April 9, 2022

Life is better without bluefin

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As is standard practice among customers of Sushi Saito (鮨 さいとう), we book our next meals while dining here. So it was that this particular reservation was made while we enjoyed our Christmas lunch here, and the next available Saturday lunch would come 3½ months later.

Since I was just here 2 weeks ago, it wasn't suprising that many of the items today were the same as last time. No complaints, though...

Hokkai shrimp and glass shrimp (縞海老 白海老) - with oboro (朧) and perilla flowers, but the pickled cucumber today was nice and refreshing.

Bonito (鰹) - the bonito was really, really tender and nicely flavored, with a smoky and crispy skin. We've got some refreshing slices of raw fruit onions (フルーツ玉ねぎ) from Awaji Island (淡路島) on top, and some katsuobushi (鰹節) shavings.

Mactra clam adductor muscles (小柱) - just like last time, these little babies were sweet and tasty with the seaweed salt (藻塩).

Firefly squid (蛍烏賊) - we're always happy to see these little ones in whatever form, and they would have been great even without the nama-shichimi (生七味).

The nigiri (握り) part of the meal started:

Olive flounder (鮃) - the first piece of nigiri usually has an immediate impact, as the warmth of the shari (シャリ) and the acidity of the vinegar in the shari hits the tongue. The olive flounder itself was very tender but managed to retain a little bit of crunch.

Baby sea bream (春子鯛) - the sea bream was soooo tender that it put up no resistance whatsoever to the bite. The kimioboro (黄身おぼろ) on top was very sweet.

Sardine (鰯) - very, very soft. Sooo tasty.

Mackerel bozushi (鯖の棒鮨) - this was our substitute for lean tuna (赤身). When Sankala and I saw Kubota-san cutting 2 slices out of the roll, we knew instantly that only the 2 of us were getting this in place of being served bluefin tuna. We were giddy beyond belief, as this is one of our favorite items here. Not only was there wonderful balance between the salt and acidity in the mackerel which was also in harmony with the shari, but today the piece of sansho leaf (木の芽) on top was just the touch that was needed to elevate this further.

Having seen how happy we were, and dismayed at not being served this wonderful piece, a few others at the counter - including our companions - decided to add it on top of today's menu.

Surf clam (北寄貝) - our substitute for medium-fatty tuna (中トロ). The iodine in the shellfish itself was pretty prominent, but this was overpowered by the larger-than-usual dose of wasabi - which managed to clear my sinuses. The texture of the clam was very tender, but still managed to remain springy with a slight crunch.

Abalone (鮑) - and yes... Sankala and I were the only people getting abalone today as our substitute for fatty tuna (大トロ).

You know, having the shari drenched in the abalone liver sauce was just... And of course the slices of abalone were as good as ever in terms of texture. And yes, I finally picked up the plate this time and licked the sauce clean.

Neon flying squid (赤烏賊) - with a few drops of sudachi (酢橘) juice. Beautiful scoring here.

Sea urchin rice (雲丹ご飯) - Kubota-san started by mixing the Nozomi (希海) Japanese green sea urchin (馬糞雲丹) from Kaneyo Kamomeyo Suisan (カネヨ鴎洋水産) into the shari, then placing the Hokkaido purple sea urchin (北紫雲丹) from Higashizawa Seafood (東沢水産) on top. Very decadent.

Conger eel (穴子) - this was a little more dry than usual, with crispier edges.

Futomaki (太巻) - Kubota-san said there were 17 ingredients today, which included abalone, Japanese tiger prawn (車海老), monkfish liver (鮟肝), mentaiko (明太子), itomitsuba (糸三つ葉), cucumber, two types of egg custard, conger eel, shiitake, cucumber... etc. As usual, taken down with one bite.

Egg custard with shrimp (海老玉子焼き) - the usual jiggly custard.

Egg custard with mactra clam adductor muscles (小柱玉子焼き) - harder texture, not jiggly, with more depth of flavors and certainly more seafood-like, and also sweeter.

Amaou (あまおう) strawberries

Not wanting to get too drunk, I only brought one bottle of wine today:

2015 Penfolds Yattarna - nice and toasty, flinty, really beautiful nose. A little ripe on the palate but the finish was a little flinty.

Such a happy lunch today, especially those pieces I got for not eating bluefin tuna! Looking forward to our next weekend lunch together, which will be in... oh... another 3½ months.

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