During my stay in Japan in 2015, I was eager to enjoy high-end sushi. Of course I watched „Jiro – dreams of sushi“ and my crave for these wonderful bits and bites was fired by pics of high-end sushi-yas like Jiro, Saito or Yoshitake.
In reality it turned out REALLY difficult to get a reservation, since these restaurants usually do not accept reservations from abroad. And the hotel I’ve booked finally did not offer concierge service… After 10 calls directly to Japan I had to see that I would not get a reservation this way.
So I was pretty desperate and asked a fellow professor in Tokyo if he could help me. He was so nice to recommend me a sushi-ya with a good reputation. So I visited Sushi Hakobune in Ginza. For a foreigner without any knowledge of Japanese it was almost impossible to find, thanks to the internet I knew what entrance I had to look for…so I descended into the cellar.
The place has only 8 seats per night, one seating – so it is very intimate. Inside I did not take any photos out of respect to the other guests. You can see the interior here. I was welcomed by the chef, Mr. Sakamoto, himself, who spoke some english and was very friendly. Being the only foreigner in this intimate atmosphere felt kind of weird though. I went for the omakase (chef’s choice, approx. 120 euros) option and asked for sake.
It was incredibly fascinating watching the chef preparing each course carefully and skillfully. He handled huge and sharp blades and cut the fish like a surgeon. By his handling of the product you could see the level of attention. Every piece was stored in wooden boxes, completely dry and wrapped in some special cloth. His cutting boards as well as his clothes were flawlessly clean and dry. I have never seen a kitchen als clean and organised like this.
Every course was prepared and finished seperately – no fish or rice lying around and waiting to be used. After preparing and often finishing it with different sauces and glaces the chef put the course in front of me, often with a remark on what it was and how to eat it. This was highly enjoyable.
This wonderful experience consisted of a series of small dishes – from raw over marinated and grilled to rice-based, finishing with soup and egg.
The whole meal was wonderful. The fish topped any quality I’ve experienced here in europe. Though I’ve learned that the main difference to european sushi is the quality of the rice: Here it was shere perfection – temperature, color, transparency, texture and taste. Everything was right. Sakamoto-san uses quite a bit of wasabi for his sushi, so they are pretty spicy. I liked that twist, though sometimes it was on the edge of being too much.
I will never forget this sushi-experience, that set my personal benchmark for sushi – which is quite hard, since you don’t get that kind of quality around here.