24 January 2015
I trekked back to Roppongi, that very odd (and annoying) district to reach my dining destination tonight, the much-raved-about sushi-ya Taku [拓]. It’s in the Nizhi-azabu area, which has no train station so it’s a bit annoying. This wouldn’t be one of the easier ones to find in the old days, but I had little trouble thanks to modern technology.
This was a pretty nice sushi bar, just about 8 seats around the counter and private table in back. I was in the corner seat and relaxed. I enjoyed some sake, having forgotten that this place was also a wine-pairing specialty place…oops!
Though I was served by the assistant chef, it also meant I had my own chef tonight — so it worked very well. Sometimes the assistant chef, as in Iwa [いわ], worked out even better. And I also noticed one of their apprentice chefs was female, another rarity in top sushi-ya — a slow but positive trend to bring more females into top sushi positions in Japan. I personally support that 101%!
The course began pretty quickly and started with two snacks.
First was the nonohana, or rapeseed. These are in season now, and I had some excellent ones at Tenko Honten [天甲 本店] in Hiroshima a few days earlier. Very nice. I love these seasonal vegetables.
Second were some humble soramame, or fava beans. These were actually quite nice. Then I was offered one of the big surprises of the night, umibudo.
These are known as “sea grapes” but are a type of seaweed. These “grapes” are full of briny goodness, like a vegetarian caviar really. Fabulous. I didn’t have time this trip to get to Okinawa where these are a specialty, but I am so glad I got some!
The service was rather quick at this point as then chef presented both the hirame (fluke) and its fin segment (engawa) from the same fish. Excellent, I like this way of serving fluke. The engawa was very tasty.
Next up was ebodai, or butterfish, lightly grilled and rolled into a sushi. Very tasty, and I got a sense that this will be a rather unorthodox evening of feasting!
Following this was a nice serving of tsubugai, or whelk. I know lots of people say it’s too chewy but these were also lightly grilled so had a very good texture. Nice!
The next was a surprise, sayori (halfbeak), cooked in these interesting thick leaves. Sayori is usually a spring fish from what I remember, so surprised it was so tasty here already in January. Good stuff!
We then had some kaki (oyster), raw and fresh with a daikon topping. I’ve really enjoyed the oysters on this trip, it being in season.
Another grilled fish next, the sawara (Spanish mackerel). This was a solid piece of good meat. So far it has been solid, with a lot to get the grill treatment. But I see the rice was being prepared so…
The first sushi item of the night was shira-ebi, baby white shrimp. These were nice and sweet today, excellent.
Next was another mild surprise as we were presented with some sliced nasu, or Japanese eggplant. These are so nice to eat raw like this, tasting of apples. So fresh…mmm…
Then was one of the stars of the sushi, buri (yellowtail). Fabulous taste, with a little bit of aging on it. Chef firmly believes in aging fish here. I like it. Noticing the rice is excellent here too.
Then a skewer of anago. Frankly it’s pretty ordinary considering how fabulous all the eel I’ve had in the last 2 weeks!!!
Then we had an interesting uni tasting here. The hokkaido one from the left was creamy, while the mildly-brined one from Aomori was more sharp. A nice tasting!
Following this was the humble ika (squid), which was not bad. The rice is really helping the weaker sushi items.
Then we had another interesting dish, shirako — from cod caught near Aomori. Having been fed so much fugu shirako recently it’s nice to get some good ol’ cod milt! Very tasty dish!
Then we have a little intermission almost, a puffed rice treat with dusted seaweed. Lol! Now with our palates cleansed we get a series of amazing fish.
First was akami, the simple lean tuna. But this has been aged for over a week and it has a deep flavour that is intriguing. I find this very interesting and tasty!
Next is the chu-toro, also aged for a week. Fabulous, it really brings out the fattiness in a way I’ve never had before. Excellent!
Item number 20 is kohada, or gizzard shad. This was an excellent piece of the sharp tasting fish, and it’s a treat when it’s like this. Mmm.
Then the kitchen brings out a small pot of chawanmushi, or egg custard, with crab. A nice item, almost another palate cleanser for us.
Up next was kuruma-ebi, a local tiger prawn. Nice tasting, it’s only lightly cooked so you taste some of the natural flavours too.
Following that was kaibashira, or the shellfish muscles. Pretty ordinary to be honest, especially with this tour-de-force of sushi. That just made the next item so much more special…
Wow…this is the roe of namako (sea cucumber). What a fabulous item, even tastier than crab! A nice treat, awesome!
Then the soup came out, based of tuna. Another palate cleanser?
Yes, cuz then we got a beautiful piece of kinmedai, or golden snapper. One of the best pieces of kinmedai I’ve ever had, fabulous stuff!
Then we were presented with a grilled fish that I thought the chef said clownfish…this is too big to be clownfish. I took down the Japanese name and I can’t find anything close to it, so if anyone can help ID this I’d appreciate it!
Then we were treated to some crazy knife skills by chef as he sliced paper-thin daikon sheets and slapped a shiso leaf within for a quick item.
Then we revisit the anago as I realised we’re near a close.
And item number 30 (!!) is the expected closer, tamago. Wow…this was a huge service!
This was one of the longest courses I’ve ever seen, and it went surprisingly quick and efficiently. For some reason I asked for 2 more. The first I forgot to take a picture but was hokigai. Then the second was pretty awesome.
This is actually ankimo, monkfish liver, with a piece of pickled radish on top. Fabulous way to serve this delicate item!
I was just chilling out with the last of my sake, chatting with chef — who spoke English reasonably well. Then my dessert came out and my mouth just dropped…
Wow, this is a tasting of 5 rather unique ice creams… Ginger, green tea, barley tea, soy sauce (!!!), and kinako (roasted soy flour). Fabulous taste, amazing contrasts! Oh this was fabulous!
I chatted a little more with chef before I took my leave. Wow, this was utterly fantastic, a very voluminous course and tasty. Lots of sushi, and some fabulous examples of aged tuna. Lovely place, highly recommended — but expect to have a 30+ item dinner!
2-11-5 Nishi-azabu, Minato-ku