February 25, 2021

Life is more interesting without bluefin

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It's been a few months since I last had some decent sushi, and more than a year since I was last in Japan.  When the government announced that dining in past 6 p.m. was once again possible, I wasted no time in booking seats at Sushi Saito (鮨  さいとう).

Some of my friends have been singing the praises of Kubota-san, who was previously the chef at Taka by Saito in Kuala Lumpur.  So tonight I decided to ask for his services instead of chatting with Fujimoto-san as usual.

Gavin was kind enough to remind Kubota-san that we don't eat tuna, so we got substitutes which, honestly, we found more interesting.

Hokkai shrimp (縞海老) - the hokkai shrimp was served with its own roe, on top of a bed of wakame (若布).

Yellowtail (鰤) - our first tuna substitute.  I've always loved fatty yellowtail in winter, and this was tender but got that crunchy bite at the same time.  That fatty oil left a mouth-watering fragrance in the mouth.  Served with some diced chives and some Japanese mustard on top.  

Octopus (蛸) - very, very tender as always.

Abalone (鮑) - always tender, and deliberately sliced so that it is presented with a serrated pattern.   The abalone came with some abalone liver sauce, and it was interesting because Sankala noted that it didn't come with the normal metallic flavors she usually associates with liver.  As for the texture and the way it reflected light, this reminded me of demi-glace

Just when I was wondering what to do with the leftover sauce in the little bowl, these were collected from us so that Kubota-san could give us a ball of shari (シャリ) with more liver sauce drenched on top.  The acidity in the shari really balanced out the sauce pretty well.  Slurp!

Japanese horsehair crab with sea urchin (毛蟹 雲丹) - I initially thought that sea urchin from Nemuro (根室) simply rested on top of the crab meat from Funka Bay (噴火湾), but it turned out the sea urchin tongues were mixed in with the crab as well.  Well... what's not to like when you've combined these two ingredients into one dish, and simmered the crab meat with sake?!

Pregnant spear squid (子持ち槍烏賊) - this was a nice I had on my first visit to Saito in Tokyo, and the tare (たれ) made with brown sugar, soy sauce, and yuzu (柚子) - which Kubota-san likened to dango (団子) tare - was so delicious that I picked up the bowl and drank the sauce.  I should have done it again tonight.

Japanese hairtail (大刀魚) - the grilled Japanese hairtail was really nice, and was fatty and succulent on the belly side.  The grated radish came with a little bit of shaved bonito flakes (鰹節).

Then the procession of nigirizushi started:

Baby sea bream (春子鯛) - love the temperature of the shari.  

Golden alfonsino (金目鯛) - now the wasabi was a little more obvious, and the acidity in the shari was also more prominent.

Gizzard shad (小鰭) - with a few drops of sudachi (酢橘) juice on top, so obviously the acidity got even higher.  The texture of the neta (ネタ) was a little firmer than I had expected.

North Pacific giant octopus (水蛸) - our second substitute of the evening.  Kubota-san scored this piece of octopus from Hokkaido tens of times to tenderize it, and as expected it was still rather chewy due to the thickness.  Served with a little bit of honey-marinated plum.

Torched yellowtail (炙り鰤) - our third substitute.  This was marinated like the pieces of lean tuna (赤身) that others were served, and I thought it was a little over-seasoned.  Torched for 3 seconds on the inside.  Still pretty nice, though.  Loved how tender it was.

Purple sea urchin (紫雲丹) - from Hadate Suisan (羽立水産).  Our last substitute of the meal.  Really, really fucking good.  At this point I couldn't be happier that we weren't given any tuna.

Japanese tiger prawn (車海老) - very sweet.  Oh and I love how clean the intestines of these prawns were... no yucky black gunk whatsoever.

Horse mackerel (鯵) - usually one of my favorite pieces of nigiri here, but tonight this piece had a little more wasabi than I would have liked.  With asatsuki (浅葱) on top.

Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) - from Kaneyo Kamomeyo Suisan (カネヨ鴎洋水産) in Nemuro (根室).  Like an ice cream cone with 3 scoops of ice cream on top.  Just.fucking.beautiful.  The nori (海苔) was toasted nicely to bring out more flavor, and the acidity of the shari matched the sweetness of the sea urchin really well.  I would have loved to have another piece of this, if only I had space in my stomach...

Conger eel (穴子) - melted in the mouth as expected, but somehow tasted a little more dirt tonight.

Miso soup - yes, I take pictures of the soup, too... 

Futomaki (太巻) - always happy to have this, especially when there's conger eel and tiger prawn inside.

Egg (玉子焼き) - always beautiful in terms of that jiggly texture as well as custard pudding flavor.

Japanese melon - didn't check if this was Shizuoka Crown melon (静岡クラウンメロン), but very ripe and sweet nonetheless.

I needed a bottle of white with good acidity, so I fished this out from the cellar for tonight:

1996 Trimach Riesling Clos Sainte Hune - color had clearly deepened but the acidity was still pretty high.  Classic nose of petrol, flint, and lots of white flowers, with a little apricot.  There was some ripeness on the palate but still dominated by acidity.  Long finish.  After half an hour this became more ripe on the palate.

Very happy to have come back here for dinner service, and it's been much too long since I've had good sushi. Looking forward to my next visit soon.

P.S.  For the second visit in a row, my fellow diners were completely "normal" and I didn't want to bitchslap any of them.  Isn't that amazing???!!!

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