May 23, 2010
Our meals in Kyoto had not included sushi. On our return to Tokyo April 22, 2010, Linda and I wanted to try sushi again at a high level so we had a reservation at Harutaka made for us that evening. We arrived on time at 7:00. At the counter there were two empty seats, which had been saved for us. Everyone was gracious and smiling, but no one spoke a word of English. That was no problem. The chef brought the appetizer and asked “sashimi?” We were there for sushi, but some sashimi also sounded good, so we said “Hai.” When the helpful young server came up behind us, we assumed she was asking about our beverage and said “sake.” That was all we needed to say, except to each other, the whole evening, but we were constantly showing signs of approval.
The appetizer was warm broad (fava) beans; they were delicious; I had eaten some before taking the photo. The other bowl had light diced sea bream balls.
Next came squid and a white fish sliced very thin; again it was very good and I had eaten most of the slices before the photo. We were having such a good time it was easy to forget my blogging duties. There was a refreshing little salad of fine julienned something and seaweed.
An unidentified fish sliced more thickly.
This grilled fish with a reddish garnish was very good.
We watched this piece of a small tuna come out of the refrigerator below and be sliced thickly for us. It was served with a special soy sauce. It was a substantial fish with a definite presence; note its deep color; delicious.
Two different kinds of uni (sea urchin.) The front one was mushier and more delicate, presumably from warmer waters. Both were delicious.
Clams in a superb warm clam broth.
Warm little fish in a light soy sauce.
The chef is Harutaka Takahashi (left) who trained at Jiro, one of Tokyo’s most highly rated sushi restaurants. He was always attentive to what we were enjoying etc. He frequently pointed to indicate when soy sauce or salt should be used for dipping. I imagine that some Japanese clients received some more unusual and exotic fish than we did, but that was okay with us.
The sashimi courses were over and the sushi started. I didn’t try to note the names, which were always announced in Japanese, but many of them looked familiar from our previous meals at Ryu-zushi and Otome Sushi. They were all superb. The al dente rice was sticky enough to use chopsticks, but still seemed light with a good undertone of rice wine vinegar and seaweed.
This was our third carafe of sake; all the carafes were of this type, but different. The pretty little red lacquer box is for toothpicks.
This was particularly exquisite tuna.
I think this is mackerel; the stronger flavored fish come later.
This is an akagai or blood clam, chewy, but with a nice clam flavor.
We could watch these large prawns being peeled; I think they were lightly poached in sake.
The finishing egg omelette piece had an unusually good flavor, presumably from their dashi.
One interesting aspect of our sushi was that we had no pieces with nori (seaweed ribbons.) We saw some go to others.
A cup of green tea to finish.
The counter was half-empty by 8:30, although some people were still arriving. There were only two chefs, but there seemed to be quite a few people in the back room. The pace of service to us was just right. It slowed down a bit as the evening continued. We were really able to concentrate on each piece. The meal was really extraordinary. The sashimi first half seemed to have satisfied our need for variety and set us up not to get bored with the relative sameness of the sushi so we could appreciate the various flavors. The ambience was also right. It seemed like a club and we could feel the rapport between the chef and the other diners with whom they were in constant communication. We have certainly enjoyed our many meals this trip with our Japanese friends or guides, but it was also nice not to have to concentrate on explanations while we relaxed.
In choosing Harutaka, I had relied on fellow bloggers Chuck and Luxeat. I had printed out a Google map for the address (3F Ginza Kawabata Building, 8-5-8 Ginza) and knew that it was a ten minute walk from our hotel. I had assumed wrongly that with other non-Japanese going there, at least one sign would include Roman letters. But when we arrived at what we thought was the spot, Harutaka was not evident. Linda stopped a man who looked like he would speak English. He was very kind and helpful and called the phone number on the map. They asked if we had a reservation and in what name. Then they told him where it was. We were standing on the right block. So, as a public service to any of my readers who may follow us without a Japanese-speaker, here is what you look for. Take the elevator to the third floor and turn right. But don’t try to make your own reservation.
3F Ginza Kawabata Building, 8-5-8 Ginza, tel. 03 3573 1144