26 November 2018
A long and busy afternoon in Tokyo, luckily I had that excellent unagi at Hashimoto for lunch. I ran back to my hotel to quickly get ready for dinner, as I was meeting a dear friend at Tokami this evening. I’ve not been back at the well-liked sushi-ya in about 3 years, when I had a good but unspectacular lunch at the consistently 1-Michelin sushi-ya.
Since then, Chef Hiroyuki Sato made the leap away from Tokami to a new venture, and left the still-Michelin’d sushi-ya to his apprentice. Let’s see what goes on here this evening…
We met at the entrance to the building and headed into the restaurant. Sometimes I don’t like going to sushi with a friend because the pace of it makes it harder to chat — compared to a kaiseki place where things aren’t coming out every minute or less. In any case, a busy night there, so hopefully it won’t run as fast as I usually like when I am alone.
We relaxed and soon the dinner course began. First up was former Chef Sato’s signature item, the tuna tossaki (neck) hand roll…
Excellent as before, and I can see things are gonna move fast this evening. Next up, a soup dish to start things off…
A nice dashi with the focus on the shirako (milt), nice and tasty. Then, as this is crab season, we have some jelly with roe…
Delicious, but I gotta tell you how many years it took to learn how to be able to eat this with chopsticks, me with my constant chopstick fails… Then a selection of sashimi…
The smoked katsuo (bonito) was quite nice, the kawahagi (file-fish) in a mustard sauce was not bad, and the prawns topped by a roe sauce was delicious. So far again good, but nothing too special. Then we have a salmon selection…
A grilled piece of salmon belly, so-so to be honest, helped along by some ikura. A bit mediocre to be honest here. Then a rarely-seen fish in a sushi-ya, managatsuo (silver pomfret).
Nicely grilled, worked pretty well. Not a bad set really, though with the rice being brought to the counter you know the course is shifting to sushi imminently.
Not much of a break and we quickly went into the sushi segment first with traditional opener, hirame (fluke).
A solid, meaty piece, pretty good, though the piece looked a little hacked up. Then sumi-ika (cuttlefish). Also not bad, but nothing too special. Sorry, forgot the photo here. This was followed by tairagai (pen-shell clam).
Nice, I always enjoy the clam segment of a sushi night. Though again things are moving fast and it’s hard to converse with my friend without messing up the pace. Next up, kasugodai (baby red snapper).
Pretty nice, this is very seasonal as you can imagine, so glad to have gotten it. Then we move into the anticipated tuna segment, the first being a tzuke (marinated) lean akami.
Very tasty, again the bread-and-butter of this sushi-ya is the tuna, so you gotta imagine it good. I see the rice philosophy has also been preserved from the previous regime… Then we have the chu-toro…
Very nice indeed, I so miss this, as it was March when I was last in Japan (and thus last had sushi). Then the o-toro…
Mmmm, good, though perhaps not as good as I anticipated. Then the inevitable kohada (gizzard shad) marking the turn from the tuna…
Good piece, but it’s never one of my favourites — as it always signals the end of the tuna cycle. Next up, a nice juicy kuruma-ebi (prawn).
Good, though to be honest a bit unevenly grilled, a little sloppy in the back kitchen. Next up, sawara (Spanish mackerel).
Ah, it’s the belly of the sawara, quite nice indeed. May be the best piece so far along with the chu-toro. Then we have buri (wild yellowtail).
Ah, proper yellowtail, so good to get it. Not a bad piece at all. Then hamaguri (clam).
Good, though the sauce beneath is a bit on the strong side here…that makes me worry when the eel arrives later. Then a beautifully presented saba (mackerel).
Perhaps more appearance than taste, as I prefer a thicker cut to get the full oil of the fish. So-so. Then they bring out the soup, so the course is ending soon… The soup, sadly, is nowhere as good as it was before (a signature item), and it’s just a side story now. Another sad legacy lost. And we have uni.
Not bad, I miss this so much also. Then a surprise, my favourite fish, nodoguro (black-throat perch).
I so miss this fish, though again charred unevenly by the kitchen in the back. A little disappointing, perhaps one of the biggest effects of Chef Sato’s departure is the loss of discipline?
Then anago for a finale — sorry, forgot the photo again. I was trying to keep the conversation going and it’s hard when the food comes so fast and you try to photo, take notes, and more… And yes, the sauce was too in your face, as I predicted from the hamaguri… Alas, it ends with the tamago.
Well, again, not bad, but nothing spectacular. Overall a short-ish course to be honest for the price (which seems to have gone up very noticeably), and there were too many inconsistent items — especially from the back kitchen. Perhaps this is a better place to go for lunch when you have a straight nigiri course (like last time). I wish it was easier to chat with my friend though, as I only get to see her twice a year when I am in town, so that was a bit annoying too.
But the verdict on Tokami post-Chef Sato? It’s definitely gone down a little, especially the work by those not manning the sushi counter. Otherwise it’s a bit of an imitation. Sure the tuna purveyers still control this sushi-ya, but it’s definitely got a bit of a cover band feel now, with some dodgy road crew not doing their jobs right.
We headed out and parted at Shimbashi station, and I had a slow walk in the rather warm evening. I think Tokami is always one of the overrated places, as now I’ve had 2 good but so-so meals there; losing Chef Sato pulled it down further. I’ve talked to quite a few local food people and they tell me exactly the same thing — good, but nothing special, even when Chef Sato was helming the sushi bar. And today, somewhat blurred by the inconsistency that came from the back kitchen. Too bad.
Too many good sushi-ya in Tokyo to bother with this place again in the future…
B1F, Ginza Seiwa Silver Building
8-2-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku