Umi is tucked away in a quiet corner of Aoyama in Minato-ku, with the usual discreet entrance that Japanese restaurants favour. It had just eight seats arrayed around a wooden counter, with the sushi being prepared by the chef in front of you. The chef is Mr Nakamura, who took over from previous chef Mr Nagano, who died at a tragically early age in late 2015. Mr Nakamura is a very lively character, shouting out instructions to his team of staff, and looking as if he loves every minute of being a sushi chef. He does not speak much English but one of the waiters did, so communication is not much of a problem here if you so not speak Japanese. The restaurant retained its two stars in the 2016 Michelin guide.
The omakese sequence served is unusually lengthy, so if you are looking for variety in your sushi then this is an excellent choice of restaurant. The traditional pickled ginger condiment is served here as cubes rather than shreds, and was excellent, less pungent than some versions.
We began with raw white shrimp, which was sweet and of good quality, then chu toro that the chef informed us was from a 199kg tuna. Then came a trio of firefly squids cooked on a skewer. Herring was next, then a whelk and a type of cooked mussel that did not seem to have a ready English translation. An excellent piece of horse mackerel followed, then a flat fish that again defied translation. The first sushi (rather than sashimi) was shrimp from Hokkaido, followed by lovely mantis shrimp sashimi, then two varieties of sea urchin. Bonito was good, followed by excellent grouper from Kyushu, followed by slightly chewy squid. Sea bream was high quality, followed by good snapper and tile fish. Akami and otoro tuna sushi followed, these being good rather than dazzling, but I really liked the gizzard shad and mackerel that followed. There was a final prawn, then traditional and quite runny tomago to complete the meal.
The bill came to ¥54,000 including an unwise quantity of beer, which worked out at £171 per person. Hardly cheap, but then there was as an awful lot of fish, the dish sequence being twice as long as at some other restaurants. The atmosphere is relaxed, with the young staff friendly and welcoming. This is about as far as you can get from the hushed, mausoleum-like atmosphere of some of the grander sushi temples of Tokyo. The quality of the fish used was not the very highest that I have encountered (e.g. the squid) but much of it was excellent and the variety was impressive.
This trip I ate sushi in Harutaka, Umi and Wakon (Kyoto) All of the them presented very high level and quality (meaning - nearly not available in Europe). Anyway If I have to pick a winner that would be Umi cause it's the most "real one". Chef creates very lively athmosphere, with all of the shouting inside a very tiny, but lovely restaurant. He shows the real pleasure of having guests in his place. If I to come back to one of these - that'd be Umi