March 22, 2014

Tokyo 2014: 3 stars without magic

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It's my final meal of this Tokyo trip, and the Wommer and I wanted to do another 3-macaron sushi joint. We ended up booking Sushi Mizutani (鮨 水谷) for lunch today, which was very fitting given that Mizutani Hachiro (水谷八郎) learned his craft under none other than Ono Jiro (小野二郎).

After getting ourselves seated, I politely asked for permission to photograph my food.  My request was denied, which didn't come as a total surprise to me, as I had heard of Mizutani-san's aversion for people photographing his food.  He explained that if he allowed me to take pictures, he'd have to let everyone else do it, too.  Oh well...

We opted for the sashimi and sushi combination, and eagerly waited for Mizutani-san to prepare our food.  And in comes the sashimi...

Olive flounder (平目) - soft yet bouncy.

Abalone (鮑) - very plump, very, very, very tender.  Light and elegant fragrance and flavor.  One of the best I've ever had.  No doubt steamed with wakame (わかめ).

Ark shell mantle (赤貝ひも) - never had this before.  Interesting...

Pen shell (平貝) - a thin slice was lightly grilled and wrapped in seaweed.  More chewy than I liked.

Next came the nirigi sushi:

Gizzard shad (こはだ) - fatter and softer than the one at Jiro.

Squid (烏賊) - thick, a little crunchy, but yields to the teeth.

Akami (あかみ)

Medium fatty tuna (中トロ) - velvety.

Fatty tuna (大トロ)

Ark shell (赤貝) - softer than what I'm used to.

Cockle (鳥貝) - very nice, but loses to the amazing ones at Jiro.  This required significantly more chewing.

Scallop (柱)

Geoduck (海松貝) - surprisingly sweet, since I usually dislike geoduck.  Didn't get any of the purple-tinted tail...

Needlefish (針魚) - I looooove needlefish, so I was really happy.  Served with a dab of marinated, ground shrimp powder.

Tiger prawn (車海老) - very pretty and delicious, as it's smaller and more tender, but just can't measure up to what we had at Jiro in terms of size and impact...

Sea urchin (雲丹) - I wanted to find out where this came from, and Mizutani-san simply answered "Hokkaido".  Well... yeah, I would have guessed, but WHERE in Hokkaido?  He didn't know, looked at the labels on the side for any clues, and read out a location that another customer recognized.  I'm not an expert at Hokkaido geography, but I was kinda expecting the chef to know where he sourced his stuff...  Maybe I've been spoiled by the top sushi chefs in Taipei and Hong Kong, but they're very proud of the provenance of their ingredients.

Conger eel (穴子) - the second meal where I only got the conger eel lathered in tare (たれ).  I'm starting to miss the shio (塩)/tare (たれ) combination that I used to get at Kyubey (久兵衛)...

Egg custard (卵焼き)

Some comment on the shari (しゃり): the rice was also harder than what I'm used to, but not as al dente as what we had at Jiro.  The acidity was there but much milder than Jiro, so this may be better suited for many people's palates.

I didn't really want to drink and stuck to my iced green tea.  The Wommer, however, clearly had other ideas, and kept trying to pour me little cups of Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold (賀茂鶴 特製 ゴールド).  The sake is interesting because is comes in small bottles and contains a couple of very pretty flowers made of gold foil, but that's about it... I didn't find it particularly interesting to drink...

I snuck in a picture while visiting the toilet, since that was the only one I could take within the restaurant...

Verdict?  Meh.  I'd pick Jiro over Mizutani ANY DAY, and that was the consensus from the three of us.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the food here, but the truth is that there were only a couple of magical moments - whereas at Jiro it magic just kept coming piece after piece.  I'm not an expert on sushi, and no doubt Mizutani-san would be on the spot technically, but I fail to see the passion coming through.

Maybe it's because I wanted to take pictures, or maybe it's because we were gaijin... although on the second point I would find it hard to believe, as he did chat to us a little bit.  Maybe he was having a bad day, as he never smiled and looked grumpy the whole time.  Neither Jiro-san nor Mizutani-san smiled during service, as both would want to focus on delivering the food.  So why did I feel that, in spite of the little faux pas that I committed at Jiro and not having spoken a word to him until the very end, Jiro-san was the one who was genuinely happy to see me?  Was it the halo affect coming from the movie?  Would I see the same passion if they made a movie about Mizutani-san?

One final note: Mizutani-san's wife presented us with the bill without us having asked for it.  We were all a little surprised, as very, very few restaurants kick their diners out like this... especially when other customers were still in the middle of their meals.  At the end, I just had zero inclination to take a picture with Mizutani-san, nor even to take a picture of the restaurant's signage outside.  I just don't think I'll be coming back.

And so it was as I said before, two days after having had the best fucking sushi of my life, everything else is just downhill...


Anonymous said...

In some Japanese restaurants the quality for lunch is not the same as dinner. This difference would usually be reflected in the pricing. Does Mitzutani charge the same for lunch and dinner?

Peech said...

I am well-aware that there is a difference between lunch and dinner, but I honestly don't think it would have made that much of a difference had I gone for dinner.


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