Family-Friendly Sushiya Chain

Going out for sushi as a family cuts out many options. High-end sushiya are out of the question as are many mid-range spots. Our kid loves sushi, could eat it three days a week and when we go out, it’s often for sushi. We eat a lot of sashimi at home and will also make donburi rice bowls and make luscious spreads for temakizushi hand-rolls. But, we don’t make nigirizushi and go out for that.

Sushi Zanmai is a popular chain with branches throughout the city that is kid-friendly and offers a good value. The owner, Kiyoshi Kimura, is famous around the world for having paid $1.76 million dollars for a tuna a while back. Kimura-san is a tuna fanatic and if you love tuna, then go for the maguro-zukushi (maguro-zanmai at his shop) plate which is made with different cuts of tuna. There are about a dozen stores in the Tsukiji/Ginza area alone.

The weekday lunch sets start at about 1,080 JPY ($10). Sushi Zanmai has a variety of shops including kaiten-zushi, revolving conveyor belt sushi, to proper restaurants with a counter and tables. All of the shops we have been to are boisterous. Some shops do allow smoking, so frustrating. At a recent visit we asked to be moved away from a smoking table.

I was in the mood for vegetables this evening, so I took the handrolls which was made of cucumbers, umeboshi, takuan (pickled daikon), shiso, natto, and kampyō (soy simmered gourd). Hit the spot for me.

Below is the link for Sushi Zanmai. On top you can change to language to English to see what is in your neighborhood.

Sushi Zanmai

http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/

Advertisements

Sushi For Beginners – Press Your Sushi

Pressed sushi is a great starting point if you want to make sushi at home. Best of all, even if you don’t have access to sashimi-grade seafood, you can still make sushi at home. This recipe came from a Nobu cookbook which I helped to edit. Chef Nobu is brilliant and knows what flavors appeal to the wide masses.

A box for pressing the sushi is required. Oshizushi hako 押し寿司箱 or a wooden sushi press mold. Here is an example of one sold on Amazon in the US:

https://www.amazon.com/JapanBargain-Wooden-Sushi-Press-Mold/dp/B00269NS02

For this recipe, mince shiso and myōga (ginger buds) and mix into vinegared sushi rice along with some toasted sesame seeds. Variations of this could include thin-sliced cucumbers or pickled gari (ginger).

Press the rice mixture into the wooden box that has been wiped with some rice vinegar. Press just enough to bring the rice together, but not too hard, and then remove the box. Slice into bite-size pieces and wrap with toasted nori.

To add seafood to this you could do grilled unagi, shime saba (pickled Pacific mackerel), or salmon sashimi over vinegared sushi rice.

The Nobu Sushi Cookbook in Tokyo is sold at his restaurant. I have yet to see it sold at any bookstores, sadly. Online, in the US:

https://www.amazon.com/Nobu-Sushi-Book-Nobuyuki-Matsuhisa/dp/4418133003

Sushi Chain to Put on Your Radar

Living in Tokyo it’s good to have a few sushi chain on your radar, especially if  you are parents and dining out with kids. Some popular sushiya on the budget side include Midori Sushi, Sushi Zanmai, Sushiro, Choshi Maru, and Kurazushi. One to know about is Uoriki, which is not only a sushiya, but also a seafood retail shop, so the company is buying a lot of seafood and can offer sushi menus at a good value.

Uoriki is unbelievably cheap for what it is offering. The set lunch in the upper right photo was only 1,290 JPY ($13). Check out the size of the anago (simmered sea eel). It also included ikura, chutoro, scallop, and shrimp.

The bottom photo is of silvery skinned fish, which took me a long time to get used to, but now I love these. At lunch this was only 750 JPY and consisted of: Pacific saury, horse mackerel, sardine, Pacific mackerel, and gizzard shad. As these are the fishy in flavor, they are often garnished with ginger, garlic, chives, or even pickled in salt and rice vinegar to make them more palatable.

A very easy branch of Uoriki Sushi to get to is in the Shibuya station building in the Tokyu Toyoko-ten depachika. There are a few shops on the Chuo line which we frequent. The take-away sushi is also very cheap and is usually made without wasabi so it is kid-friendly. Wasabi is served on the side.

The name, Uoriki 魚力, literally means strong fish. What a great name for a seafood retail and restaurant chain.

Uoriki Sushi

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-24-1, Tokyu Toyoko-ten Depachika B1

渋谷区渋谷2-24-1 東急百貨店西館B1F

Other branches (in Japanese):

http://www.uoriki.co.jp/tenpo/index.html#insyoku

I was recently interviewed for this piece for Saveur magazine, by Laurie Woolever:

http://www.saveur.com/conveyor-belt-kaiten-sushi

Midori Sushi

Midori Sushi is a sushiya chain, popular both with locals and tourists, that is known for its basement bargain prices. When we query our preschool son to pick what to have for meals out, it is often sushi. Our go-to place is Choshi Maru which is in our area. Choshi is a famous fishing port in Chiba and the restaurant gets a lot of its seafood directly from the port. But this evening we decided to break from routine and check out Midori Sushi.

We arrived before 5:00 p.m. and there was already a line of mostly elderly diners. Yes, it was the retirement crowd. Every time I have passed a Midori Sushi, there is always a line. We waited for about 15 minutes before being seated. One look at the menu and it is apparent why everyone loves coming here, it is very cheap. The question is how is the quality?

The chirashi zushi bowl on the left above was only 1,000 JPY ($10 USD). It was made of tuna, katsuo, kanpachi, two types of squid, shrimp, ikura, tamago, anago, and pickles of takuan and gobo. The sushi set on the right was 1,600 JPY ($16 USD) and included ikura, uni, herring roe, and much more. The neta pieces were very big, so it is a full meal. Is this silly? The two of us could have dinner for about $25 and leave full and satisfied. Lunch is even cheaper.

The rice is Yamagata haenuki and is nice for sushi. This rice is touted for its nice texture, inherent sweetness, and the fact that even if it is cold it still delicious. This is a key point when it comes to take-away sushi. The branch we went to had a small refrigerator in the front of the shop for sushi-to-go. The prices there were even cheaper than dining in, and at the time we were leaving, many of the sushi packs were discounted by about 30%.

So, the quality of the seafood? It was good. The tuna was very nice and the anago seems to be cooked in house was also very good. For the price, it is a great value.

If you are traveling in Tokyo and are on a budget, then put this on your radar. If you do not have a budget, then go elsewhere. This chain is kid-friendly if you are traveling with your family. On this Friday evening the suburban restaurant was filled mostly with retirees when we were seated. As we left, it was filling up with families. Service is friendly and there were a lot of seasonal seafood options as well as many small plates built around seafood starting at about 600 JPY.

The beverage list includes beer, sake, and shochu. We’ll be back. This may become our new go-to sushiya for meals with our son. As long as we avoid the peak dining hours when the wait could be long.

Midori Sushi’s main shop is in Umegaoka in Setagaya-ku is their biggest store. Branches can be found in Ginza, Shibuya, Akasaka, and a standing sushiya in Ikebukuro. Addresses are below in English.

http://www.sushinomidori.co.jp/tenpo_e.html

 

 

Sushi with Kids

Chiyoda Sushi

Chiyoda Sushi

When I first lived in Japan in the late 80s I would request that the sushi chef not include wasabi on my sushi, “wasabi nuki onegaishimasuI“. At one point an older sushi chef scolded me and told me I was too old to be eating my sushi without wasabi. I can now eat wasabi, but am still not a big fan. You’ll never find me buying wasabi flavored potato chips.

The other day while at our local depachika our son requested sushi for lunch. Chiyoda Sushi is an affordable chain of sushi restaurants with many take-away shops throughout the city. There was a big selection of nigiri, maki, and chirashi-zushi for take-away. The prices are quite affordable starting at a couple hundred yen. He wanted the set that we got above, which included ten pieces of nigiri and four small maki, all for only 498 JPY (less than $5 USD).

Wasabi Nuki - No Wasabi

Wasabi Nuki – No Wasabi

The only problem is that most of the sushi has wasabi on it. I asked if they could make a set without wasabi, wasabi nuki (new-key), and was told it would take about five minutes. We prepaid for the sushi and finished our shopping and then came back.

Sometimes you will find premade wasabi nuki sets at the shops. If not, ask for some to be made for you.

Shibuya Uobei Train Sushi

Uobei Sushi

Uobei Sushi

Uobei near Shibuya station is a fun spot for sushi, especially if you are dining out with your kids. This is a new trend in Japan based on the kaiten-zushi, conveyor belt sushimodel. In this new style sushi is only prepared once the customer orders it. So there is zero waste with any sushi being thrown away after a certain amount of time has passed. This is the future of fast food sushi, as new shops opening in the city take on this method.

Uobei is a large restaurant with aisles of seats facing a counter. Diners place an order on a computer screen in front of them. The menu is in English as well and is complete with pictures. Shortly after placing your order a train comes shooting from the kitchen to your spot and stops. Once you have taken off your order you push a button on the screen to send the train back to the kitchen.

Sushi at Your Fingertips

Sushi at Your Fingertips

Placing your order is half of the fun as diners scroll through the screen selecting sushi. It’s very cheap and the quality is fine. It’s not gourmet standards, but it is kid-friendly and a fun meal out with the family or friends.

Uobei is part of the Genki Sushi chain.

Uobei

Shibuya-ku, Udagawa-cho 24-8, Leisure Plaza Building

渋谷区宇田川町24-8, Leisure Plaza Building

www.genkisushi.co.jp/en/travelers/

Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Jiro Ono, master chef and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro recently celebrated his 89th birthday. Yesterday it was announced that the Japanese government is awarding him with a special honor for his contributions and hard work as a sushi craftsman. Today there was a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan and here are just some of the juicy bits. In attendance was food writer Masuhiro Yamamoto, Jiro Ono, and his eldest son, Yoshikazu Ono.

Jiro started working in a kitchen at the age of eight, so he has been in this craft for 81 years. Yamamoto said that Jiro is still far from retiring.

Jiro was awarded a distinction, similar to a Living National Treasure, when he was 80-years old. This new award is not usually given to individuals but to groups, so this new award is very unique.

During the introductions the interpreter said Sukiyaki Jiro (instead of Sukiyabashi Jiro) to which Yamamoto politely corrected her and mentioned that there is in fact a person who is called Sukiyaki Jiro. 🙂

Yamamoto-san said that he believes that Sukiyabashi Jiro is the cleanest restaurant in the world. He went on to say that Jiro says 50% cooking and 50% cleaning.

At Sukiyabashi Jiro Yoshikazu will cut the seafood and Jiro will form the sushi in his hands. This is how it is done now.

Regarding standing all day for work, Jiro said that since he started working in a kitchen from the age of 8 he was too busy to do his homework so at school he was constantly being made to stand in the hallway, so he’s used to standing all day.

The movie, Dreams of Sushi, had a big influence for Jiro. That before the movie he was famous in Japan, but since the movie he moved into a cult-like status.

About 70% of the diners at Sukiyabashi Jiro are foreigners, so for some Japanese dining there they say that it doesn’t feel like they are in Japan.

Sukiyabashi Jiro

Masuhiro Yamamoto, Jiro Ono, and Yoshikazu Ono

Jiro believes that part of truly enjoying sushi comes from eating it properly. For this reason, he teamed up with Yamamoto to write a book, Jiro Gastronomy. There is a section in the book that describes how to properly eat sushi.

Jiro is an innovator. For example, Yamamoto said that in the past shrimp was boiled in the morning and then served to the customer later in the day, but that Jiro will wait until the customer has arrived until boiling it. Yamamoto also used the example that 30 years ago sushi courses usually started off with tuna, but that Jiro started serving white fish like flounder or sole before moving onto tuna.

Very interesting fact-checking on President Obama dining at Sukiyabashi Jiro.

The restaurant opened for Obama and Abe only after the regular customers finished their meals, so no customers were told they had to give up their reservations.

The left-handed Obama is very good at using chopsticks.

Obama ate all of the omakase sushi course. Some rumors were saying that Obama had only eaten a few pieces, but this is not true.

Jiro Gastronomy

Masuhiro Yamamoto contributed to Foodie Top 100 and to Jiro Gastronomy

These are two books that were given out to journalists at the press conference. I will include these in a blogpost so stay tuned.

Sukiyabashi Jirō

Image

Jeffrey Merrihue, Jirō Ono, Yukari Sakamoto

My journey to Sukiyabashi Jirō started almost a year ago. Last February I was contacted by the Chowzter website to be the Tokyo Chowzter. I was happy to join this amazing team of chowzters and helped to suggest my favorite spots in Tokyo here. Chowzter will help you in many parts of the world. Over the course of the year I have met people behind the scenes at Chowzter as well as London Chowzter, Niamh Shields, cookbook author and brilliance behind Eat Like a Girl. Chowzter founder, Jeffrey Merrihue, as been very hands on from the beginning. I remember a while back Jeffrey e-mailing me and asking if I had been to Sukiyabashi Jirō. I said no, and that I would love to go someday, especially if Jeffrey sponsor my meal. He said that when he was in Tokyo we would go. While I did not hold my breath, I never forgot, and kept waiting for news of his arrival.

Well, the great news came. Jeffrey was coming to Tokyo. He was going to be here for a week to film chef Yoshihiro Narisawa for a documentary. He managed to get a 7:00 p.m. reservation for two at Sukiyabashi Jirō in the busy month of December. We arrived a bit before 7:00 p.m. and I pointed out to Jeffrey the two other restaurants that share the hallway with Sukiyabashi Jirō. Birdland, one of my favorite yakitori restaurants in Tokyo (it’s in my book, Food Sake Tokyo) and Nodaiwa, a branch of the 5th-generation unagi restaurant. And, these three restaurants share the same bathroom in the hallway. The bathroom is far below Michelin three-star standards. But, who cares?

In the taxi on our way to the restaurant we discussed the upcoming dinner.

“Don’t take photos,” I suggested.

Do expect a fast meal. “40 minutes?” asked Jeffrey.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it is less than 30 minutes.”

We walked in promptly at 7:00 p.m. and were seated at the counter, right in front of the master. This thrilled me as I have heard of some people dining there and having their sushi made by the son and not Jirō. It’s a simple restaurant. Only ten seats at the counter and a few tables to the side. It’s not in the Ginza subway as is often misreported. It is in the basement of a building. The access to the basement happens to be a stairwell that leads to the massive subway station that is underground the Ginza shopping district.

Seated next to us were two Japanese businessmen and at the end of the counter, an Asian couple.

We were asked if there was anything we couldn’t eat and I said that I was allergic to shrimp. The son told me that I would not be getting the kuruma-ebi or the tamago as it is made with shrimp. I nodded in agreement. The son told Jirō that I would not be having these two courses and Jirō nodded.

We ordered a beer, enjoyed a well-deserved kampai toast, and washed our hands with the warm wet towels.

There was a small wet paper napkin at each seating to wipe your fingers with between pieces.

There were three behind the counter. Jirō, his son, and a young apprentice. The young boy helped keep things running smoothly by wiping down our trays every now and then and fetching our beers. The son cut all of the seafood and would lay the cut pieces on Jirō’s cutting board. Jirō would then form the vinegared rice to the texture of a soft pillow, added the cut seafood, and serve it to each of us. The only pieces the son made were the gunkan, or pieces with nori, like the uni.

At the beginning of the meal there was a nice rhythm going with Jirō serving each of the six customers in order. But, at some point, the Asian couple slowed down the pace at which they were eating and the rhythm was awry. The rest of the four of us finished our meal together. I didn’t notice, but Jeffrey said that at one point Jirō had put more than one piece of sushi in front of the Asian guy. A minor slap of the wrist?

At the end of the meal we were asked if there was anything else we would like to have. I was hoping to try kinmedai (splendid alfonsino) or tako (octopus). I asked if we could order anything that wasn’t on today’s menu and was told no. So we said that we were finished. Jeffrey looked down at his watch and said, “twenty-nine minutes”.

We were escorted to a table where the perfect dessert was waiting for us. A slice of ripe melon. You know the ones that can sell for hundreds of dollars a piece at department stores or fruit specialty stores. The best way to end the meal.

Menu for Monday, December 16, 2013

hirame – olive flounder

sumi-ika – cuttlefish

kanburi – winter yellowtail

akami – tuna

chūtoro – medium-fatty tuna

ōtoro – fatty tuna

kohada – gizzard shad

mushi-awabi – steamed abalone

aji – horse mackerel

kuruma ebi – Japanese imperial prawn

akagai – ark shell

saba – Pacific mackerel

hamaguri – common Orient clam

iwashi – sardine

uni – sea urchin

kobashira – baby scallops

ikura – salmon roe

anago – sea eel

tamagoyaki – omelet with shrimp

Image

Japanese muskmelons, like this one, are the perfect finish to any meal. Juicy, sweet, and unforgettable. I love as this is the only photo of food that was taken this night. I know Jeffrey wanted very much to take a photo of one of the pieces of sushi.

Jiro Menu1

Sukiyabashi Jirō – Honjitsu no Omakase

Jiro Menu2

Menu for Monday, December 16, 2013.

Jiro Menu3

I really enjoyed our meal. And, I am still thinking about some of the pieces I had, three weeks later. Some of the highlights for me were the kanburi (winter yellowtail) that melted in my mouth. The hikarimono (silvery fish) like kohada (gizzard shad) and saba (Pacific mackerel) were seasoned just right, a bit salty and a nice tartness from the vinegar. The clams were especially delightful. The akagai (ark shell) is a red clam that had a nice crunchiness to it and the hamaguri was cooked just right and dressed with a sweet tare (soy reduction). The anago (sea eel) was so tender I have no idea how it was cut and picked up.

I was not served the two shrimp courses and thought I would get something in lieu, but did not. Oh well. C’est la vie. When the first shrimp course came around and there were only three pieces of shrimp on Jirō’s cutting board he asked where the fourth piece was. His son, kindly reminded him that I was not going to have any of the shrimp courses. Jirō then said he forgot, and the son had a small laugh, reminding his father that he is becoming forgetful. I shared this with Jeffrey and we all enjoyed the moment.

After we finished our melon we paid our compliments, “gochisō sama deshita”. The son went behind the register to collect payment and Jirō waited for us outside. He was gracious to let us shower him with compliments and posed for the photo that so many fans must ask him for.

I’ve spoken with many people who’ve eaten here. Some are disappointed that the meal is so fast. So, if you want to dine here, expect a quick meal. If you want to linger over your sushi, there are several other restaurants of this caliber who will let you take your time. I have also heard that he’s not nice to you unless you come in with a regular customer. I would have to disagree with that as the staff, including Jirō, were very kind to us.

Jirō is a shokunin, a skilled craftsman, and his art is sushi. My take-away from the night was that his time left at the restaurant is limited and I am glad that we could experience a meal with the master sushi chef. I will remember this evening for a long time. I am sure that I will be talking about the meal long after I forget it. But it is the experience that I will never forget.

Sukiyabashi Jiro1Sukiyabashi Jirō

Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-2-15, Tsukamoto Sogyō Bldg. B1

03-3535-3600 (+81-3-3535-3600 from abroad)

If wanting to make a reservation, check the website as they will say if they are fully booked for that month and when they start taking reservations for the next month.

Postscript notes:

As my friend Jeffrey says, “it was a religious experience”.

Another friend has just gotten reservations for an upcoming meal at Sukiyabashi Jirō. He writes that, “I’m trying not to have too high expectations, but simply enjoying the moment”. Wise man. If you are curious as to how this smart guy got a reservation at Jirō, he got it through this website: http://www.food-tourism-japan.com/our-service-fee.html Sadly the food-tourism service is no longer being offered. Your best bet to get a reservation here is to stay at a hotel with a great concierge or to have a credit card concierge company call on your behalf. UPDATED 7 November 2014

Sushi on Sunday in Tokyo

*** updated 2016 November

As Tsukiji Market is closed on Sundays many sushi restaurants also take the opportunity to give the staff a day off. That doesn’t mean that sushi isn’t eaten on Sundays in Tokyo.

There are several places to look to for sushi on Sunday and national holidays. Check out hotels, department stores, and large train stations. Here is a shortlist of where to go on Sunday for sushi in Tokyo.

すきやばし次郎 Sukiyabashi Jiro at Nihonbashi Takashimaya is a branch of the famous Michelin 3-star Sukiyabashi Jiro in Ginza. Nigiri or chirashi sets start at 3,150 JPY – a bargain compared to what you will pay in Ginza.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-4-1, Nihonbashi Takashimaya Honkan (Main Bldg.) 4F

03-3211-4111

11:00 – 19:00 (last order at 18:30)

Sukiyabashi Jiro is also at Roppongi Hills.

築地青空三代目 Tsukiji Aozora Sandaime at Ginza Mitsukoshi is a branch of a third generation restaurant from Tsukiji’s outer market.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-6-16, Ginza Mitsukoshi 11F

03-3561-7021

11:00 – 23:00 (last order 22:30)

魯山 Rozan at Shinjuku Isetan

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-14-1, Shinjuku Isetan 7F

03-3226-0115

11:00 – 16:00; 17:00 – 22:00 (last order 21:15)

Call ahead to make sure these restaurants are open. This was posted in 2012.

Updates (2016 Nov 3)

Seamon is a sushiya with branches in Ginza and in Nihonbashi that is also open on Sunday. I haven’t been, but several clients have and say they like the sushi here. Details in English here:

http://www.eok.jp/restaurants-bars/fine-dining/japanese/seamon/

On national holidays and Sundays, we sometimes go to the cheap chains. They are often popular with families, so best to allow time to wait in line if you go at peak meal times – 12 noon for lunch and 6 p.m. for dinner.

Sushi Zanmai with branches throughout the city.

http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/

Midori Sushi with branches throughout the city.

http://www.sushinomidori.co.jp/tenpo_e.html

Where to Have Sushi at Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Sushi

Tsukiji Sushi

Daiwa Sushi and Sushi Dai are two of the most commonly heard sushi shop names at Tsukiji Market. The problem is that they are so popular that they have such long lines, some queue for three hours. And yes, the sushi is great here, but is it worth hours standing in line? And for me, I would rather pay the same price, but have a leisurely sushi lunch in Ginza or elsewhere in the city for the same price. However, if you find yourself at Tsukiji and can’t bear to join the long lines at Sushi Dai or Daiwa Sushi, here are some other Tsukiji sushi shops worth checking out.

All of the restaurants serve an “omakase“, usually about eight pieces of sushi that are all served at the same time. But to have a more authentic experience, order piece by piece. Ask for “shun no mono” or seasonal items.

Nakaya 中家

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #8

03-3541-0211

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/46_nakaya/index.htm

Another very satisfying way to satiate that craving for raw fish is to have a donburi, or a large bowl of rice topped with seasonal sashimi. Nakaya has a selection of donburi including an uni don of creamy, sweet uni. For a very over the top bowl, you can get toro (fatty tuna), ikura (salmon roe) and uni.

 

Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し (Note in a comment below that a recent diner did not have a good dining experience here. I have always had good sushi here so not sure if it was a bad day or what.)

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #1

03-3544-1755

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/09_iwasa/index.htm

The seasonal seafood is all wild. The shop specializes in shellfish.

 

Sushi Maru すしまる

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #10

03-3541-8414

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/45_sushimaru/index.htm

Using wild and top quality seafood. One of their signature dishes is the “aburi jyu”, a chirashizushi of seared fish over rice.

 

Ichiba Sushi 市場すし

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #8

03-3541-1350

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/40_ichiba/index.htm

It is hard to resist the uni donburi or the uni and ikura donburi (check out the photos at the link above).

 

 

A post on Cheap Eats at Tsukiji Market.

Where to go for sushi on Sunday in Tokyo.

November  Seasonal Japanese Seafood (what you should be eating if you come to Tsukiji this month).

An article I wrote for The Japan Times on what to see at Tsukiji. Winter is the tastiest time to visit Tsukiji.