Dinner @ Sushi Suzuki 鮨 鈴木 (Tokyo, Japan)

October 12, 2020 in Japanese

For my February 2018 meal at Sushi Suzuki, my hotel concierge assisted to make the reservation in January 2018. And I was pre-informed that the omakase course would cost about ¥30,000. And for my 7pm appointment, I managed to arrive at the restaurant punctually although I was slightly thrown off-guard by Google map. For some odd reason, Google map directed me to the smaller road behind the building when one should really enter the building from the main road.

Seats were pre-arranged. I was led to sit between pairs of men dressed in suit and engaged in some pretty serious conversation (by the tone of their voices). Guessed they must have come for dinner after work. And the ambience at Sushi Suzuki was pretty quiet and solemn. And after taking my drinks order, I commenced my omakase dinner (¥30,000) with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Blow fish.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Grouper with salt, and Japanese spotted prawn (botan-ebi) with wasabi.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Whale with ginger.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Steamed oyster with yuzu.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Blow fish (fugu) milt with caviar. And I was cautioned by chef-owner Takao Suzuki that it was going to be hot.


6) Dish #6 (above) – Steamed abalone. Very tender and nice.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Black throat sea perch (nodoguro).

8) Dish #8 (above) – Saba bozushi (mackerel stick sushi). This was good! Pretty stoked that this was served as 2 pieces too.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Mullet roe (karasumi).

10) Dish #10 (above) – Monkfish liver (ankimo). I was surprised this was a cold dish.

  
  
  
  

  
  
  

11) Dish #11 (above) – Sushi assortment; Flounder (hirame), striped jack (shima aji), tuna (maguro), medium fatty tuna (chutoro), premium fatty tuna (otoro), baby gizzard shad (shinko), needlefish (sayori), sea urchin (uni) rice, squid, ark shell claim (akagai), tiger prawn (kuruma-ebi), clam (hamaguri), sea eel (anago) and rolled egg omelette (tamago).

At this point, head chef Suzuki san asked if I was full. Since I’m one who eats till I’m 120% full rather than 80%, I said “1 more”. He asked me to choose the fish I would like to have, but I asked him to recommend instead. And as I was having my baby snapper nigiri sushi, I watched head chef Suzuki san dish out scallop nigiri sushi for the pair beside me. And it looked so good and tempting. So when head chef Suzuki san followed up and asked if I was full, I couldn’t resist but say “1 more” again. Haha. I really was just being greedy by this point cause I was already 110% full.

  

12) Add-ons (above) – Baby snapper (kasu) and scallop (hotate).

Now, the pair beside me showed no sign of ending their omakase meal yet. I watched them being served giant penshell nigiri sushi. And as with my previous sushi, head chef Suzuki san checked to see if I was full after I finished my (additional) scallop nigiri sushi. But this time round, I nodded instead of letting greed get the better of me. Ha!

With the 2 additional sushi and my green tea, my dinner came up to ¥40,000 (inclusive of tax and service charge). And I have to say this was one expensive dinner. It was even more expensive than some of my sushi dinners at restaurants which had Michelin star. Uh huh. Sushi Suzuki has no Michelin star, though one may argue that it’s ranked Bronze by Tablelog.

So a brief history about Sushi Suzuki… Head chef Suzuki san trained for 12 years at Sushi Aoki (in Ginza, Tokyo) before opening his own restaurant in 2015.

It was pretty amazing watching head chef Suzuki san make his sushi cause he was fast! When I was still chewing (slowly) on my sushi, he was already preparing my next sushi. And that’s even when there were 5 of us! And for his sushi, his sushi rice (shari) was warm. And one could taste the slight distinct sourness of the vinegar used to season the rice. Don’t get me wrong. I actually like my sushi rice that way.

Would I recommend Sushi Suzuki? Well… I honestly enjoyed what he dished out. However the price tag just didn’t seem to justify. It’s way too expensive. I would recommend Sushi Suzuki if my dinner cost 25% lesser. But if one really wants to try head chef Suzuki san’s food, probably make reservation for lunch where I heard it’s cost less than half compared to dinner. Yet still being able to enjoy equally quality sushi. But if price isn’t a factor, Sushi Suzuki is relatively easy to make reservation. Pretty handy if one needs a last-minute (ie, same day) booking.

SUSHI SUZUKI 鮨 鈴木
6-5-15 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中央区 銀座 6-5-15 銀座能楽堂ビル 5F)
+81 3 5537 6868, Tablelog
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 6
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Nishiazabu Taku 西麻布 拓 (Tokyo, Japan)

October 4, 2020 in Japanese

Unlike my Japan trip in 2018 which my sushi planning was based on recommendation from a Japanese foodie instagrammer, my February 2019 trip was planned to my foodie friends’ recommendations. In particular @zachdevours‘. Whom I also nick ‘InstaGram Bottomless Pit’ on my blog. My gosh. It has been a long while since I mentioned IGBP here. Keke.

And like me, IGBP travels to Japan annually. Well okie… Minus 2020 cause of COVID-19. However, while I preferred checking out different places, IGBP and his family would religiously return to their regular sushi-hunts. So I was keen to check out IGBP’s recommendations (Nishiazabu Taku and Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi) and understand the ‘pull factor’.

My hotel concierge assisted to make the reservation at Nishiazabu Taku. Got them to specifically request for head chef Kenji Ishizaka as I read that customers at Nishiazabu Taku would be served by either head chef or sous chef. And it would have been nice too if I managed to match my appointment date with IGBP’s, but somehow our meal schedules just couldn’t align. Boohoo.

The L-shaped counter could sit up to 8 people. And at 6pm, I was the first to arrive at the restaurant. I guessed I must be the only one eating early that evening because once I settled down, head chef Ishizaka san immediately commenced my ¥21,600 omakase dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Broad bean. And I was unsure how exactly to eat these when head chef Ishizaka san placed the dish in front me. Seeing my puzzled look, I was told to pick it up with my hands and squeeze the bean out from the skin. Ahhh…

2) Dish #2 (above) – Sea cucumber with jelly.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Flounder.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Grilled flounder fin.

5) Dish #5 (above) – イボダイ. Am able to share the fish’s Japanese name (and in Japanese character) because head chef Ishizaka san made reference to a book while trying to explain the fish that was served. And yup! It’s a small butter fish.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Clam, lightly grilled. And was told to enjoy it with salt.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Baby snapper. And to give me a gauge of how ‘big’ the baby snapper was, head chef Ishizaka san said he could only get 2 such pieces from it.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Ice fish with fresh sea weed.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Needlefish.

10) Dish #10 (above) – Cod milt.

11) Dish #11 (above) – King salmon from Hokkaido.


12) Dish #12 (above) – Short spine sea urchin.

13) Dish #13 (above) – Purple sea urchin.

14) Dish #14 (above) – Shiitake mushroom with ponzu sauce.

15) Dish #15 (above) – King squid, aged for 5 days.

16) Dish #16 (above) – Squid legs, served with a little salt.

17) Dish #17 (above) – Steamed egg (chawanmushi) with clam stock.

18) Dish #18 (above) – Spanish mackerel belly.

19) Dish #19 (above) – Smoked Spanish mackerel. And for this, I was told it’s a cut from the back.

20) Dish #20 (above) – Rock fish. And interestingly, I was told to eat the fish & vegetables separately.

21) Dish #21 (above) – Sandwich of daikon, shiso leaf and Japanese plum (ume).

22) Dish #22 (above) – Baby tuna (meiji maguro).

23) Dish #23 (above) – Swordfish. And instead of serving a (solid) slice of swordfish, he made the topping with swordfish scrape.

24) Dish #24 (above) – Premium fatty tuna (otoro).

25) Dish #25 (above) – Gizzard shad.

26) Dish #26 (above) – Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi) with wasabi & soya.

27) Dish #27 (above) – And from the same Japanese spotted prawn (from the earlier dish), the remaining portion was grilled and served as a nigiri sushi.

28) Dish #28 (above) – Mackerel and turnip.

And by this point, I couldn’t resist but tell head chef Ishizaka san that I was full. His sushi was like size L, by the way. Very big mouthful! And he replied me by saying “Last one.” Last one? Okie!

29) Dish #29 (above) – Sea eel. And I could tell head chef Ishizaka san used lesser sushi rice for my last piece of my sushi. Keke.

30) Dish #30 (above) – Egg omlette (tamago). And it’s interesting that there’s 2 different textures within the 1 piece; The top half was smooth while the bottom half was like custard cake. Nice!

31) Dish #31 (above) – Miso soup.

32) Dish #32 (above) – Just when I thought I had come to the end of my meal, head chef Ishizaka san asked if I wanted ice cream. Oh my god. But not being able to resist even though I was full, he went on to mention there’s 5 flavours. Unable to choose 1 (since I would want 1 of each), I asked him for his recommendation. To which he said “3?” HAHA! And he must have noticed my eyes widening because he continued by saying “small ones!” Too cute.. And I went with his recommendation of kinako, shouyu and houjicha.

So on the night of my dinner, head chef Ishizaka san attended to 5 (including me) while the other 2 seated at the counter were attended by the sous chef. There was also another group in the private room. And while head chef Ishizaka san didn’t speak much, one could tell he takes a lot of pride in the dishes he put in front of us. He would often gently gaze at me to check my reaction and to make sure I was enjoying myself. He’s pretty chilled (or open-minded?) too because he didn’t mind the pair of (Japanese & non-Japanese) customers conversing loudly. And I noticed he alternate cooked dishes (otsumami) with the sushi-s. A pretty ingenious idea actually to prevent sushi ‘saturation’ especially since his sushi was pretty big.

IGBP who always had head chef Ishizaka san for their previous meals at Nishiazabu Taku suddenly had the sous chef for their 2019 meal. And he shared with me that there’s definitely a difference. So I would say it’s necessary to request for head chef Ishizaka san if one decides to dine at Nishiazabu Taku.

And a little more about head chef Ishizaka san… He didn’t start off being the head chef at Nishiazabu Taku. Kenji Ishizaka san was training at Ginza Kyubey when he crossed path with Takuya Sato san. On the fifth year of opening Nishiazabu Taku (2010), Sato san got Ishizaka san to come onboard as the second chef. And it was in 2016 when Sato san decided to relocate to Hawaii to help a friend (master chef Keiji Nakazawa of Sushi Sho-Tokyo) to open a sushi restaurant (Sushi Sho Honolulu) that Ishizaka san stepped up to become head chef of Nishiazabu Taku.

So do I recommend 1 Michelin starred Nishiazabu Taku? Yes, but it wouldn’t be a restaurant that comes immediately to mind if one asked me for sushi-ya recommendation in Tokyo. How should I better put it… It was a good meal but the dining experience didn’t leave a deep impression. But that’s because rather than trying to impress by taking out slabs of fishes, etc, head chef Ishizaka san allowed his dishes to speak for themselves. And that also meant he had minimal interaction with customers. It was as though he didn’t want to disturb us unnecessarily. So yes, if one is in a big group and would like a place where one could converse freely yet still be able to enjoy safe and good sushi, Nishiazabu Taku is definitely the place to go to.

And the lack of attention on social media meant if one left planning to the very last minute or have extra meal slots for filling, one should be able to get a seat at Nishiazabu Taku pretty easily. But having said that, don’t take the risk by booking a few days ahead only. At least 1.5 weeks notice please!

My meal came up to ¥21,600, including tax and service charge.

NISHIAZABU TAKU 西麻布 拓
1F, 2-11-5 Nishiazabu, Minato City, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 港区 西麻布 2-11-5 カパルア西麻布 1F)
+81 3 5774 4372, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 7
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Sun

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 ¥30,000 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! But do note that since I booked my meal through Tableall, I pre-paid ¥38,000 (including tax, Tableall’s handing fee, etc) for my ¥30,000 lunch menu (not including tax and service charge).

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