Review: Yuuno

15 November 2017

I was extremely knackered after that very long hike through southern Osaka during the morning, so after that wonderful lunch at Kombi I took it pretty easy, just wandering around the centre of town, strolling and enjoying the environment. Osaka is interesting in its own way compared to Tokyo that’s for sure.

I had another early dinner reservation tonight, so I had to get back and change before heading to meet the Osaka rush-hour underground…never fun… I arrived at my dinner destination Yuuno a little early so walked around the busy entertainment district to see if there are bars I can check out after dinner.

I entered the Michelin-starred eatery and sat at the counter. Already I sense a different environment from last night at Taian. Last night was more traditional, tonight seems a bit more fun. I’m just enjoing some sake at the open and Chef and his entire team are cracking jokes with each other. Real belly laughs here, it’s no show. This is a fun place it seems.

Not long before the food started, and the first item was soup and snacks…

01-soup & veggies

The soup was nice, with a shellfish base but focusing on vegetables. The plate of snacks are quite diverse and nice, from gingko and chestnuts to persimmon to mushrooms, with a wee bit of karasumi (bottarga) to go along with it all. A nice opener! Then the next items were a duo of raw seafood.

02a-crab

First was a nice crab leg, which was a headache to eat. In fact I left it after I finished off the sashimi…

02b-sashimi

The tai (bream) was nice, but the smoked katsuo (bonito) was just heavenly… Reminded me of the amazing one I had during my 1st visit to Harutaka in Tokyo 2 years ago… The buri (yellowtail) was also excellent. A great start!

I enjoyed a bit more sake and found everyone here enjoying themselves — even the staff. Then we moved onto some amadai (red tilefish).

03-amadai

Hmmm…not too thrilled about this tofu-cream-style sauce under the fish, really not necessary. Kind of messed up the fish in my opinion, as it didn’t seem congruent at all. Hmmm…fusion? Then next up was a nice soup…

04-soup

You know it’s matsutake season…and with shirako, this was one excellent bowl. Lovely stuff. Then I stared at the shrimp dish that came next…

05-shrimp

I saw Chef working on this and for a second I wondered if I was in a Chinese restaurant, and he did indeed make it Chinese-style. Another fusiony item here, odd but pretty good. Then next up some tofu skin rolls…

06-tofu skin

Interesting fillings. The uni was good, and the crab brains nice, but both are a little understated to be honest. At this point Chef’s also working on beef…can it be as good as last night’s version?

07a-beef

Oh dear yes… It’s the shoulder cut, and it just melts… Another fusiony dish as we have some mashed potatoes from Hokkaido with curry. And don’t forget the mustard. Or course none of it was needed thanks to the amazing flavour of the beef… Wow, this was damn good…

07b-beef

I was really loving this beef when they started bringing the rice set…

08a-rice set

Plain rice? Hmmm… Miso paste and pickled veggies, and some soup. I guess that’s it. Really a weird ending to be honest… After some fruits they borught out a tiny cake thingy…

09-dessert

Tasty, a good end. A really nice meal overall, with some fabulous items like the beef and smoked katsuo, but with a few fusiony oddities. But again, like last night, the volume was not heavy, the dishes were less forceful than in Tokyo. Perhaps it’s the influence of adjacent Kyoto. Nevertheless a good dinner.

But I have to say this crew is really enjoying themselves. I’ve never seen the staff and Chef crack so many jokes amongst themselves. They are really having a blast while giving us a great dinner. Lots of the customers also joined in.

I headed out, pretty happy, to suddenly hear a noise behind me — Chef was sprinting out the door because he forgot to give me his card. He sprinted down the block to catch me, lol. But that kind of sums up this evening. If you like an overall fun night out, with excellent food and drink, Yuno is the place to go.

I was tired, but I needed a drink, so I headed back by metro to my hotel since I have a drinks coupon I need to use. And I stayed for a few more glasses of wine, the first wine I’ve had since LA a week earlier. Will that lead to even more?

Yuuno [ゆうの]
1-10-35 Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo-ku
Osaka, Japan

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Review: Kombi

15 November 2017

I had a long, long morning in Osaka. Even without the big breakfasts I’ve been getting used to in Hakodate, I was full of energy for the first time this trip. About a week in, so my body has adjusted. I spent the morning trekking around the southern part of Osaka, visiting many of the “tombs” of legendary emperors. I saw a few other people doing a similar trek, though mostly elderly Japanese. At the end, I calculated I ended up walking over 15km just during the morning…

I was tired and headed for a nice lunch at a little izakaya near Tennoji Station called Kombi. I had found it by accident online when I was planning my trek, as I also wanted to visit the legendary Isshin-ji Temple nearby. I dropped in and looked at the confusing lunch menu, and just pointed at something that looked good. Little did I realise it was a full course, since the price was so low…

I was just sipping on tea when the first item arrived, which surprised me (since it wasn’t pictured).

1-sashimi

It was a really nice sashimi plate, from hirame to amadai to meguro. Fresh and excellent! What a nice and unexpected start! They were in a lunch rush and as I was still working on the sashimi the next item appeared…

2-combi

Wow, what a set of delicious items here… Just look at the variety of vegetables here, from excellent roots to fabulous fungi, throw in okra and seaweed. You have fresh and preserved, raw and cooked. A few morsels of fish, meat and tofu, but the veggies were the star here. Wow, this is a set lunch?

Again, as I was working on this, the next items appeared…first the chawanmushi

c

Then the modest rice and soup…

4a-rice set

Then another surprise, the fried dish…

5-tempura

Even this tempura dish was excellent, done so well. Prawn was good, but again the veggies were the star here. Then a final dessert…

6-dessert

Wow,  I actually enjoyed this more than last night’s 3-Michelin dinner… That was very filling, far more than what I expected when I ordered. Why?

MAYBE BECAUSE THIS WHOLE LUNCH COST 15 EUROS ONLY?

Less than $20… One piece of chu-toro at a rated sushi-ya — especially in New York or London — would cost more than this entire lunch.

Now you want to tell me how bloody good New York or London is?

Kombi [こんび]
13-15 Horikoshicho, Tennoji-ku,
Osaka, Japan

* I did visit Isshin-ji afterwards and hmmmmmmmm

Review: Taian

14 November 2017

I got to Osaka after a nice kip on the flight. After that double breakfast, I needed a nap! Thank goodness I was flying into Itami instead of Kansai, so I got to my hotel in central Osaka far quicker. Wow, I’ve not been in Osaka since Jimmy Carter was running for re-election…

Thanks to traffic and other logistical cock-ups, I got to my hotel room on the late side, and my dinner reservation was sooner than I thought, so I had to head straight out the door. Thanks to the excellent concierge at the ANA Crowne Plaza, I managed a trio of excellent bookings for this part of the trip. Tonight’s dinner is at Taian.

As I’ve written in the past, my luck with 3-Michelin places have not been that great, though the last one I visited — Lasarte in Barcelona — was fantastic. Taian is one of Osaka’s 3-star places, and I was happy to have gotten this booking. I took my seat at the counter and chilled, leaving my sake selection in their hands.

Rather quickly, once the sake arrived, the opening set also arrived, and it’s quite a spread…

01a-set

An interesting set, one that shows off some good vegetable and seaweed use. The shirako was excellent, as was the sayuri (needlefish). A clean, delicious opener, nice! Next item was a thing of beauty…

02a-soup

Looks so simple right, this soup with a daikon and vegetable top? Look at it more closely…

02b-soup

The broth was delicious, the daikon and veggies beautiful, and the quail ball on the bottom was a treat. Really nice, shows off the artistry here too. Then we have a sashimi set.

03a-sashimi

Both were delicious. The tai (bream) was very clean, while the katsuo (bonito) was full of lovely flavours having been lightly grilled. Really nice. At this time I also see Chef working on some beef in the background, and that was apparently next…

04a-beef

Oh my, this was some really, really good beef…

04c-beef

Delicious, just delicious. At this point I was quite thankful that this is one of very few places in Japan I’ve been to that’s not overheated; in fact, it was extremely comfortably cool. Good food, good sake, this is really nice! Then we shift to a fried dish now…

05-amadai

A really nice local root with amadai (red tilefish). Delicious, and the batter was quite interesting with a lot of texture. I love how the scales of the fish was fried alongside the fish, and worked perfectly. Fantastic execution here, balancing crispy scales with juicy soft meat. Pretty happy this evening.

After a bit more sake the next item came…chawanmushi.

06-cream

Is it? I still can’t tell, because it was more like a cream soup! A nice amount of shrimp too, but this was just so odd I wasn’t sure… Then the rice set arrived…

07a-rice set

A really nice assortment of mushrooms with this rice, lovely but very subdued stuff here. I finished it and then the dessert was presented.

08a-dessert

A rather interesing fruit dish in tomato jelly, with Grand Marnier sauce. Nice dish, though at one point I bit into some crystalised sugar that caused a loud noise — which surprised Chef (oops?). Anyway, that was the dinner.

Pretty good, but it’s very different from the kaiseki places in Tokyo I’ve gotten used to. Far more traditional despite a few curve balls, less in-your-face cooking than some of the Tokyo kappo places I really like. The rice was a perfect example.

I can’t say this was fabulous, but it was good, and ran smoothly — and quickly too. Probably one of the least expensive 3-Michelin place you’ll visit, but it was also a bit underwhelming overall.

I headed back to my hotel and decided not to go back out afterwards as I had a long, long day tomorrow here in Osaka. But a good start to my first visit to this town in 37 years…

Taian [太庵]
1-21-2 Shimanouchi, Chuo-ku
Osaka, Japan

Feasting in Excess in Hokkaido Part 2: The Morning Edition…

13-14 November 2017

One of the joys of visiting Hakodate is to enjoy the fresh seafood in the mornings. Much like Tsukiji in Tokyo, the Hakodate Morning Market (Hakodate-Asaichi) has become way too touristy. However, you can still find amazing seafood as the sun’s slowly crawling up. That’s indeed what I did, and more…

Though I ate too much the night before, especially the fabulous sushi at Minami, as well as the nitecap, I was game. I was up early, still affected by jetlag. So I went for a early morning walk around the Morning Market before the hoardes of Chinese tourists inundate the relatively small market zone.

I looped around the outdoor places, enjoying the hawkers trying to entice me for a fresh quick snack. They kept trying to sell me crab, but all I wanted this morning was scallops — and many weren’t ready for it for some odd reason. So I ended up dropping into one of the indoor places called Ebisuya Shokudo and ordered a breakfast bowl, Hokkaido-style…

1-bowl

Mmm…you can’t say I’m not getting my eggs for one thing. The ikura was just lovely and fresh, perfectly rich — not the salty crap you get elsewhere. The uni was fabulous as you can imagine, and kani (crab) was just sweet and delicious. But I was also dying for hotate (scallop) so I ordered one to close my breakfast off…

1-hotate

Oh this was so nice… Sweet beyond belief…oh I’m happy, but full!

This, plus all the carbs in the rice (one problem…) gave me energy to have a long stroll around the famous Goryokaku. What a wonderful way to spend the late morning, just looping this magnificent fortification, with very few people around to bother you, enjoying the lovely views and pondering how to historically attack this technically impressive design.

And despite the large breakfast, I decided to drop into the restaurant at the observation tower; I didn’t fight the Chinese tourists going straight from bus to observation deck back to bus… But Shunka is supposed to be a nice place to eat, so I decided to have a big lunch…

I relaxed with a beer and ordered a nice set of food and chilled out in the private room. Relaxed and was scrolling through my hundreds of photos from the morning when the food began arriving. First up, just as how I closed up breakfast, hotate

2-hotate

Not as good as breakfast at the Market but not bad… Then the town’s most famous item, ika (squid).

2-ika

Grilled nicely, lovely taste. I also saved the butter sauce from the scallop to use for this. I can east this stuff all day. Something else I can eat all day are shishamo

2-shishamo

I love these fish, but this was kinda meh… Then finally, salmon belly…

2-salmon belly

Again rather meh (turns out to be the 1st of 2 mediocre bellies, success not until #3) but a filling end. I was beyond stuffed… I thanked my server and headed out into the rain. I caught the tram back towards the hotel, overshooting it by a bit. I had walked past a shop I wanted to visit last night en route to dinner. So I ended up making a pricey yet nice but heavy purchase — a pair of beautifully carved wooden wild boars. Love the artistry of this country with animals…

I went back to the hotel and had a quick nap despite how hot the room was…I’m the only person in Hokkaido not wearing a coat. In any case, I had a mixed evening trying to find food as my dinner destination turned out a shambles, as written in the previous post. But I still went to bed extremely full…

The next morning I got up early once again, and went back to the Morning Market for more. This Hakodate trip was too short, as I am flying to Osaka midday. Again I couldn’t find any of the hawkers offering me anything I really wanted, so I went to another of the indoor places, this time the well-regarded Ikura-Tei.

3-bowl

The bowl here honestly was not as good as yesterday’s version, but was still nice. However, it didn’t really do it for me. I went for a long walk around the Market again and further out. And after an hour of walking I still had a little time before I had to go back to my hotel to grab my bag, so I dropped into another place that few tourists will ever find called Kuishimbo.

It’s a simple, family-operated place with a lot of seafood. I just went with another bowl as this will do for lunch…

5

This third bowl was the best of the lot — by far. Yesterday’s was fantastic, but this is just unreal. The ikura was awesome, the uni even better. The awabi (abalone) was a treat, as is the crab. And this was the cheapest of the bowls. I definitely know where to go next time I’m in Hakodate!

Sadly that marked the end of my excess in Hokkaido for this short stay. I headed to the airport extremely full after 2 days of excessive feasting…but it had to be done! Off to Osaka!

Ebisuya Shokudo [恵比寿屋食堂]
9-16 Wakamatsucho

Shunka [旬花]
43-9 Goryokakucho

Ikura-Tei [いくら亭]
9-15 Wakamatsucho

Kuishimbo [くいしんぼう]
8-24 Wakamatsucho
Hakodate, Japan

Feasting in Excess in Hokkaido Part 1: The Evening Edition…

12-13 November 2017

After that brilliant sushi dinner at Minami I wandered around for a bit. My hotel room was boiling hot, even with the window open and the fan blasting, so in the meantime I just strolled around town. And as you can imagine I wanted to try even more of the amazing seafood this island offers, so I decided to challenge my stomach…

I circled back, going more than half way back to Minami, and found a place called Kaijyu, one that had plenty of seafood for show. I sat at the counter and ordered several items, and also a glass of shochu. It’s late, I wanted something with more of a kick. Of course the freebie just happened to be squid rings in ink…

1-00-squid in ink

So nice (albeit messy)…only in Japan! Then the food order started to arrive…

1-01-hotate

Hotate…finally a Hokkaido scallop in Hokkaido…so sweet it’s just lovely… Then a bit of a curveball with hoya

1-02a-hoya

Yeah, the very weird sea squirt/sea pineapple. Some call this iodine in a shell… I’ve not had it since Seoul many years ago at the amazing Goraebul, and it’s as weird as it was then… Then some shishamo

1-03-shishamo

Again, I can eat this fish non-stop…it’s so addictive. Next up some excellent fresh namako (sea cucumber)…

1-04-namako

I love this as a sashimi…so nice and crunchy it’s a great drinking snack. All the time I’m drinking a wonderful shochu madefrom kombu (sea kelp)… Then the last item…

1-05a-clam

A glorious clam, full of flavour cooking in that butter….so delicious, goes so well with the ocean-based booze! What a great late-night feast!

I headed out really happy, and really, really full…way too much food today. But that made me sleep quite well. I got up early the next day and hit Hakodate’s famous Morning Market. I will chronicle my “morning eating” in the next post, but breakfast was awesome and lunch good and extremely filling. Sightseeing, shopping and a good nap, I was ready for another evening of food.

Tonight I had booked Ikasei, although the second (less famous) location near my hotel (the main branch was closed for the day). It’s famous for the “dancing squid” you can find on Youtube, but I just wanted good food. I got there and ordered a drink and some food, chilling at the counter. After a nice mushroom starter the order started to arrive.

2-01-pickled squid intestines

First up a great drinking snack — pickled squid intestine and miso. Salty and good, condusive to heavy drinking. Then we got awabi (abalone).

2-02-abalone

Very plain, a bit disappointing to be honest. At the same time they brought out my glorous fried garlic…

2-03-garlic

Oh my, isn’t this nice? All with some miso paste. I enjoyed the food but sat around for awhile wondering where was the rest of my order? I gave them a few looks before I finally asked. They shrugged at first, I suspect hoping I order more drink. Then I asked again, without ordering more booze…

After awhile they admitted they had run out of the squid I had ordered…why didn’t they say something? I gave up and just settled up and left. What a cluster of a place… That was disappointing!

I wandered around a little and ended up in an izakaya across the street called Tairyobata. Took a counter seat in the cozy drinking den and chilled out with a drink, and placed my order. Let’s hope this ends up better! With drink in hand soon the food started arriving…

3-01-crab brain

First up some pickled crab brain…again, salty and nice, a heavenly drinking snack. Then we got more namoko (sea cucumber)…

3-02-namako

Perhaps not quite as good as last night, but still gloriously crunch and tasty. Then we got some crab tempura…

3-03-crab tempura

Nice, but hard to eat — as you can imagine. Tried to pry as much meat out of those thin legs as I could using chopsticks, which is actually pretty useful if you use it the wrong way here… Then finally, some salmon belly…

z1

Bit meh to be honest, the 2nd not-so-great salmon belly of the day (after the one at lunch, which you’ll see in the next post), but filling enough. However, I was still game for a wee bit more, so ordered a few more things and another drink. Sake arrived quickly and I continued to enjoy myself when the second set started to arrive.

z2

First up was some awabi (abalone), again kind of meh like earlier this evening. Not sure why… Then we got an interesting one, squid cartilage tempura…

3-06-squid cartilage tempura

These were nice and crunchy, love how they use all the parts here. Then another tempura dish, this time of fish cake…

3-07-fishcake tempura

A nice snack to have when you’re drinking. I was about to ask for one more when I decided to ask where my last dish was…and they shrugged. So I didn’t order the drink. Then a few minutes later I asked about it again…

At the end they admitted they forgot to put in the order for the quail egg…FFS, what is with this town? I just settled up and headed out. This was far better, but still… This is frustrating! But oddly, this saved me from eating the only meat on this Hokkaido trip…

I went back to my hotel, where the heat in my room was still unbearable…crazy indoor heating that seeps through… I went to the rooftop bar and had a martini, which wasn’t bad though I had to stop them from dunking an olive into it… I chilled out and decided to go across the street to yet another izakaya, this time Gaya.

They told me that it was last orders, so with my drink I ordered a set of food. Let’s hope third time a charm, and they won’t cock up my order!

I had switched to shochu again, needing the extra kick. I drank a bit quicker and then the food began arriving. First up, hokigai

4-01-hokigai

Lovely clam, love the personal grill. Nice stuff. Then next, stuffed ika (squid).

4-02-stuffed ika

This was a mistake, as it was just drowned in a horrible wasabi-kewpie thing… Ugh, had to scrape most of the sauce off… Then finally a good salmon belly on my 3rd try of the day…

4-03-salmon belly

That was enjoyable, then one of my weaknesses — shishamo

4-04-shishamo

Again I can eat this stuff non-stop, especially while drinking… At this point they came and said last call…I thought it was already? But they gave me a second chance, so…why not? I had to close with hotate (scallop)…

4-05-hotate

Back with my personal grill, this was wee small, but the lip was nice. Then finally, some squid innards…

4-06-squid innards

There was a squid in the water tank trying to escape, nearly made it flying pretty high out of the water, so that got me to order this. The saltiness of this awesome drinking snack got me to finish my last drink pretty quickly.

Okay, that was good! And frankly I was way full at this point. I walked back to my hotel, and my room temperature was now somewhat bearable. I was a little sad that this was already my last night in Hakodate on this very short stop, but at least I now know where to go next time.

Oh, did I mention the breakfasts? See my next post…

Kaijyu [海寿]
24-6 Toyokawacho

Ikasei Daimon [いか清 大門]
6-10 Wakamatsucho

Tairyobata [大漁旗]
7-17 Wakamatsucho

Gaya [雅家]
8-14 Wakamatsucho
Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan

Review: Minami

12 November 2017

As I always do when I visit Tokyo, I try to get away to visit some other part(s) of Japan. This trip I decided to make 2 such short trips, and the first one brought me north to Hokkaido for the first time. Target — Hakodate.

I took the short flight north to Hakodate via Haneda, where I had a surprisingly good sushi lunch at the airport (try finding airport food this good elsewhere). I got to Hakodate mid-afternoon, and enjoyed a stroll around with the weather nice and cool. I was looking forward to my dinner at the top sushi-ya in town, Minami.

Minami is the sole sushi-ya with a Michelin star in this Hokkaido town. With so much of Japan’s seafood coming from up here, I was really looking forward to an interesting sushi course. I made the 20-minute walk to the cozy sushi-ya, joining a counter-full of local diners. I relaxed with a sake as the course slowly began, first up katsuo (bonito).

01-katsuo

A tasty little morsel here, a nice start. Next up was ebi (shrimp) flash-boiled.

02-ebi

Again, nice, it brought out the sweetness of the shrimp very well. Next up, aji (horse mackerel).

03-aji

Nice and rich, a tasty piece. Then Chef takes a piece of amadai (red tilefish) and sears it using hot wooden skewers…

04-amadai

Mmm, tasty. Brought out lovely colours too. So far it’s starting very nicely. Then we get sawara (spanish mackerel)…

05-sawara

Interesting with the onions, again I really like the focus on richer fish up here with the colder waters. This was exactly what I was looking for! Then next up was quite an interesting piece…

06-kodai

This was kodai (snapper) wrapped around its own liver. Really nice. Then some beautiful awabi (abalone).

07-awabi

Really nice, boiled in sake, lovely flavours here. Then a really beautiful presentation of shirako.

08-shirako

With shaved karasumi (bottarga) and topped with roe, this was just a creamy delight. Mmm! And we close off the segment with a bowl of soup…

09-turtle soup

Made from softshell turtle, a really nice flavour that also helped to clear the palate as we began the sushi segment. I see Chef working hard on the most famous item of this town, ika (squid).

10-ika

Some mad knife skills here, too bad you can’t see the intricate pattern from this photo. Then we get tai (bream)…

11-tai

Usually not one of my favourites but this was really nice. As was the hirame (flounder)…

12-hirame

Then we warp into chu-toro

13-chutoro

Lovely piece, this one just melted in my mouth… Then he takes another piece of toro that’s been aged and brings the metal grill on top of the stove to just sear the fatty belly…

14-seared toro

Oh my goodness this was just pure heaven…the aging brought out something really nice here, as did the searing. I needed a refill of my sake with this beauty…wow…

Caught my breath, and we continue. This is putting last night’s Ozaki mess to shame… Kohada (gizzard shad) as usual…

15 kohada

Nice and oily, somehow tastes better when in cold Hokkaido. Then we shift to a few clams, of which Hokkaido is also very famous. First up tairagai (pen-shell).

16-tairagai

Mmm, excellent. Then akagai (ark shell)…

17-akagai

Really nice. Then a pretty big surprise the next one. I had to look this one up after Chef told me the name in Japanese. It’s semi-ebi — the wee Japanese “blunt slipper” lobster.

18-semi-ebi

Oh my this was good… These things are actually kinda cute, so I don’t recommend you googling for more pix…

This place is awesome! Then some really fabulous buri (yellowtail)…

19-buri

Just lovely to get fresh, wild yellowtail…such a different taste from the farmed stuff you get in most places…

20-hamaguri

Then a really tasty hamaguri clam with eel sauce, a really fat one. Clam lovers would love this. Then with the unagi we came to a close…

21-unagi

Oh my goodness this was so soft it just melted in my mouth… Ridiculously good.

22-tamago

The tamago marked the end of the sushi, closed off by a piece of fruit to end the night. Darn that was good. You may be surprised that I was in Hokkaido and there was no ikura, uni or hotate for the course, but those are breakfast foods — as you’ll see in an upcoming post…

The seafood is fantastic, the atmosphere was fun but solid. As he was making a maki later on chatting with the customers he accidentally rolled it onto the floor — to much hilarity. He laughed quite hard as he had to start over to make a new one. No poor presentation here (unlike last night).

Minami can easily compete with the best sushi-ya in Tokyo. Quality is top-notch, price is modest, and it’s a really good place to enjoy an evening of excellent food and banter. I may not understand much but you can tell Chef was trying to include me in all the banter with the other customers. So a good time for all.

Highly recommended if you are in Hakodate. Heck, if you’re not, think about coming up here and dropping in here for dinner. You’ll be glad.

Minami [美な味]
9-5 Suehirocho
Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan

Review: Ozaki

11 November 2017

I took it easy after the nice lunch at Sakuragawa, as the lunch was more filling than I had planned, and I had booked my dinner on the early side. The afternoon was spent doing some shopping, as well as packing for my detour out of Tokyo for a few days. In any case, my last dinner on this leg of the Tokyo trip is at a less-talked-about, 1-Michelin-starred sushi-ya, Ozaki.

I arrived and was promptly directed to a counter seat with a party already adjacent; in fact, this turned out to be one of the squeeziest sushi-ya I’ve been to in awhile, but that’s part of the whole experience — as long as you don’t get poked or elbowed ad nauseum

I chilled out and let Chef Ozaki handle the sake selection, and we were off. The first item for me and the person adjacent was somewhat different. He got uni and jelly, I got crab and jelly…

01-crab

A very generous portion of crab and roe, though I’m not the biggest fan of jelly. Nevertheless very nice start. Then we went full-on with again a generous portion of chu- and o-toro

02-toro

Mmm, this was excellent, lovely quality. I also noticed Chef seems to have a spring in his step when he’s making his sushi, almost like a wee dance. Adds to the entertainment value. Then next up was shirako cooked in citrus.

03a-shirako

I’ve really come to enjoy shirako over the years, in any preparation. This was quite good, the citrus seeping into the sauce that brought out the creaminess of the shirako. So far really good!

Then after a second sake is presented we are served the sashimi plate, and it’s looking quite good…

04a-sashimi

The hirame (flounder) was nicer than usual, though I miss the crunchiness of the awabi (abalone) at lunch — not to say this was not good, because it was. Nice prawn and fugu as well, and a bit of karasumi (bottarga) as a great closer. Nice selection! Then was a wee fried dish…

05a-croqueta

Mmm, softshell turtle croqueta, really nicely done here… I imagine my Spanish friends would find this fascinating. Then we had the uni dish…

06a-uni jelly

Again the jelly, as I am having what my neighbour had to start; oddly his crab had no jelly. Not bad, but I would have preferred this one without the jelly…felt repetitive… In any case, then next up was my favourite fish in the world, nodoguro (black-throat perch).

07-nodoguro

Oh no…this was not good. Overcooked, which destroyed the oily awesomeness of this fish. I don’t remember ever having such a disappointing serving of nodoguro…sigh…

At this point I took a big swig of the sake and requested another, just as we move into the sushi segment of the dinner. First up, ika (squid).

08-ika

Hmmm, this was meh at best…let’s just say I’ve had much better, even in North America… A little concerned about the slide in quality of this dinner all of a sudden. Next up, engawa (fluke fin).

09-engawa

Not bad, although I’ve had better versions of this really tasty part of the fish. Hmmm… Next up, ebi

10-ebi

Again, very ordinary. Kind of worried here to be honest. Then we have saba (mackerel).

11

Now this was nice, finally. Then we shift to the lone tuna, the lean (having already had the fatty stuff earlier)…

12-maguro

Not bad, but I thought this transitioned not too well, as next up was hamaguri

13-hamaguri

Good clam, but the rice — which tasted very nice with the seafood — was falling apart badly. In fact, this was one of the messier sushi meals I’ve had due to the rice falling apart so badly… Then we have a pair of eel…

14-eel

First was the “shirayaki” version, with salt and wasabi. Not bad at all. Then the “kabayaki” version with sauce…

15-eel

Nice, well done. But then I was a bit surprised when I see Chef making a maki…is this over already?

16-maki

And look at how sloppy this was…geez…really shocked a top sushi shop would be this sloppy. But I have to say then the tamago was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen…

17-tamago

Wow, right? Then another maki, at least this held together…

18-maki

A burning hot soup, and then green tea pudding and we were done. Honestly I don’t know what to say. This dinner seemed shorter than usual, and much sloppier than usual. Not a worry if the environment was relaxed, but the way the items fell apart just seems really way too lax and lacking in care. That first roll was just so poorly made…

This place may have a Michelin star, but it’s not one I’d return to, nor one I’d heartily recommend. Some of it was fab, such as the toro opening, but some of it was really poor. Now I understand why for a supposedly top sushi-ya the Tabelog rating was so, so low… Oh well…

Ozaki [おざき]
3-4-5 Azabujuban, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan