November 8, 2019

27 hours in Fukuoka: a magical star

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A few days after seeing The Dining Austrian in Tokyo, I'm flying up to Fukuoka to have another couple of meals with him.  The focus of my 27-hour stay in Fukuoka is dinner at Tenzushi Kyomachiten (天寿し  京町店) - the 6-seater restaurant that seems to be adored by a number of my friends.

I landed in Fukuoka about 2 hours before dinner, and I was so determined to make my way to Kogura (小倉) as quickly as possible in order not to be late for dinner.  Thankfully the International Terminal at Fukuoka Airport is not too busy, and pretty efficient.  I quickly collected my luggage, got on the bus to the Domestic Terminal, rode the subway to Hakata Station (博多駅) to take the next available Shinkansen (新幹線).  Less than a 20-minute ride later, I found myself at Kogura Station with an hour to spare...

It's a short walk from the station to Tenzushi, and The Dining Austrian and I walked through the door a few minutes before the appointed time. We were soon joined by our two other companions, taking up 4 out of the 6 seats at the restaurant’s counter. So the majority tonight would be non-Japanese…

The cucumber was lightly pickled and still crunchy.

Medium fatty tuna (中トロ) – surprised that our meal started with this, because this is not generally the order for edomae sushi (江戸前寿司). There was a strong hit of wasabi at the start, but this was quickly tempered by the flavors of the tuna itself. Wonderful soy sauce flavors on the tuna, and the shari (シャリ) had nice flavors, too.

I quickly noticed two things: first, Amano-san serves his nigiris by laying them down perpendicular to the guests, instead of having them at an angle to the guests. That makes for slightly less interesting photography – at least from my perspective. So I ended up either positioning myself at an angle to my sushi, or taking pictures of my neighbor’s sushi.

Second, Amano-san uses a decent amount of wasabi. This, unfortunately, became a problem for my neighbor S.

Fatty tuna (大トロ) – seasoned with salt instead of soy sauce. There was enough wasabi here that it was visible on the side.

Red flying squid (赤烏賊) – the iconic creation from Amano-san. The squid came topped with sea urchin, flying fish roe, along with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds , so there was at once something creamy as well as crunchy. We’ve also got a big enough dose of wasabi that my eyes started to water a little, although the saving grace here was the lovely fragrance of kabosu (カボス).

Japanese tiger prawn (車海老) – served mostly raw with a nice, crunchy texture. Once again the wasabi was enough to moist my eyes.

Marinated mackerel (締め鯖) – topped with shredded myoga (茗荷), kelp (昆布), and finely diced chives. This was nicely cooked and marinated, and the vinegar marinade was fairly strong. The myoga seemed to have been pickled, as well.

Next came our first bowl of soup, with a little bit of fish and some sansho leaves (木の芽).

Scallop (帆立貝) – very thick. Nice and cold, and very tender. Interesting that it was served with tare (たれ).

Olive flounder (鮃) – with some perilla leaves underneath the neta (ネタ). The vinegar in the shari was very obvious here.

Cutlassfish (太刀魚) – topped with some plum sauce and chopped chives. The texture was very soft but not quite mushy. Interesting that it came not with wasabi but yuzukosho (柚子胡椒).

Medium fatty tuna (中トロ) – now THIS was THE SHIT. I instantly recognized this as the piece which inspired Gaggan to do his chutoro “sushi”. Just look at how this glistened under the lights! The soy sauce flavors here were really beautiful, as it was made with dried tuna flakes. The neta had amazing textures, and flavors which were deep and sweet. Just magical. Speechless.

Sillago (鱚) – with yuzukosho that was very spicy. Very tender yet with crunch. Apparently the flavor change here was deliberate.

Our second bowl of soup came with red miso and shimeji mushrooms (しめじ茸).

Horse mackerel (鯵) – topped with soy sauce powder (粉醬油), sesame seeds, and minced ginger. Big ginger flavors here, and the vinegar was pretty strong. The neta was very thick and very crunchy. In fact, it almost took too much effort to chew on this, and I kinda got tired of chewing.  Amano-san says that he uses powder instead of liquid soy sauce here because it delivers the flavors later, as opposed to getting a hit upfront.

Horned turban (栄螺) – came with okra. Nice and springy.

Wild sea bream (天然鯛) – topped with liver purée. Interesting flavor combination with soy sauce, kabosu juice, and yuzukosho.

Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) – from Hokkaido. There was certainly a lot of it in the gunkanmaki (軍艦巻き). It was just like a pile of melted ice cream, with clean and pure flavors. There was also a strong hit of wasabi, and the vinegar in the shari was noticeable.

Conger eel (穴子) – very smoky. The usual soft texture but the skin on the underside was slightly crunchy for a change.

Tuna and scallion roll (ねぎトロ巻き) – so, so soft…

Egg (玉子焼き) – a little surprised that this was old school, but maybe I should have known better.

Melon (メロン) – very ripe and sweet, as expected.

I was very, very happy. I finally made it here, and it enabled me to broaden my horizons to the Kyushu-style of sushi. I really enjoyed trying out the different flavor combinations, and the use of various toppings was pretty interesting. There were, of course, a few magical pieces which I am likely to remember for a very long, long time.

I reminded Amano-san that today was Little Meg’s birthday, so S recorded a little birthday message for her from the master.

I hope I would have the opportunity to return soon, with Hello Kitty next time.

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