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Travel Series: Tokyo, Japan, Sushi Sho Saito

すし匠斎藤
〒107-0052 Tokyo, Minato, Akazaka, 4 Chome−2−2 赤坂鳳月堂本店ビル 2F
+81 3-3505-6380

There are countless sushi bars in Tokyo, and a lot of very high quality ones as well. Many people think that Sukiyabashi Jiro is the best of the best because of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (and while I have never been there, I am fairly certain that there are plenty of sushi spots that are just as good or better) but there are so many to choose from, and there are a lot of talented and passionate sushi chefs that will not disappoint.

I hear a lot about Sushi Saito, and have also seen it being featured in a documentary, but this is not that place. This is Sushi Sho Saito. There are other Sushi Shos as well- it is not a chain! Sushi chefs who once worked at Sushi Sho go off and open their own sushi bar, and they put the name “Sushi Sho” to pay their respects to their “oyakata” (master) and I presume they are also proud to have worked there. I have never been to Sushi Sho, but according to my dad, they were one of the pioneers of edomae sushi served with otsumami (appetizers). Today it is common to go to a sushi bar and be served small bites before the main sushi, but back then all you got was sushi and maybe a few pieces of sashimi. I have been to Sushi Sho Masa as well, and you can definitely see the similar styles, but each chef has their own identity for sure.

This was not my first time eating at Sushi Sho Saito. The last time I ate there was over six years ago with my family, and in fact I had been three times. For this trip, our friend told us that his friend is a sushi chef so we should go eat there, and it happened to be Sushi Sho Saito! What a huge coincidence considering how many sushi restaurants there are in Tokyo! And it turns out Chef Saito used to live and work in New York for a few years as well.

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There are only about 10 seats at this sushi bar, so it is a very intimate experience. Though I have never been to Sukiyabashi Jiro, I would imagine that a meal at Sushi Sho Saito is a lot more leisurely and entertaining.

One of the things I love about this place is that instead of serving just gari (though it’s nothing like the pickled ginger you normally get- this is home made and he doesn’t slice them, so you get a lot more texture), he also serves “umi-budou” (sea grapes) and wakame (seaweed). I presume this is also done at Sushi Sho.

To start, we had 鰈(flounder) with its innards, followed by 毛蟹 (hairy crab), 雲丹 (sea urchin), トリ貝 (torigai) which had an incredible sweetness and texture, サゴシ (a younger Sawara or Spanish Mackerel) which had an impressive amount of fat, and a baby 鮎 (sweet riverfish).

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This 初鰹 (bonito) was one of the (many) highlights of our meal here. It was smoked with hay and served with an amazingly sweet and flavorful grated onion. We ate hatsu-gatsuo quite a number of times in Japan as it was in season. “Hatsu” means first, and hatsu-gatsuo basically points to the first catch of bonito in the late spring to early summer.

The かんぱち (kampachi) was served with a tiny dot of scallion paste, the きす (kisu, which we also had raw in the beginning) was incredibly fatty and delicious, the lightly seared skin of キンメダイ (kinmedai) was also amazing- it instantly melted in my mouth! And of course, we had to have 車海老 (kuruma prawn), which was only slightly cooked, with a rare inside. Chef Saito also smeared the innards on the bottom side. Many of these pieces show how you can optimize the flavors and texture of certain neta by lightly searing or grilling or poaching.

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Another highlight was the squid, which was served with horseradish and katsuobushi.

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These were some of the other pieces we enjoyed for our omakase at Sushi Sho Saito. It is definitely worth noting that Chef Saito uses different vinegars to complement the different neta (fish). The rice he uses is organic, and it seems like each grain is larger than your standard rice.

It had been a long time since I truly had an amazing sushi dinner, so I was thankful that fate brought me here again (and thank you to our friend and Sake Ninja/Sake Samurai Chris Johnson!). I was also happy to have my boyfriend finally experience this level of sushi.

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