Tokyo Table Trip

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As I walked from Tatebayashi station in Gunma to Sushi Obana, I couldn’t help feeling a bit worried. I asked myself many times if I had the correct address. It would be a major disaster if I got the address wrong as in that area, trains are less frequent. There was no way I could make it to the restaurant in time unless I got the address right. I rechecked the address many times when I was planning this visit, but as I approached the venue, I couldn’t help feeling that it didn’t look like there would be any sushi restaurant nearby. At the last turn around the block, I became even more nervous. I had reached the address, but it didn’t look like a sushi restaurant. It looked like a home office or a retail shop. I was prepared for the worst. I read the metal sign: It said Sushi Obana. What a relief! I had arrived 30 minutes before its opening time at 12:30.

When I walked in, I was greeted warmly by Obana-San and his wife, who are great hosts. Their warm hospitality put me at ease right away. In all top sushi restaurant, sushi chefs are in favor of warm lighting. Sushi Obana’s interior is unorthodox in that it is filled with lots of natural light. I’m surprised by how down to earth Obana-San is. Obana-San speaks good English and made a very kind effort to explain things, although it was obvious that he might not have seen many foreign visitors at his shop.

My meal started with Junsai, young lotus leaves commonly found in Zhe cai 浙菜 (one of eight major Chinese cuisines representing cooking in Zhejiang province), and abalone broth jelly, which opened my taste buds with natural umami flavor. It’s obvious that Chef Obana preferred his cooking to have all-natural flavors. Then, boiled Ezo abalone was served. Obana-San announced ‘this is my signature. No salt nor additives, just boiled.’ Abalone was soft and had natural deep umami flavor. Then, more o tsunami was served, including one of the biggest botan ebi. Its surface was so shiny. Then, he brought out a really beautiful box of uni with no. 1 sign. It must be auctioned as top quality from the market. He said something like ‘uni parfait’ and prepared uni on top of uni risotto. I enjoyed his o tsumami with all-natural flavors. His delicious Shako has lots of roe inside.

After a series of tsumami, he started serving nigiri. All of his neta was of top quality, especially his tuna. He told me that he shared the tuna with his good friend, Nakajo, in Yokohama. In the middle of the nigiri, he started making gunkan. Then, he brought out the vessel containing something that looked like caviar, but it was not caviar. As much as I love food, biology, and marine science has also been my interest. I was so inspired when I saw something like Sea Angel ‘cleone’ in Hokkaido for the first time. Anyway, Obana-San introduced his next ingredients as Taraba Tamago, namely, the eggs of the King Crab. I did not know that this could be on the fish market. The clutch of crab eggs are hidden under the Taraba crab’s abdominal flap, and it takes a year before her larvae are released. I did not think it would be available commercially. It has a really deep umami flavor and lovely texture. His squid mille-feuille nigiri just melted in my mouth. Between the nigiri, he served one kaiware (radish sprouts ) nigiri. Maybe this was a palate cleanser. Then, he brought out another highly-priced murasaki uni with 'No. 1' written on the box. It had a perfect shape. When Obana-San presented his highly prized ingredients, he was not disagreeable at all. Many of today’s famous chefs have an attitude because they know how famous they are and that their material is top level. The highlight is on them, and their customers are the audience coming to see the stars and their greatness. Obana-San regards his customer as the star, and he likes to serve his customer with the best available ingredients he can find. I almost sensed his thought that his customers are the stars and that he wished them to enjoy the meal.

My lunch bill was nearly 30,000 Yen, without the drinks. It is pricy for lunch, but I got what I paid for, as all the ingredients were top-class, and it included three different servings of uni. His customers were people in the neighborhood, plus hardcore Japanese sushi geeks in the region, who made the pilgrimage to savor one of the best neta dishes in the country.

Booking at Sushi Obana was not a fuss, unlike booking other top sushi restaurant. Just ask your hotel to call ahead. I know that it is quite a ride from Tokyo, but if you factor in all the time that one spends chasing and following up, visiting Sushi Obana is much less stressful and less time-consuming. Sushi Obana has the top neta, and it deserves to be visited at least once. I know that Sushi Obana is one of the best-kept secrets of some celebrated food bloggers. Leo was the one who generously unveiled Sushi Obana to TTT readers and who kindly asked for my first-hand report.

As Sushi Obana is a bit far, a day trip from Tokyo is possible for a hardcore sushi fan. I would recommend the Ashikaga Flower Park in spring, as a side tour. You could also have an early breakfast or brunch at Shibahama らーめん 芝浜 in Kiryu (please check their opening hours before planning the trip, as their soup may run out before 1pm,) before a nice dinner at Sushi Obana. Or one could stop at Sushi Obana for dinner on the way back from Tokyo, after a long day in Niigata.

◆Sushi Obana
Address:5-1 Otemachi, Tatebayashi-city, Gunma Prefecture
Phone: 0276-72-1604
Nearest Station:15 minutes on foot from Tobu Isezaki Line's "Tatebayashi Station"
Hours:
[Tue〜Sat]
17:30~21:30
[Sun]
12:30〜17:00
Closed: Mondays

Writer:Localtaste

Local taste had taken a long journey searching for delicious meals long before the dawn of social media, roaming from one city to another from the Far East to the west, over 160 cities in four continents and more than 400,000 miles during the last 37 years.
His dining spots over thousands of restaurants range from eating in a hole in the wall in Asia to all ten Michelin 3-star restaurants in Paris. More than decades was spent on chasing for perfect xiao long bao.
Because he is not in food business nor food writer, his article won’t be found elsewhere but exclusively on tokyotabletrip.com as a tribute to Leo Saito’s altruistic deed to help international visitors discover the beauty of Japanese cuisine.

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Comments Icon comments 20b52f1dd59ace07b92433da2a385e6f7392eb2937032eebc2a0bd0b67c69516 6


guest

Hi! Will you still recommend to take a trip to Obana? Thank you!

2 months ago 1664528668

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guest

It is still good. You can try your luck but it is now very competitive to get a reservation there.

2 months ago 1664533107
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guest

May I know the reason why Obana start to be competitive to get a seat? I thought it relatively easy

2 months ago 1664602713
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Eric Yu

The Pursuit of Food Perfection | https://thepursuitoffoodperfection.wordpress.com

Probably a myriad of reasons -

1. Inherently, IMO, it is very underrated. The neta is very high quality
2. Word of the quality is now spreading and reputation increasing
3. With borders closed, locals have turned to exploring more of their own country and supporting local businesses. I'm sure we all experienced similar in our own countries after lockdowns
4. I've heard (not confirmed though) that during Covid, Obana-san had to cancel some bookings and he was honouring them by prioritising their booking. And hence a small backlog has built up

I do highly recommend atleast trying for it. It's one of my favourites

2 months ago 1664608482
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guest

I second Eric's opinion. High quality, big quantity and largely unchanged prices(except increasing his lunch prices) despite the current sushi boom, a very friendly chef and welcoming okami-san.

You can follow sushiobana ig for seat cancellations and reservation instructions.

The okami-san was learning English a few years back when I visited, so I think they should be able to take your reservation if you call.

2 months ago 1664636548
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Eric Yu

The Pursuit of Food Perfection | https://thepursuitoffoodperfection.wordpress.com

Oh yes. Good point. I did forget the price point one. Literally every sushiya I like has increased their prices for dinner, except for Sushi Obana.

I did try calling myself a few weeks ago, and was told that they only take foreign reservations through Pocket Concierge. Though this was before Japan announced their opening, so their policy may have changed.

2 months ago 1664637378
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guest

Eric, I see. Hopefully, they might make changes in the future.

From my previous messages with sushi obana ig, you can try making a reservation on pocket concierge waiting list and DM sushi obana on their ig(which is run by the wonderful okami-san), they will make a priority reservation for those that have been there before.

2 months ago 1664638688

guest

@leo saito is it true that Obana won’t accept reservation from new customer?

8 months ago 1650124441

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guest

I remembered it being a rule close to 2 years ago due to frequent cancellation.

Maybe ask 1 of the previous visitors to recommend you there. I remember many members of this site visited before.

8 months ago 1650128238

guest

Hello saito-san and localtaste and everyone, i would like to ask a few questions regarding Sushi Obana as i am going to try to make a reservation at this restaurant.

1. Would July be an OK month to visit this sushi restaurant?

2. On Sunday lunch what time does this restaurant open? In the article above it says 12:30pm however on Tabelog it says 12:00pm.

3. If my flight out of Tokyo Narita airport is at 6:30pm (which means I have to be there by 5:00pm at the latest), will it be possible for me to visit Sushi Obana then go straight to Narita airport from there by train?

thank you very much

almost 3 years ago 1580564495

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guest

1. I believe it would still be okay. Am sure obana-san would still have some wonderful materials. But the hon-maguro and ikura might not be the most in-season stuff.

2. I just checked the namecard i gotten from obana-san. Lunch starts at 12.30pm. Not every information on tabelog is correct.

3. A meal there would take arnd 1hr 30mins to 1 hr 45mins. If you rush off immediately after a meal, you should still be able to make it by train.

almost 3 years ago 1580571775
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localtaste

1. Yes. July is summer. U can enjoy abalone, white fish, and uni.

2. Obana opens at 12:30pm. But u could ask if they could start at 12pm so u can catch your flight. Starting at 12:30 would be too risky.

From my experience, I booked 12:30 but I arrived 11:55am as I was afraid that I might get lost so I went there early. At other sushi ya, they wouldn’t seat me but Obana seated me and the meal could start almost right away. Obana San Andreas his wife are super friendly.

3. How experience are u traveling in Japan? The trip from Gunma would require some train changes and the schedules doesn’t run frequently so leaving the shop early doesn’t help as much. If u are experienced, it might be ok. U need to be very precise and can’t miss any tight connection. If not, I don’t recommend it.

One alternative is to take bus but there’s only one bus. It might be possible yet doesn’t leave much time cushion. If there’s accident on the road or delay, u could miss your flight. In case u could do online check in / mobile boarding pass, this could help.

almost 3 years ago 1580603620
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guest

Thank you very much @guest and @localtaste!

almost 3 years ago 1580960770

csm198611

Have heard that Chef Obana graduated from Kyubey, and then became the head chef of Tokami who coached Hiro san of Hakkoku. Is it true? Seems like a very impressive CV!

about 3 years ago 1572070420

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Leo Saito

chief editor, TokyoTableTrip

Yes, Obama-san trained at Kyubey and then was involved with opening "Sushi Tokai". (The name "Tokami" is said to have been created using the first initial of the wives of the chefs at "Singapore Aoki", "Yamayuki", and "Obama".). It seems he has a very good pipeline with the largest tuna merchant in Japan "Yamayuki".

about 3 years ago 1572228342

guest

Hello Saito San, I would like to know this as well. However, I will be visiting Japan in early October. Could you please tell me when does their Ikura season start and end? Thank you!

over 3 years ago 1567824561

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Leo Saito

chief editor, TokyoTableTrip

I believe salmon roe nigiri will be offered during visits throughout October.

about 3 years ago 1568019911
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guest

So it won't be available in November?

about 3 years ago 1568020357
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localtaste

@guest if the chef doesn’t feel it’s the best, he might not serve it.

about 3 years ago 1568113175

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