazawa (Railway) Station. And for our 1pm seating, we reached the restaurant by 12.40pm. However, we didn’t get seated till 1.25pm because the first seating overran by a little. Likewise, we only managed to vacate the restaurant around 2.40pm for the third seating.

Upon seated, we noted the everyone was very busy preparing the ingredients for our seating. It was like watching an orchestra performance. There was so many things going on at the same time, but everyone knew what their roles were. They were very much in tuned with one another. But of course, my eyes were fixed mostly on head chef Morita san. Keke. We were lucky to be seated early; As the other customers slowly settled down, I watched head chef Morita san intently as he personally sliced the various ingredients.

A female staff went round to take our orders. Between sushi course and sashimi and sushi course, we went with the latter. We also stated our preference to have appetiser followed by sushi. And with that, we commenced our lunch with:-

1) Sashimi & sushi menu comprised of:

(A) Dish #1 (above) – Steamed awabi (abalone) served with dashi.

(B) Dish #2 (above) – Sashimi assortment of hirame (flat fish), chutoro, amaebi, aka uni and akami topped with konowata (sea cucumber innards).

(C) Dish #3 (above) – Akami zuke topped with konowata.

(D) Dish #4 (above) – Aka ika topped with salt and sesame. And to prepare this, head chef Morita san unrolled the ika which was wrapped with serviette and commenced slicing. The ika sheet was sliced into thinner sheets before they were passed on to his sous chef to slice the sheets into thin strips. Amazing teamwork and amazing knife skill. And of course, this was amazing. It just melted in my mouth.

(E) Dish #5 (above) – Head chef Morita san’s signature otoro. And we were told specifically “no sauce”.

(F) Dish #6 (above) – Amaebi. And we were told to put some soya sauce before consuming.

  

(G) Dish #7 (above) – Appetiser of (yamaimo) grated yam, akami zuke, uni and shari (sushi rice).

(H) Dish #8 (above) – Hirame with its fin, and topped with ume (plum) sauce. Again, we were told to have it with no sauce.

(I) Dish #9 (above) – Hamaguri.

  

(J) Dish #10 (above) – Unagi roll with sliced cucumber within. The unagi was charcoal-grilled by one of his sous chefs, before it was passed to head chef Morita san to make the roll. And it was simply amazing. I loved the bits of charred bits inside. So good. I was really touched and gratful that head chef Morita san taught his disciple well.

(K) Dish #11 (above) – Soup with egg, tofu and gani (crab).

And as we were almost reaching the end of our course, the (same) female staff went round to take additional orders. My friend did his homework prior and said we had to order the anago and negitoro handroll. So yes, it’s a must to order additional! Keke.

  

2) Additional dish #1 (above) – Bafun uni with a touch of salt. And this was ordered upon the staff’s recommendation. And seated at the counter, we watched the sous chef passed head chef Morita san an almost empty uni box. And instead of using the remaining uni (like how a business man would), head chef Morita san told his sous chef to get him a new box of uni! Deeply touched. It’s the little actions that showed head chef Morita san’s passion in only serving the best to his customers.

3) Additional dish #2 (above) – Anago. I would call this “double decker” because head chef Morita san folded the long strip of anago into two before using it as a neta. A real treat.

  

4) Additional dish #3 (above) – Negitoro hand roll. And this was fully done by (another) sous chef. But one should belittle it just because it was prepared by the sous chef. This was really good. I read that this could be prepared by his sous chef because head chef Morita san acknowledged his skill.

It was an amazing experience. One of the best meals I ever had in all my trips to Japan. I loved everything about it that even I, one who is pretty awkward posing for pictures, requested to take photograph with head chef Morita san. The food, the atmosphere… And yes, the Komatsu Yasuke team!!!

In fact, dining at Komatsu Yasuke was like dining in head chef Morita san’s house. I felt like a grandchild waiting to be fed really well by grandfather. Now… I wouldn’t say the food was refined. It was slightly rough, but made with lots of love. Head chef Morita san always had a wide endearing smile, and was very inclusive. He made sure he gave his attention to every customer (at the counter). Even the customer seated at the furthest end. Very lovely. And although head chef Morita san couldn’t speak any English, that didn’t stop him from interacting with us. It was really those moments I wished I know Japanese so that I could reply his questions. In fact, it kinda reminded me of how I am with my grandmother. She would speak to me in Hokkien but I don’t understand dialect and couldn’t reply her. Yeps. But both (head chef Morita san and my grandma) spoke with the same ‘loving and caring’ tone. I was really in awe.

And one really should get counter seats because I noticed only counter customers had all their dishes prepared by head chef Morita san personally. For exmaple, the unagi roll was prepared by his sous chef for customers seated at the tables.

With the 3 additional dishes and hot green tea, my meal came up to ¥20,000 (including tax, etc). Komatsu Yasuke? A must try!

KOMATSU YASUKE 小松 弥助
Kanazawa Chaya Annex, 2-17-21 Honmachi, Kanazawa, Japan (石川県 金沢市 本町 2-17-21 金沢茶屋別館 1F)
+81 76 231 1001, Tablelog
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Fri – Tues : 11:30 – 16:00
Ambience: 8
Value: 9
Service: 9
* Closed on Wed, Thur

Dinner @ Sushi Inomata 鮨 猪股 (Saitama, Japan)

March 23, 2019 in Japanese

And during my February 2018 trip, one of the sushi-yas that I went to was Sushi Inomata! In fact… With the exception of Kioichi Mitani, I booked my other sushi meals based on instagrammer @andrew_gyokudari‘s recommendation; I asked for places that’s within his Top 10 which are also not impossible to book, and he recommended me Sushi Inomata, Sushi Ryusuke and Sushi Suzuki. He also recommended Sushi Arai but I had already gone there. Also, I read Sushi Arai has since become difficult for non-locals to book head chef Arai san’s counter. But I digress…

For 6pm dinner, my hotel concierge assisted to make reservation 1 month prior. And when my reservation was confirmed, I was pre-informed the meal would range between ¥20,000 to ¥25,000.

But the thing was… Within that short 1 month from making-the-reservation to the-actual-dinner, they changed their menu. From February 2018, Sushi Inomata only offered a fixed 22 courses menu. My friend and I didn’t realise that till the end of our meal. And yes… Dinner at Sushi Inomata was supposed to be a solo affair. But when my friend learnt I was going there, she expressed interest.


And it was interesting that Sushi Inomata allowed me to make adjustment to my existing reservation via Instagram. Made me wonder for a moment if they would accept new reservation through Instagram. And yes, we exchanged texts in English. It was during our meal at Sushi Inomata that I realised it was chef-owner Kiyoshi Inomata’s fiancée wife who was replying me.

Sushi Inomata was not in central Tokyo. Located on the outskirts of Tokyo, it was a 45 to 55 minutes (metro) journey to Kawaguchi metro station followed by a 15 to 18 minutes walk. And once everyone arrived and settled down, we commenced our dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Squid. We were told it’s aged for 4 days.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Flounder (hirame).

3) Dish #3 (above) – 1-week aged black throat sea perch (nodoguro).

4) Dish #4 (above) – Needlefish (sayori).

5) Dish #5 (above) – Adductor muscles of clam (kobashira).


6) Dish #6 (above) – Sea urchin (uni).

7) Dish #7 (above) – Marinated tuna (maguro zuke).

8) Dish #8 (above) – Vinegar-marinated mackerel (shime-saba).

9) Dish #9 (above) – Sweet shrimp (amaebi).

10) Dish #10 (above) – Ark shell clam (akagai).

11) Dish #11 (above) – Whale tail (kujira).

12) Dish #12 (above) – Premium fatty tuna (otoro).


13) Dish #13 (above) – Cucumber sushi roll.

14) Dish #14 (above) – Stuffed squid.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Milt (shirako).

16) Dish #16 (above) – Medium fatty tuna (chutoro).

17) Dish #17 (above) – Marinated premium fatty tuna (otoro).

18) Dish #18 (above) – Gizzard shad (kohada).

19) Dish #19 (above) – Hand roll of marinated tuna (maguro zuke) and premium fatty tuna (otoro).

20) Dish #20 (above) – Pickled gourd sushi roll.

21) Dish #21 (above) – Egg omelette (tamago).

I only had 21 dishes because I requested not to have oyster as I wasn’t sure if I fully recovered from my oyster phobia. My friend had fewer dishes than me since she clearly knew her likes and dislikes. Because she was still hungry and I was greedy, we tried requesting for add-ons. And that’s when we realised head chef Inomata san had changed to a fixed 22 courses menu. He was apologetic he wasn’t able to offer us additional nigiri sushi.

My friend and I continued to linger a little before requesting for the bill. Although it was odd our bill took a long while to come, my friend and I didn’t mind the wait because we were quite entertained at the sight of the remaining drunk high customers. Keke. And what touched us was after the husband and wife saw everyone off, head chef Inomata san came up to us and explained he couldn’t oblige earlier because of his other customers. That’s when we realised he turned down the other customers’ requests for additional sushi too. So yes, we were touched because he must have realised my friend was hungry since she had significantly fewer dishes. I think she skipped at least 4 to 5? And he made us a sea urchin rice bowl each. We didn’t take any picture cause he requested us not to.

Including a cup of green tea, my meal came up to ¥29,800 (inclusive of tax and service charge).

Will I recommend Sushi Inomata? I definitely enjoyed myself. Sushi was great. Instead of refined, one should think of his style as bold and… Rough? Influenced by Hatsunezushi, head chef Inomata san aged (jukusei) his fishes. Though not all. His sushi was also heavier on the palate as his rice was seasoned stronger with sake less vinegar. My friend and I had lots of laughter thanks to his warm and very adorable wife too. Head chef Inomata san, the shy and gentle bear, couldn’t converse in English. So when my friend and I couldn’t understand him, his wife would take out her pocket translator and translate on his behalf. So cute. We honestly loved the husband-wife team. I only wish their restaurant was more accessible.

And since my February 2018 dinner at Sushi Inomata, there have been more changes. The space was renovated, and Sushi Inomata has collaborated with Hatsunezushi from March 2019. So instead of their former 6 operating days, Sushi Inomata is only open on Wednesdays and Thursdays with 3 seatings.

SUSHI INOMATA 鮨 猪股
Sunlive Saiwai-Cho Courthouse, 1-12-23 Saiwaicho, Kawaguchi, Japan (埼玉県 川口市 幸町 1-12-23 サンリーブ幸町コートハウス)
+81 48 211 4175, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Wed – Thur : 14:00 – 22:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 7
Service: 9
* Closed on Mon, Tues, Fri, Sat & Sun