Being able to make it as a sushi chef in Japan is a sign of respect in itself. Being one of the top makes one even more celebrated in this respected profession. Sushi chefs in Japan go through years of training, even up to 10 years. For comparison, a sushi chef in America can land his or her first job after 12-week certification program (oh, shudder). Japanese sushi chefs take their skills seriously and it shows through in their craft. Word is that for Sukiyabashi Jiro (Michelin ***) owned by the venerable Chef Jiro Ono, you should plan on making a reservation up to 1 year ahead and if you are a gaijin who doesn't speak Japanese nor do you have a person fluent in Japanese with you, it is even more difficult to secure a reservation. The very good Sushi Mizutani (Michelin **) is said to not allow cameras as the sushi chef prefers the guest to eat the sushi right when it is served, at the right temperature. Also hailed as one of the best sushi chefs, Chef Shinji Kanesaka of Sushi Kanesaka (Michelin **), is known to be very personable and his restaurant offers a cosy atmosphere without the stern vibe like other places. Chef Kanesaka and his staff speak (basic) English too.
Deciding on one splurge-worthy Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo can in fact be quite a dilemma. Having the reputation of holding the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, how do we pick which one to go to in Tokyo? After narrowing our options and based on what we felt like, our choice was Sushi Kanesaka (while already secretly hoping for a next trip to Tokyo so we can feast at the other Michelin-starred restaurants). Our reservation was made about 2.5 months ahead, and then we patiently waited until we got to Tokyo.
|Chef Shinji Kanesaka|
If anyone has been to Tokyo, you would know that the address system there can be pretty confusing. Not all streets have names; street blocks are numbered and buildings are numbered according to how old they are. Like many restaurants in Tokyo, Sushi Kanesaka can be difficult to find. It's located in the basement level of a building with no English signage. It was our first night in Tokyo and armed with our iPad and using the GPS, we saw a koban that we resorted to for directions. Thanks to a Japanese friend who gave us this practical tip before left for Japan: you can approach the koban (police box) for directions. The locals do it all the time. Even the Japanese get confused with their own address system. At the mention of the name Sushi Kanesaka, the police recognized it rightaway and gestured that it was just across the street from where we were standing.
The restaurants seats 14 people at a time. Chef Shinji Kanesaka takes care of the counter section at the back while his assistant chef takes of the front section closer to the entrance. We of course lucked out and was taken care of by Chef Kanesaka himself. In relative terms, Chef Kanesaka is considered young (he's in the 30s) and yet is impressively ranked among the top sushi chefs that are older than him in age. He is personable and occasionally engages in light hearted and brief dialogues in between moments when he puts his skills to work with the sushi knife and fish.
What makes Sushi Kanesaka so great is that as much emphasis is placed on the premium quality of fish, a great deal of attention is given to make the sushi rice perfect. When a piece of nigiri is served, the rice is very slightly warm and moist. Not too sticky but enough just to hold the rice together so they don't fall apart. In our mouths we feel each grain of rice and its perfect texture every time we pop a piece of nigiri into our mouths. The quality of the fish is unquestionably excellent and fresh.
The restaurant offers offers two options of omakase with the choice of either ¥20,000 or ¥30,000. Our decision to go with the first option turns out to be a good one. The variety of fish presented is excellent and there are more than enough items to make us so full.
|Raw oyster in the shell|
|Cod sausage liver|
|Bonito, with dipping sauce on the side (sweet soy sauce, ginger, scallions)|
When preparing nigiri, the chef traditionally brushes soy sauce over the fish so no additional soy sauce is needed. Nigiri is also traditionally and usually eaten with the hands. Pick up the piece of nigiri and put the whole piece into your mouth in one bite.
|Maguro; first soaked in soy sauce, patted dry with paper, then served|
|O-toro, tuna belly|
|Horse mackerel with dill|
|Ikura; contrasting temperature of cold (ikura) and warm (rice)|
|Anago; soft and melt-in-the-mouth texture|
|Rolled maki with minced fish|
The meal is capped off with a piece of tamago which sounds far from being indulgent since, you know, it's only egg after all. But the tamago really gave me the urge to say to Chef Kanesaka "This is the best tamago we've had". Inside the tamago the texture is custard-like. Chef Kanesaka's face lights up, smiles humbly, and says "It has shrimp in it". We tasted and saw no shrimp in it but maybe that's the secret to making the best tamago, ever.
Misuzu Bldg B1F
2012 2-Michelin Stars
2011 2-Michelin Stars
2010 2-Michelin Stars