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Sushi Yoshitake

7-12-20 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0032, Japan

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This sushi restaurant opened in 2004, its owner and head chef being Masahiro Yoshitake, who trained for 28 years in various restaurants before opening his own place in Roppongi, moving to Ginza in March 2000. His rice is prepared with red vinegar in the “Edomae” way, a style dating back to the Edo period more than 150 years ago. He directly buys 70% of his fish rather than using the main market. His sea urchins are sourced directly from Karatsu, octopuses and sea breams are from Akashi, Hyogoken and Hagi, Yamaguchiken. The sushi bar itself is located on the third floor of a nondescript building in a side street in the Ginza area. I counted just seven seats in the establishment, which are arranged around a wooden counter, so you can watch the chefs preparing the sushi and admire the considerable knife skills on display.

The meal began with some sashimi items and then progressed to sushi. First was a miniature squid with miso mustard and a few little vegetables. I thought this was terrific, the texture and flavour of the squid excellent, and the quite spicy miso mustard adding a welcome kick (18/20). Some octopus then appeared and as I gnawed through a piece I reached the conclusion that I have an ignorant gaijin understanding of a texture like this. Given the very high standard of what was to follow I imagine that this was superb octopus, but it was not for me. The wasabi served here is of course the real freshly grated root, and not the coloured horseradish that passes for wasabi in the west and at lesser places.

Red snapper sashimi was superb; it is a fish I have had many times before in Japan, and I have often found it chewy, but here it was not at all, having excellent texture and taste (18/20). Next was abalone, a little sauce of its liver and white asparagus. Again this was abalone of a very high standard, the texture yielding, the flavour lovely, while the white asparagus was also excellent. The only better abalone I have eaten was at Ryugin (18/20).

Bonito, which had been lightly seared, was also excellent, served with a soy sauce, the fish having lovely deep flavour (18/20). Crab with sea urchin was also very good (17/20). At this point the meal switched over to sushi. The rice was body temperature, as it should be, and a little wasabi and additional dressing (such as soy, depending on the fish) is applied to each piece of sushi by the chef in the desired amount, so there is no dish of soy or pile of wasabi to add on the side. There was a little pile of excellent pickled ginger, however, provided to us.

The first was sushi of squid, which had been finely scored with a fearsome knife with great delicacy by the chef moments earlier. If your experience of squid is of the rubbery version so familiar in the UK, then you have a treat ahead of you. The squid here was stunningly tender, a world away from what we see in Europe. This was pretty much up there with the best squid I have tasted (which was at Sushi Saito). Next was sushi of the same excellent snapper (18/20) and a Japanese white fish which apparently has no English translation (not unusual here, with 700 different fish varieties sold at Tsukiji market daily).

This was followed by gorgeous tuna, both the fatty otoro and the regular maguro tuna. The slab of tuna from which this was cut had a majestic appearance with a wonderful colour, a world apart from the appearance of tuna I see in UK fish shops. The taste matched, with silky texture and gorgeous flavour (19/20). I assumed that this would be the highlight of the meal, but what followed was even better. Salmon sushi produced a flavour I have never experienced in a salmon before. It was a really striking moment as I bit into the flesh and could experience this dazzling taste, truly a king amongst salmon. This has ruined me for all future salmon experiences, though I suppose I can always hop on a flight and pop back here (20/20).

Mackerel sushi brought me back into the land of the living, but this was also very fine mackerel (18/20). Baby snapper was also superb (18/20), and prawn sushi also excellent (17/20). Sea urchin nori roll had very creamy sea urchin. The meal concluded, as is customary, with a couple of little cubes of baked egg custard. The bill was a not insubstantial ¥49,500 for two, which works out at £191 a head, with beer (just to reassure you, I think that was mostly the sushi).   This is clearly a chunk of money, but the sushi was ethereally good, and obtaining fish of this quality must be extremely difficult. The chef was friendly and spoke a few words of English, and we felt very welcome.

I thought that, of my 3 star sushi experiences, this was almost up there with my favourite Sushi Saito.  It is near-perfect sushi.  As noted elsewhere, I have some discomfort scoring the overall experience on the same level as a restaurant which goes beyond very skilled sourcing and admittedly meticulous preparation of an ingredient, but this is right at the top of the sushi spectrum.

 

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    This is the best Sushi restaurant in my life! Thanks Andy for good advice.

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