1* Michelin Tokyo: Sushi Tokami

Hiroyuki Sato, the chef of one Michelin starred sushiya, Sushi Tokami (鮨とかみ), represents a growing crop of millennia sushi masters in Tokyo who are not only gaining massive popularity amongst the food blogging community, but are respected by diners for their modern and daring take on the traditional edo style of sushi making.

Alongside famous counterparts like Takashi Saito (Sushi Saito), Takao Ishiyama (Sushi-ya) and the foodie internet’s current beau Sugita Takaaki (Sugita), Hiroyuki-san’s journey to sushi making stardom is well documented by both media writers and food enthusiasts alike, from Robbie Swinnerton of The Japan Times to Aiste Miseviciute of Luxeat.com. He even appeared in the recent documentary Tsukiji Wonderland (2016) – albeit only briefly beside a famed tuna broker, uttering a few, short sentences and then going back to inspect ingredients he would later use for his restaurant. Viewers who do not know of Hiroyuki-san may not know his good work, but his presence sparked fond memories of our experience dining at Sushi Tokami on my birthday in May this year.

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Popular for his signature tuna tossaki hand roll – a generous globe of chopped maguro cut from the base of the tuna’s head and then rolled in with warm, red vinegared shari (rice) and paper-thin nori (seaweed), we were enamoured by this decadent appetiser the minute Hiroyuki-san started making it. I was first among the small group of diners to be handed the roll by Hiroyuki-san, and it felt as though all eyes were on me (the roll, actually) as I savoured my first bite. The tuna tossaki roll turned out to be one of the more memorable courses here, striking a well-balanced flavour with the contrast of rich, oily tasting maguro, sharp vinegar and crispy nori.

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Tuna tossaki roll
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Generous chunks of chopped maguro collar waiting to be moulded into tossaki rolls

The raw and cooked otsumami seafood courses that followed were brilliant and very filling. We especially enjoyed the dish of steamed awabi (abalone) generously drizzled with its own liver sauce and the highly prized, seasoned sashimi of hatsu-gatsuo (“first catch” of the season katsuo). The unusual pairing of hirame (flounder) sashimi wrapped over two types of filling – dried, shredded kombu and negi – wonderfully elevated the flavour profile of the mild tasting, white fish.

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Mantis shrimp paired with nasu (eggplant) and topped with bonito flakes
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Dish of awabi and seasoned katsuo
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Awabi topped with its liver sauce
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Hirame sashimi with 2 types of filling: dried kombu and negi

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A smoky pairing: Aburi of sweet, pink-fleshed kinmedai, topped with tangy sansho pepper
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Oyster simmered and garnished with fresh chives
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Kani (crab) wrapped in warm, steamed cabbage
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The otsumami ended with filets of lightly-seasoned and grilled nodoguro (blackthroat seaperch), paired with a side of boiled broad beans and citrus

As the otsumami courses came to an end and the nigiri courses began, Hiroyuki-san puts on an intense performance; his demeanor quietens and gaze narrows in concentration as he presses together slices of fish with balls of red vinegared shari. He does this in rapid succession, lightly tapping the fish at the end to coerce it into submission. Hiroyuki-san then places the nigiri on a glossy black serving plate in front of us, and guides both his Japanese and foreign diners through each course. As the courses progressed, Hiroyuki-san eases into bantering and laughing along with guests, but his pace stayed quick, steady and swift.

Given Sushi Tokami’s partial ownership by a Tsukiji Market tuna broker (who also happens to supply to Sushi Saito), the stars of Hiroyuki-san’s nigiri courses were naturally his trio of akami, chu-toro and otoro sushi. The lean and red-fleshed akami was clean and deep-flavoured, while the chu-toro and otoro were sweet, creamy, and had the right marbling of fat without being too oily. The warm, juicy piece of kuruma ebi (prawn) was also a standout in its own right, and worthy of a second serving.

Hiroyuki-san’s preference for using sweeter, deep-flavoured red vinegar (akasu) in his shari allowed for well-balanced pairings with fattier cuts of maguro, alongside oily fishes like kohada (gizzard shard) and aji (horse mackerel). Pieces with leaner fat like ika, however, had their mild flavours marred by the stronger taste of the akasu.

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Tai (sea bream)
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Sweet-fleshed torigai (bird clam)
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Aji
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Kisu (Japanese whiting)
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Kohada
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Plump hamaguri (saltwater clam)
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Akami maguro
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Chu-toro
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Otoro
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Kuruma ebi
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Kasugodai (baby red snapper)
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Ika (squid)
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Hirame (flounder)
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Kinmedai (splendid alfonsino)
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Creamy anago (conger eel) paired with salt
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Anago paired with tsume sauce

Throughout the wonderfully orchestrated courses, several pieces like the gunkan of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ bafun uni (sea urchin) and, the dessert of tamago custard brûlée stood out for their modern application of French cooking techniques. The tamago custard brûlée in particular, has become an iconic creation of Hiroyuki-san’s that would make diners return for a second helping, and the blogging community eager to recreate.

That being said, not everyone is a fan of modern sushi artists, as I like to call them. Despite their growing popularity on social media and increasingly, in the world of cinematic film, millennia sushi masters still lack the household characterisation that established mavericks like Jiro Ono and Hachiro Mizutani possess. But as modernisation eats its way into the hearts, minds and stomachs of diners, millennia sushi masters are fast finding new footing in Tokyo’s dining scene. Take a look at which sushiyas Tabelog.com users rank as their leading favourites in the city.

With their vast, globalised knowledge of cooking techniques, young sushi masters like Hiroyuki-san bring about new challenges and possibilities to sushi making, while ensuring that the integrity of edomae style sushi is maintained in their cooking. For Hiroyuki-san, it will be exciting to see what else he will bring to the table. His tuna tossaki roll, amazing otsumami and high quality maguro nigiri were excellent and warrant a second visit. A new age of Edo is happening, and it is up to us to keep an open mind and a hungry belly.

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Gunkan of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ bafun uni
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The tamago custard brûlée has all the makings of a classic Japanese tamago dessert, with a French twist of caramelised sugar topping
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Koi about to happily tuck into his piece of tamago!
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A picture with Hiroyuki-san

This meal is made possible with my darling Koi, who whisked me off to Tokyo to celebrate my birthday! Lots of love and gratitude, baebi 🙂

{Afternote}

Visit: Dinner in May 2016

Address: Ginza Seiwa Silver Building B1F
8-2-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061

Opening Hours:
Lunch 12:00 – 14:30
Dinner 17:30 – 22:00

Menu & Prices: here

Contact: 03-3571-6005

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