Sushi Tanabe is on the second floor of the New Blue Nile building, in the district of Susukino in central Sapporo. The head chef and owner is Masashi Watanabe, who prior to his current venture ran a sushi restaurant at the luxury hotel Windsor at Lake Toya. Seats are arrayed around a wooden counter, the chefs preparing the sushi in front of you. By sushi bar standards, this is quite large, with a dozen seats around the counter and two tables. There were three sushi chefs working on the evening of my visit. Unusually for Japan, the sushi chef that was preparing my food not only spoke quite good English, but set out an English menu of the options, including three different set menus and a la carte choice. A plate of ginger pickled with garlic was put in front of me, I watched a chef grating some fresh wasabi root, and we were ready to go.
Sweet shrimp sushi was good, indeed having a slight hint of sweetness to to it, and excellent flavour (6/10). The sushi rice was body temperature as it should be, and any seasoning deemed appropriate to each piece of sushi, such as a little soy or wasabi, was applied to each individual ball of rice by the chef. A local Hokkaido delicacy known as hairy crab was next, and this was lovely, the shellfish having very delicate flavour indeed. Hokkaido is noted for its crab, and this made it clear why (8/10). Mackerel sushi was also very good indeed, extremely fresh and having rich flavour (7/10).
Maguro tuna was next, and although this was very good it is not the best tuna I have eaten (6/10). To be fair, tuna from Japanese waters is best in the winter (due to its diet) but even so I have eaten tuna at this time of year plenty of times in Tokyo, and this specimen was good rather than great. Salmon was similarly very nice, but not in the league of some that I ate in Tokyo a couple of months ago (5/10). A scallop was next, served grilled rather than raw. I am particularly fond of scallops, so they are a bit of a benchmark dish for me. The scallop was evidently fresh, retaining some natural sweetness, but the cooking of the scallop was imprecise, being a little too long; certainly the scallop was not chewy, but it was clearly cooked for longer than ideal (4/10).
I tried a couple of duplicates of some of the sushi that I had particularly liked (the mackerel and crab) and then the meal concluded. The sushi came at quite a pace, and I was in and out of Tanabe in 45 minutes, though this seems just to be their style of serving. I felt very welcome, with my waitress carefully attending to keeping my beer and water topped up. The bill came to ¥8,550 (£70). Overall I enjoyed Tanabe, though for me the sushi was not up there in the same league as the very best places in Tokyo, such as Sushi Yoshitake, Araki and Sushi Saito.