Nigiri: 7.5 to 8/10
CP: 6.5/10 (¥36,000 - Tableall)
I must admit that I didn't know very much about Sakai before visiting. I had seen pictures of the food here but nothing seemed to jump out - I couldn't identify specific signature items. Yet the super high Tabelog ratings (plus the fact that Sakai won a whopping three stars recently) and reviews of the high-level, aka-shari-based Edomae sushi tempted me to visit. My overall assessment is that Sakai meets expectations: it's certainly a solid choice and worthy of rivaling several institutions in Tokyo, but it's also not extraordinary.
Reservations are taken 3 months in advance. Since the counter seats 12 (and there's even a lunch seating these days?) reservations are very manageable if you provide ample time. [P.S. there's even a private room if you so desire!]
Some people say Sakai is really hard to find but that's hogwash: everything is easy with Google Maps these days. It's on the second floor of a building in a traditional street, and around 10 minutes walk from Canal City. Prior to entering you must take off your shoes, and you walk in one by one. The experience is quite ceremonial/ritualistic: you have sous chefs working in a concerted display; staff members yelling orders at each other in animated voices; and Sakai-san himself directing the entire orchestra. It somewhat reminds me of what I've read about Umi, which might not be coincidental as Sakai-san and Nagano-san share the same master.
The otsumami course is reasonably orthodox and minimalistic. Most plates are offered with a pinch of salt/wasabi which you can freely apply. Some of my favorite items were kegani with a jelly/citrus-based sauce and a plate of botan ebi with aka uni from Karatsu. A tennen unagi with crispy skin was pretty good, too. None of the otsumami combinations were particularly complex or creative. I think the otsumami is easy to enjoy, but they're also pretty easy to "get right": you generally can't go wrong with a generous serving of crab and abalone sashimi!
The nigiri is also solid, with some hits and misses. The shari is quite fragrant and I am semi-sure that Sakai-san uses the famous aged fujisu because the shari distinctly smells like that vinegar. There's a good punch of salt in there too, and I found the flavor profile of the shari to be overall salty with some hints of sourness (rather than the other way around). Unfortunately this shari didn't work 100% for me. There was a distinct salty aftertaste that I thought interfered with many of the pieces, creating clashing effects in the mouth that made me feel like I was eating two disjointed things. The neta, for the most part, was good, though. White fishes were solid, and the tuna was AMAZING. It wasn't a fatty tuna fest; even his chutoro and ootoro were pretty lean: but each one of his tuna trio is calibrated to project tons of "blood fragrance" that's indicative of skilled processing. But there were also some misses: the kuruma ebi was humongous yet had almost zero flavor, and I wasn't a fan of the murasaki uni nigiri which was slightly bitter and oceanic and not at all sweet: it was kind of "not here and not there."
The hospitality was very good, and I felt relaxed throughout my time there. The entire team tried their best to converse in some English, and I enjoyed watching the Sakai theatre (i.e. very well-organized team that was skilled at multitasking and cranking out dishes for a group of 12). Overall, I would return, but I wouldn't necessarily plan an entire trip around visiting Sakai. It's definitely a commendable Edomae sushiya and I appreciate that it tries to showcase fish that's often sourced from local waters, but I think the akashari Edomae game is stronger in Tokyo, which probably isn't a surprise!
1) Ginnan x3
2) Tako with yuzu (3.5/5) => thick cut and maybe a bit too chewy
3) Kegani with yuzu and jelly sauce (4.5/5) => very good if somewhat predictable
4) Hirame sashimi (3/5)
5) Ikura with shari (3.5/5) => much refresh
6) Cold mushi awabi (3.5/5) and awabi soup
7) Botan ebi and aka uni (4/5) => interestingly, the botan ebi isn't sweet at all; it was marinated in soy sauce I believe, and thus took on savory flavor notes
8) Hokkigai with shichimi pepper (4/5) => mmmm, delicious - although arguably this tastes more like casual/hearty izakaya food. Not that I mind too much...
9) Wild unagi (4/5) => Good stuff; kind of meaty, semi-sweet-and-salty with addictively crispy skin
1) Ika with salt (3/5) => judging from the texture I think it was aori ika. Not bad but nothing to shout about
2) Tai (3.5/5) => soft and sticky. Not bad
3) Amadai zuke (4/5) => reminded me a little of Inomata's aged shiromi but nowhere near that level
4) Kohada (3.5/5) => lightly-vinegared and decent flavor. But I got some salty onslaught from the shari here for some reason
5) Akami zuke (4.5/5)
6) Chutoro (4.5/5)
7) Ootoro (4.5/5) => as I said, Sakai-san's tuna trio has some intense blood fragrance that's just super good
8) Aji (3.5/5) => served cold. Really fatty/meaty but the flavor was extra light. No off-flavors at all, though.
9) Kuruma ebi (2/5) => maybe a mistake happened in the kitchen here. This was prepped 1-by-1 in the kitchen and the rhythm was off, with Sakai-san often looking impatient as he waited for the next one. Towards the end the kitchen seemed to rush these out. Anyway, almost no flavor; no sweetness, no savori prawn umami, etc.
10) Murasaki uni (3/5)
11) Anago (4/5) => ultra creamy! Good balance of sweet and salty
12) Negitoro maki (3.5/5) => acceptable, predictable, maybe not enough soy sauce xD
13) Tamago, shibaebi/yamaimo based (3.5/5) => nice, sweet, spongy, a little moist
14) Kanpyo maki (4/5)
Thanks for the reply.
I'm essentially looking to have the best experience I can at Shun, so I was curious whether the highlight of Shun is the unagi or it's full dinner omakase. I'm worried that if I go for just lunch, it'll be good but I'm missing out on something even more special for dinner.
Regarding the umami of the pork itself, I think it might be a little inferior to the veteran famous restaurants in the city such as Marugo and Aoki.
However, I feel that the various side dishes, such as the finely-sliced cabbage, tasty miso soup, and spicy curry, are of such high standards that they more than make up for that.
I think tonkatsu fans will not lose out by visiting it once.
I had such a great time at Okonomiyaki Fukutake. Out of all Japanese food, the idea of having okonomiyaki never got on my priority list. I always regard okonomiyaki as typical food for young people. Fukutake is a reminiscence of local neighborhood restaurant, attended by an
I overestimated my dining experience as I always got away with not speaking Japanese in any kaiseki, kappo or sushi ya who don’t speak English at all. It seems that I wouldn’t be able to make it here without any help of my good Japanese friend who took me there.
It is a soft texture which the chef just excels in turning chopped cabbage and seafood into something magical. The ambience there is very nostalgic. A must for okonomiyaki lover who an get an accompany by a local.
Normally Kappo restaurants wouldn't accept walk-in guests.
It is necessary to book in advance through your hotel, concierge service offered by your credit card company, or paid online reservation service.
My impression is that it is a restaurant that produces thickly battered old-school tempura.
It is a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal while looking at a lovely Japanese garden, so it might be good for overseas visitors.
Thanks, localtaste! Yes, I agree with you on suetomo and I was able to get a reservation there less than a month before.
Yes, I am planning to go to kiyama this winter and it exactly sounds like the kind of restaurant I would enjoy. Thank you!
The reason I brought up TOMURA is that I heard sueze uses luxuary ingredients - I feel with that it can go both ways, really good or kind of nonsense .. Tomura is my favorite but I dont feel like trying certain kind of fancy tempura restaurants.