April 21, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 7: old school sushi

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I'm meeting the Dining Austrian for dinner tonight. We would all be dining at Harutaka (青空) for the first time. Taisho (大将) Takahashi Harutaka (高橋青空) spent more than a decade working for Jiro (yes, THAT Jiro) before setting up his own shop, so the obvious comparison would be with Jiro jii-chan.

The restaurant is in a building right next to the JR train tracks near Shinbashi Station, and while I was seated in the private room waiting for the others to arrive, I could hear the trains roaring by pretty clearly.

This was also the first time I'm meeting Mr. Big(time) - who is another member of our Super Secret Foodie Group - after years of occasionally tracking his movements. This was gonna be fun!

Right off the bat, Takahashi-san was already doing something different from his master. He started us off with a series of otsumami (おつまみ), which isn't part of the meal at Sukiyabashi Jiro (すきやばし 次郎).

Splendid alfonsino (金目鯛) - torched and served with grated radish, which was pretty acidic thanks to the amount of ponzu (ポン酢) used.

Clam broth (あさり出汁) - there were actually no clams inside, just the broth along with wakame (若布).

Sashimi (お造り) today included olive flounder (真子鰈) and cockles (鳥貝). The cockles were so sweet tonight, without a trace of iodine, which was so surprising.

The dish for the soy sauce resembles an old-fashioned inkstone used for calligraphy.

Abalone (鮑) - these were damn huge! Steamed and served with abalone dashi.

Young tuna (めじ鮪) - soooo tender. Was there mustard in the sauce?

Firefly squid yukhoe (螢烏賊ユッケ) - interesting to see raw firefly squid served not whole but mashed up as a tartare like Korean yukhoe (육회), together with raw egg yolk, chopped chives, and sesame seeds.

The serving spoon was pretty cute.

Cutlass fish (太刀魚) - very thick cut. A little fatty and very juicy. Beautiful.

The nigiri (握り) portion of our meal came next. This definitely reminded me of the style of Jiro jii-chan, if memory still serves me correctly. The neta (ネタ) was definitely on the bigger side, with a bigger shari (シャリ) to match. The vinegar in the shari was also more prominent and the rice grains were on the firmer side, with the temperature being noticeably warm.

Bigfin reef squid (アオリイカ) - thick cut but nicely score to deliver a very tender texture.

Sillago (鱚) - kobujime (昆布締め). I could definitely taste the wasabi.

Lean tuna (赤身) - surprisingly not marinated. Again the shari was very warm and the acidity of the vinegar was strong. The neta was definitely thick cut.

Medium fatty tuna (中トロ) - neta was very thick cut, and as a result the fat made it a very satisfying bite. The acidity of the shari absolutely worked with the fat in the neta in the most perfect way possible.

Fatty tuna (大トロ) - of course, this was even softer and fattier...

Baby sea bream (春子鯛) - this was very interesting because I don't normally have this neta served as a thick cut, and here the flavor profile changes and the marinade is more prominent.

Mactra clam adductor muscles (小柱) - these came in bigger chunks than I'm used to, which meant they were more springy. The vinegar was again more prominent here.

Japanese tiger prawn (車海老) - this was a very big prawn, and it was more fully-cooked with a firmer texture.

Horse mackerel (鯵) - the temperature of the neta was very cold and the texture was almost jello-like. Very nice.

Japanese pink sea urchin (赤雲丹) - from Hagi (萩市) in Yamaguchi Prefecture (山口県). Wow! The acidity of the shari was really high for this.

Clam (蛤) - very big clam and very springy texture, with lots of tare.

Tekkamaki (鉄火巻) - nice and crunchy tuna.

Conger eel (穴子) - from Mihama (美浜) in Aichi Prefecture (愛知県). Really soft and melted in the mouth. トロトロ.

I asked for one additional piece:

Purple sea urchin (紫雲丹) - from Aomori Prefecture (青森県). Very nice and sweet.

Tamagoyaki (卵焼き)

Someone was in the mood for sake...

Kunimare Tokubetsu Junmai (国稀  特別純米), from isshobin - seimaibuai of 55%. Slightly fermented, just a light touch, with mild sweetness, soft and sweet, then got a bit drier.

Ippongi Karakuchi Junmai (一本義  辛口純米), from isshobin - seimaibuai of 70%. A bit more banana on the nose, drier on the palate, longer finish with more body. Nice balance.

Yoemon Tokubetsu Junmai Muroka (酉与右衛門 特別純米  無濾過), from isshobin - seimaibuai of 55%. Thicker, more viscous, with a drier finish.

Wataya Jonetsu Junmai Ginjo (綿屋 情熱 純米吟醸), from isshobin - semaibuai of 55%.

Tedorigawa Daiginjo Meiryu (手取川  大吟醸  名流), from isshobin - seimaibuai of 40%. Pretty smooth and kinda rounded.

I really enjoyed my meal but this wasn't nearly enough drinks for someone, so we went to D-Heartman in Ginza. As usual, I started with a girlie drink made with fresh strawberries...

I followed this up with a negroni.

Mr. Big(time) took us to Serpent, a pretty cool bar where they play nice jazz music from big speakers and the lighting is well thought-out.

Melon, dill, and sencha cocktail - this was pretty interesting.

2020 Obuse Sogga père et fils Merlot Ordinaire - nose not very open, almost a little medicinal and savory. Smelled meaty like a Chinese preserved sausage. Very whacky. Almost a little iodine. Not a wine I like.

Mugnier Fine de Bourgogne, around 100 years old - very fragrant, sharp alcohol on the nose of course but already mellowed somewhat due to the age. Very soft on the palate. Nice and definitely tasted some grapes.

This was a fun night, but I really need to get some sleep... It's my third night in a row staying out past 2 a.m...

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