Tokyo Table Trip

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Ishikawa Prefecture, which is home to some of Japan's most famous fishing areas including Nanao Bay, is also Japan's number two "sushi kingdom" in ratio of sushi restaurants.
Famous restaurants, both new and old, compete for attention, particularly in Kanazawa.
This article will list a selection of 6 sushi restaurants from these huge numbers, chosen based on their taste.
Here we will be introducing famous restaurants that all sushi fans visiting Kanazawa should stop by.

1. Komatsu Yasuke

Located near Hokuriku Shinkansen's Kanazawa Station, this is one of Japan's most popular sushi restaurants.
The owner is Chef Kazuo Morita, a legend in his own right in the sushi world who is said to be on par with Chef Jiro Ono of "Sukiyabashi Jiro."
Although this restaurant did close at one point in 2015, it has reopened (for a limited time) in response to the passionate requests of sushi fans from across Japan.
Chef Morita's cute, round style of sushi, which is perhaps a reflection of his gentle and kind personality, is still going strong at the reopened "Komatsu Yasuke."
The counter at "Komatsu Yusuke" is packed every day with sushi fans from across the country in search of the unique style of sushi made by the restaurant's 87-year-old legendary chef.

◆Komatsu Yasuke
Tabelog Award 2018 Silver
Address: 2-17-21 Honmachi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa Prefecture
Phone: 076-231-1001
Hours: 11:30-13:00, 13:00-14:30, 14:30-16:00
Budget: 15,000-19,999 yen
Closed: Wednesdays, Thursdays
Credit cards accepted

2. Sushidokoro Mekumi

Freyaさん(@restaurant_hunter)がシェアした投稿 -

Located about 20 minutes by taxi from Kanazawa Station, this popular restaurant sees customers visiting from around the world.
What the visiting customers are after are the jewel-like fish and shellfish procured by the owner Takayoshi Yamaguchi, who makes a 3-hour round trip for them every morning.
Yamaguchi is very particular about the aroma of his fish, so the fish he selects taste refined and are all devoid of any off-flavors.
He handles the nigiri that he shapes as little as possible so as to not put strain on the fish, yetanother way that his sushi reaches the next level.
The restaurant's unique sushi rice, seasoned with red vinegar, brings out the scrumptious umami in each individual piece of seafood, like milt, oysters, and uni.
At 10,000 yen for 11 pieces of nigiri, the lunch course has great cost performance.
There's no reason not to visit this restaurant at least once if you're a sushi fan.

◆Sushidokoro Mekumi
Tabelog Award 2018 Gold
2 Michelin Stars
Address: 4-48 Shimobayashi, Nonoichi, Ishikawa Prefecture
Phone: 076-246-7781
Hours:
[Tuesday-Saturday]
18:00-21:00
[Sunday]
12:00-14:00, 18:00-21:00
Budget:
10,000-14,999 yen (Lunch)
20,000-29,999 yen (Dinner)
Closed: Mondays, Tuesdays, irregular holidays
Credit cards accepted

3. Tahei Sushi

Founded in 1972, this famous Kanazawa restaurant has a history almost as long as that of "Komatsu Yosuke."
At first glance it looks like an ordinary restaurant in a residential district, but sushi fans from around Japan flock here in search of creatively-made sushi from owner Shinjiro Takaya, like "Steamed Blackthroat Perch," "Steamed Conger Eel," and "Female Snow Crab Mille-Feuille."
Thanks to "a large number of customers who would just have sake and side dishes without eating sushi," Chef Takaya pioneered a serving style unique to Tahei Sushi, where sushi and sashimi are served at the same time on the same dish.
Tahei Sushi's unique and original sushi experience, completely different than the Edo-mae sushi in Tokyo, dazzles and fascinates customers.

◆Tahei Sushi
Tabelog Award 2018 Silver
Address: 1-164 Taheiji, Nonoichi, Ishikawa Prefecture
Phone: 076-248-5131
Hours:
[Lunch] 11:30-14:00
[Dinner] 17:30-22:30
Budget: 20,000-29,999 yen (Lunch)
Closed: Wednesdays
Credit cards accepted (Diners, JCB, AMEX, VISA)

4. Otome Sushi

This popular restaurant is located in Kanazawa's shopping district and has an impressive atmospheric appearance.
The owner Kazuhiko Tsurumi took over the restaurant over 20 years ago, and Otome Sushi has a strong reputation as having "good ingredients, good skills, and good customer service."
Chef Tsurumi has incredible hospitality, earnestly answering any questions that customers may pose to him.
The fish used are the best specimens available, chosen each day with a focus on local products, and as such the quality is superb.
Sushi fans who make the trek out from Tokyo will groan with delight at the amazing ingredients used, like sweet shrimp that clings to your tongue, blackthroat perch dripping with fat, and conch with a crisp and refreshing texture.

◆Otome Sushi
Tabelog Award 2018 Bronze
1 Michelin Star
Address: 4-10 Kiguramachi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa Prefecture
Phone: 076-231-7447
Hours:
[Lunch] 12:00-14:00
[Dinner] 17:00-22:00
Budget: 10,000-14,999 yen (Lunch)
Closed: Sundays, holidays, Wednesday nights
Credit cards accepted (VISA< JCB, AMEX, Diners, MASTER)

5. Sushi Kibatani

This up-and-coming sushi restaurant was opened in 2016 by Chef Mitsuhiro Kibatani, who honed his skills for many years at Ginza's "Sushi Aoki," when he returned back to his hometown.
As a restaurant where you can enjoy authentic Edo-mae sushi made with quality local fish, Sushi Kibatani immediately became popular.
Chef Kibatani pairs his fish, purchased at Himi Fishing Port every morning, with Koshihikari-brand rice that's grown carefully by monks in the mountains.
The rice, which isn't too sticky and has a strong flavor, compliments the umami of the fresh fish.
Blackthroat perch, abalone, gasu ebi, Japanese amberjack.... The fish from the Sea of Japan seem to make Edo-mae sushi that surpasses the original.
You're sure to enjoy your visit to Kanazawa all the more after visiting this restaurant.

◆Sushi Kibatani
Address: 1-8-26 Hikosomachi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa Prefecture
Phone: 076-256-1218
Hours: 17:00-21:00
Budget: 15,000-19,999 yen
Closed: Sundays

6. Kozushi Honten

Young siblings show off their skills at this popular sushi restaurant beloved by locals.
The omakase (chef's choice) course, which is served with almost exclusively local fish, comes with 12 pieces for the special price of 3,500 yen.
The roly-poly round pieces of sushi are simple and charming, and the balance between the fish and rice is sublime.
Many of the fish sourced from the nearby ocean, like sasae, oysters, spear squid, Pacific cod, and whelk, are not typically used in Edo-mae sushi, but supposedly there are still many customers who order a second course while they're here.
If you want to try out delicious Kanazawa seafood at a reasonable price, be sure to give "Kozushi" a try!

◆Kozushi Honten
Address: 30-1 Aioicho, Nanao-shi, Ishikawa Prefecture
Phone: 0767-53-1274
Hours:
[Lunch] 11:30-14:00
[Dinner] 17:00-21:30
Budget: 15,000-19,999 yen
Closed: Mondays
Credit cards accepted (JCB, AMEX, Diners)

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Comments Icon comments 20b52f1dd59ace07b92433da2a385e6f7392eb2937032eebc2a0bd0b67c69516 2


Just_Ingest

IG: Sushisibz

Happy new year to everyone! I recently visited Mekumi and here is my review for those who like to read this stuff. I apologize for the length but this was one of my most interesting sushi experiences so I had to write a bit more than usual. Maybe grab a cup of tea because this will be a long one ;-)

[TL;DR] An absolutely unique place. While the sushi here is not my absolute favorite, the style, execution, and philosophy is so interesting that I don't think you can find anything like this elsewhere. I would put this in the same bucket as Tenzushi/Kimura for "oddball" sushiyas that are difficult to compare with their peers. Expensive, luxurious, but for me, super memorable and 100% revisit.

MEKUMI
Otsumami: 9/10
Nigiri: 8/10
CP: 7.5/10

Of the many sushi-ya I researched, Mekumi is the single restaurant that aroused my curiosity the most. The sole reason is my intense fascination for taisho Takayoshi Yamaguchi, who opened the sushiya named after his wife. Even in a nation with plenty of otaku/kodawari sushi shokunins (i.e. sushi master artisans who are obsessed about details), Yamaguchi-san sticks out like a sore red thumb. This man is a complete nerd and I mean that in the most affectionate and admiring way possible. Yamaguchi's day starts very early (maybe 2:30 AM); he drives ~300km in search of impeccable sushi ingredients. After returning to his shop he commences preparations, and before long it's dinnertime and he hosts two dinner seatings. Then he sleeps for another one or two hours. Rinse and repeat; rinse and repeat.

If this sounds like the typical routine of a sushi master, Yamaguchi-san certainly differs in his preparation methods. You can read about him online, but I'll summarize my understanding: instead of employing typical Edomae preparation techniques where processes like aging and curing are typically done according to instinct or information passed down from masters, Yamaguchi's approach is scientific and empirical. In other words, dude is straight up weird. For instance, he:
- Has commissioned institutions to research more about the way scents and aromas change
- Will analyze the properties of different sushi ingredients and adjust the preparation time accordingly (for example, steaming an abalone a few seconds longer based on the fat level of any individual abalone [???]). I understand that sushi masters do this but I am not sure they employ his scientific criteria to assess how each fish should be prepared, lol.
- Has worked with some research institutions to better understand the process of fatty acid release, allowing him to age a seafood for exactly the optimal time

I won't pretend to understand the above principles in detail, but yeah, he apparently does all that. Tableall describes him as employing "quantitative analysis" as well but I'm not even going to guess what that means.

Complement his ultra-eccentric personality with the fact that winter is Yamaguchi-san's favorite season, and you can guess just how excited I was to visited Mekumi!

[REAL REVIEW STARTS HERE]
Anyway, I arrived at Mekumi on a reasonably cold winter night. The place is almost in the middle of nowhere so you have to go there by taxi. I was warmly invited into a waiting area and, eventually, the dining area. I loved the design of the place: the counter was made of perfect wood, seats were spacious, and gentle yet bright lighting permeated from the ceiling. An extremely comfortable place.

Before long Yamaguchi-san arrived. This fascinating man was so frail and small, and looked like he was going to pass out any moment. He brought in some crabs for us to see and, without making eye contact with anyone, launched into a soft-spoken extended monologue (a common theme throughout the night) about the crab which, based on the amazed expressions the other guests made, I can only assume involves convoluted scientific theories. After some more preparations the otsumami course finally commenced.

[OTSUMAMI]
Basically, of all the sushi-yas I visited to date, this was the most impressive otsumami course I had. The first two dishes were leg meat of zuwaigani and kegani topped with crab miso. The first was sweet and quite thin; the second was more wholesome and savory. Both had tons of obvious crab flavor. Then was another specimen of crab (I didn't catch what it was) which was so pure yet delicious. Shirako with a sweet ponzu-based sauce (I think) was next, and this is the dish that convinced me that Yamaguchi-san is an alchemist or mad scientist. I usually really dislike shirako but his preparation was otherworldly; they had absolutely none of the foul umami/innardlike taste of shirako and instead dissolved in your mouth like a gigantic curdy cottage cheese. Wow, REALLY good.

Very sweet and meaty botan ebi was served in various forms (sashimi, aburi, and fried heads), and a grilled nodoguro with lime was flawless. The dish that impressed me most of all came last: kobakogani "kanimen" i.e. kobako crab leg meat, body meat, tomalley, and innards, carefully extracted from the crab and rearranged inside its shell, and paired with a harmonious crab vinegar. I have had a few kanimens in the past but they couldn't compete with this. All the while, I have to note that the "crab guts" had virtually zero smell or foul taste at all. I hate eating innards, but I slurped all the innards clean at Mekumi.

The otsumami course did have a lot of crabs and I think it's an ingredient that Yamaguchi-san really likes. He tries to procure the best crabs in the region and prepares them flawlessly, managing to preserve tons and tons of natural crab flavor. Overall, easily at least 9/10 for otsumami.

[NIGIRI]
Next, nigiri. (Bear with me, but I think his nigiri is very unique and there is a philosophy which can be dissected by understanding each of the nigiri elements.) To start, Yamaguchi-san teases you by letting the aroma of his shari waft across the room. It is an addicting aroma, very different from what I associate with vinegared shari - almost smells like freshly-baked dough. Lovely, lovely aroma and I still remember it as a type this.

The first nigiri is yari-ika which Yamaguchi-san fuses oh-so-gently with the shari. His motions are very unique. Whereas other sushi masters I see typically transfer a relatively rounded shari ball onto neta, Yamaguchi messily transfers a chunk of shari onto neta, then shapes it when it is already on the neta. This ensures that there is a LOT of air in the rice. Then he flips over the sushi and barely presses the neta and shari together.

As I eat the yari ika, two things immediately stand out:
-> The topping is ethereally soft it melts into the shari
-> The shari is also very soft, much softer than at other sushi-yas I visited. It is very loosely packed and has a very light vinegar flavor.

The result is that the neta and shari become almost dissolve into each other, a unique sensation that I have not had before.

The yari ika was an excellent and memorable starting piece. But the thing is, as Yamaguchi-san served more and more nigiri, the effect of neta dissolving into shari was repeated over and over again. Each neta was so soft and creamy: e.g. a very melty amaebi; creamy uni; creamy shirako; nodoguro and anago that dissolve in your mouth, etc. He didn't serve anything hard (e.g. clams), and even his kohada was quite soft for a kohada.

After some reflection, my take on Yamaguchi-san's philosophy is the following: the theme is "things melting" and everything he does, from neta selection to ingredient prep to nigiri shaping, is designed to conform to that theme. Sometimes you eat an ootoro and it melts but you are left with hard rice grains. Or sometimes you eat soft rice grains but have to chew on, say, an akagai. Not so here: everything here melted together; it was course after course of things melting in the mouth. You don't need to chew very much; imagine eating neta and shari that is reminiscent of a soft porridge dish. After a while this became slightly repetitive, as all of the pieces had a squid/crustacean-like consistency, but the flavors of the neta were still flawless and on point. And the meal was very cohesive as a result. You may think I am overanalyzing this but I encourage you to visit Mekumi and see if you agree. For me, the nigiri part was very memorable and unique in its on way, and I would love to taste Yamaguchi-san's other nigiri in a different season.

One minor 'complaint' I have is that in the entire meal, we were only served two fish (kohada and nodoguro). The rest was mostly crustaceans/cephalopods (he used to serve tuna, but I didn't get any tuna nigiri except a meji maguro sashimi on my visit. I don't know if he decided to permanently discontinue serving tuna) I think this is more of a preference thing rather than a flaw, though. If you love non-fish stuff, and grilled items (we were served quite a few) you will love Mekumi.

The service throughout the night was flawless, the waiters (Mrs. Mekumi and another woman) radiating immense warmth and cheer. Regarding Yamaguchi-san, you can tell he is serious about his sushi but he is also super humble and nice. Actually, he reminds me of the kid you didn't want to hang out with at high school. But he doesn't give a crap about that: he doesn't want to hang out with you either, because he's living in his own world and focusing on perfecting his craft. He seems a little nervous to look at you, and he mumbles scientific theories to no one in particular, but I found that unconventionally endearing. He does crack jokes and is more than happy to pose with you at the end, and is very welcoming of foreign guests. Basically, after my visit to Mekumi, my fascination with Yamaguchi-san has actually increased; maybe he is a bit crazy but he has acres and acres of personality. It felt like he had poured the entirety of his mind and heart to his sushi at the cost of a great deal of his health, and I would say he more than deserves the Tabelog Gold award. If I'm lucky enough to visit Kanazawa again, the first place I'll look to is Mekumi.

6 months ago

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guest

@Just_Ingest wonderful piece as always, makes one want to visit immediately. Just one point, shouldn't it be mrs yamaguchi instead of mrs mekumi?

6 months ago
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guest

Is it difficult to reserve?

6 months ago
Tinyfin

Just_Ingest

IG: Sushisibz

@Guest 1 Thank you! Actually, I am not sure. Maybe it's because the name "Mekumi" is so distinct that I referred to her here as Mrs. Mekumi instead. She is a lovely lady, always smiling and a remarkable supporting force at the sushiya, and reminds me of Inomata-san's wife in terms of the hospitality they offer.

@Guest 2 - I booked it through Tableall a month in advance so I think it's not too bad. However, you will need to commute to Kanazawa which is roughly 2h 30 min bullet train from Tokyo.

6 months ago
Picture?width=100&height=100

Viv

thanks Justin. very detailed review! soft and plain shari sounds a bit odd to me but i think i'll give a try when in kanazawa.

6 months ago
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sharikiri

Very very interesting! I'm intrigued. Will you be posting photos of you meal on your blog or on Instagram?

6 months ago
Tinyfin

Just_Ingest

IG: Sushisibz

Dear Sharikiri, Mekumi doesn't seem like a place where it's polite to take a lot of photos (so I didn't), but in case you're interested here is the progression of my meal:

Otsumami
1. Zuwaigani leg with kani miso
2. Kegani leg with kani miso
3. A type of crab (not sure, "moto-zuwaigani" or river snow crab was what I caught)
4. Shirako with sweet ponzu-based sauce
5. Sashimi: aori ika, botan ebi, meji maguro (2 slices each)
6. Aburi botan ebi
7. Nori (just a crispy piece of nori with nothing else)
8. Grilled nodoguro with lime
9. Kobakogani served in shell, with crab vinegar
10. Fried botan ebi heads (x2 bites)

Nigiri
1. Yari Ika
2. Ama ebi
3. Bafun uni
4. Shirako
5. Kohada
6. Kani chirashi (not a nigiri)
7. Aburi ama ebi
8. Aburi nodoguro
9. Anago
10. Futomaki of kanpyo , dashimaki tamago, and anago

6 months ago
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guest

What was your date of visit? It sounds very much like the meal I had there as well!

5 months ago
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@Just_Ingest Also out of curiosity, what are your favourite sushiyas?

5 months ago
Tinyfin

Just_Ingest

IG: Sushisibz

@Guest I visited Mekumi on 30 Dec.

Regarding sushi restaurants, I have not been to the superstars like Sugita or Amamoto but my current two favorites would be Shimizu and Ichijo.

Shimizu is just fascinating to me, especially after visiting a few times. Although the sushi looks deceptively simple, it feels like so much effort has been put into the conception and execution of each piece. Extraordinarily consistent meal from start to end with many standout pieces. Shimizu-san's anago is one of the few nigiri that forces me to smile while eating.

I also like the nigiri at Ichijo a lot and there are many standout pieces as well, although the overall balance does not reach Shimizu-level heights :-)

5 months ago

Leo Saito

chief editor, TokyoTableTrip

The chef of the very popular Sushi restaurant in Kanazawa “Tahei Sushi” where fans from all over Japan gather has passed away in March 2018. We pray that his soul may rest in peace

about 1 year ago

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Sad to know !

12 months ago