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Review of Sushi Mizukami (Nov2022 Visit)


Sushi Mizukami
鮨 みずかみ
Nigiri: 7.9/10 CP: 5/10

Mizukami-san trained at Jiro Roppongi for 15 years before starting his own restaurant in 2018. The interior is warm, stylish, and mainly illuminated by white colors and tones of light wood. The counter seats merely eight, with Mizukami-san serving four diners and a sous chef serving another four (more on this later; suffice to say we breathed a sigh of relief when we were seated in front of Mizukami-san!). Mizukami-san began conversing in perfect English; “what would you like to drink?” “Please place your mask on the area underneath the counter; do you see it?” Well, surely because Jiro Roppongi entertained a lot of foreign visitors, Mizukami-san must have developed excellent customer service and linguistic skills besides just sushi techniques :)

For our dinner, we ordered the nigiri-only course, consisting of ~20 pieces of sushi. Perfect, I thought - a sushi fest with no appetizers, just the way I like it. The meal commenced with what I like to call the “mostly predictable set of 7 starting nigiri served at Jiro-school restaurants”: white fish, squid, another white fish, akami, chutoro, ootoro, and kohada. What immediately jumped out to me was the shari, which was seasoned with rice vinegar. Although it was assertive, with Mizukami-san commenting it was "more sour than at many other places," it was much less sour than the shari at Jiro Honten. (Also, when comparing to Harutaka, I’d say Harutaka-san’s shari is saltier but Mizukami-san’s is more sour). While the shari mostly overpowered the white fish, it turned out to be fantastic overall with all of the other neta - tart yet refreshing! The tuna was of high quality; the akami was not marinated but had sour and minerally flavors, as did the chutoro and ootoro. The sour/sour combo of tuna and his Jiro-influenced shari seems odd but I found it particularly divine, with wonderful balance. The kohada was decent although nothing to write home about. Overall, a pretty strong start!

Then came a lightly-grilled hokkigai; aji (served with no condiments and minimal sujime); kuruma ebi; ikura; sanma; uni; and saba. For some of the pieces, Mizukami-said, “please be careful with this, it is very delicate,” and I was thinking damn, this guy’s English is GOOD. But the more important thing was that his sushi was also GOOD. The kuruma ebi was the standout of the night - “this was just cooked, it’s still warm,” Mizukami-san said, as he sliced it into half, even for all the gents. The prawn was cooked just the right amount, retaining a soft crunch, and the miso sandwiched underneath the head made for a fantastically savory bite. Meanwhile, the hikarimono were all executed well, although not as perfectly as some of the more old-school places, and the nori he used for his gunkanmaki was immaculately crispy (I still don’t get why so many other places serve soggy nori). All throughout, the rice remained noticeable in the background, sour but never overpowering, maintaining its nice hard texture through the night. I think this rice is much less oppressive than Jiro Honten’s rice, reflecting a more modern, middle-of-the-road approach that should appeal to the younger generation of diners while still adhering to the spirit of Jiro-style flavors.

Hamaguri with tsume sauce signaled the near-conclusion of the course, and it was followed by smoked katsuo, toro taku rolls (I don’t know why he serves this as I thought some hardcore Jiro-school chefs like Mizutani-san would throw you out if you asked for negi toro rolls or something), and anago. The tsume was very well done as it had the distinct aroma of sake built into it, and it made the toppings more complex. I added on an akami, shako, and kanpyo maki; the former two were splendid, but sadly his kanpyo was completely overwhelmed by the shari. The meal finally ended with tamago. I love the sweet Jiro-style yam/shiba-ebi based tamago, and Mizukami-san's was pretty good although inferior to Harutaka's and the Honten's.

On the whole, if I were to nitpick, some of Mizukami-san’s fish was served a bit too cold, and there was nothing that really made me jump out of my seat except the kuruma ebi. On the other hand, every single piece of sushi I had was at least decent or good (there were no bad pieces), with the meal being very well-balanced from start to finish. The variety of ingredients served, including ones that required skill to prepare well, was also compelling. Finally, the size of the sushi was above average - definitely not as large as Jiro Honten or Harutaka. I found it about right and was comfortably full at the end.

Mizukami-san is not super in-your-face friendly but he does make the effort to ask where you’re from and how you heard about his restaurant. Otherwise, he was quite immersed in his work, and did not chat much even with the two other Japanese diners he served. ***At this point I’d like to mention again that there is a sous chef who serves four guests at the counter, and he shapes nigiri for them as well! More intriguing yet, this chef was talking heartily to the four customers, who in turn pretty much ignored Mizukami-san himself. I have no idea who this chef is and what his relationship to Mizukami-san is, but I know some chefs are sticklers about making ALL the nigiri for ALL of the customers at the counter, especially if the sushi restaurant bears their name. And by virtue of the sous chef being so boisterous, it did not really feel like Mizukami-san was in command. Hmm, this was a strange dynamic I haven’t seen at any other place. ***The much more important implication of this, of course, is that if you’re planning to visit here, you may wish to request Mizukami-san (although I don’t know if it’s possible). It is, after all, “Sushi Mizukami,” not “Sushi Mizukami where Mizukami-san only makes nigiri for half the counter" . . .

The bill came up to ¥29,500 per person. This was hardly ideal, and I non-jokingly joke that Jiro-style restaurants always find ways to overcharge people, although to be fair 1) I felt that Mizukami-san’s neta quality was pretty good and 2) The sushi was better than what I had at some other places at the same price level. I had an enjoyable time here, and I give high marks for the shari. For sure I’d recommend a visit!

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I don't think the cost performance is bad as he had mentioned on his Instagram that he is revising his price since 16th Oct.

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Appreciate your insights and the review Justin! Thanks for the writeup

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Very good descriptions, really appreciate this in depth review and analysis, thank you!! In the end you can only trust your own preferences and tastebuds. Sometimes people like certain restaurants for very specific reasons, and it may not be obvious as to why. I've been to another restaurant in 2018 where the master let the deshi make nigiri for half of the counter, although to be fair the deshi had over 10 years experience directly under the master....I get it, sometimes they have to give them a chance. Okami san that night reassured me the sushi will be good, and I was seated next to regulars who sat in front of him too. Pretty sure a reputable restaurant wouldn't take big risk if they felt the deshi were not ready. As things change once the torch is passed to next generation / deshi's who leave and open their own shops, next generation takes over family business at the middle wholesalers etc, perhaps what was really old school, has to and may need to evolve.

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Justin, thanks for the great review.

Not sure if it is true, but I remember seeing someone post on Instagram that the sous chef(根崎正実) had trained at Jiro longer than mizukami.

I agree with chutorozuke that eventually culture and perceptions have to change. The sous chef will need to have experience shaping nigiri and serving customers so that he can eventually go independent. It is like one can never be a trainee forever in the corporate world.

There are some sushisho restaurants(e.g. sushisho saito, sushisho yotsuya) where the sous chef shapes nigiri. I believe this is the right way moving forward and probably explains why there are so many sushisho restaurants.

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