Sushi Aoki, Tokyo
February 4, 2014
On Saturday, April 6, 2013, Linda and I walked through a driving rain from The Imperial Hotel to Sushi Aoki in the Ginza. It was only ten minutes, but it seemed longer as we dodged puddles and tried to keep our umbrellas upright. The hotel had given us detailed instructions on finding the second floor restaurant marked only with Japanese characters.
We were warmly welcomed and seated on the right side of the ten-seat counter. There were empty seats, unusual in the Ginza on a Saturday evening, due to government warnings about severe rain, wind and transportation stoppages that made potential diners avoid central Tokyo.
Sushi master Toshikatsu Aoki took over this 40-year-old family-run restaurant from his father a few years ago. It has enjoyed a Michelin star since 2009.
I ordered sake. Our meal started with chunks of bonito with a light soy sauce, chopped chives and a dab of wasabi.
Not very subtle, but a good way to wake up our palates and get them tuned for the sashimi and sushi to come.
The next sashimi plate included Isaki (伊佐木, いさき), which seems to be translated as “threeline grunt” or “striped pigfish” and Engawa (縁側): often referred as ‘fluke fin,’ the chewy part of fluke. There was a pile of shredded flower of myoga, or Japanese ginger, and a dab of freshly grated wasabi.
These were much more subtle, but still substantial and interesting.
Chūtoro (中とろ): medium-fat Bluefin Tuna belly.
Unidentified fish and an unidentified clam
Sorry about the blurry photo and the missing notes. I must have been distracted. A staff member would come up behind us when courses were served and try to describe the ingredients in basic English or in Japanese. It was confusing, but when I didn’t understand, I could usually point to something and get the Japanese term for my notes from across the counter.
Master Sushi Chef Aoki was working at the other end of the counter. In front of us was a sous-sushi chef. He peeled and chopped a fresh ginger root. He served the fresh chunks; they were very good, more interesting than the normal pickled ginger, but strong and I took small bites.
Preparing our octopus in front of us.
A Kaki (貝): or Oyster poached in dashi
Madai (真鯛): Red seabream
This is a prized fish and is excellent.
Ōtoro (大とろ): fattiest portion of Bluefin tuna belly and another tuna cut.
Marinated Iwashi (鰯): Sardine
Very good, interesting, unusual flavor.
Aji (鯵): Japanese jack mackerel
Also very good.
Uni (雲丹, 海胆) Sea urchin wrapped in nori
The uni was taken from different boxes. Note the different colors. We had only the one on the right, which I think was Hokkaido uni.
Preparing our uni maki along with sushi for other diners.
Ebi (海老): lightly cooked shrimp rolled around sushi rice.
This was a substantial and flavorful last dish.
Green tea finished our meal.
Chef Aoki worked at the far end of the counter during our meal.
Of course, the most important part of Aoki’s job is the selection and purchase of the fish and seafood, which we understand he does daily at the Tsukiji Market.
Cleaning up at the near end of the counter in front of the entry to the kitchen.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal. The quality and freshness of the ingredients was exceptional. The ambience was convivial and relaxing. And so we had a good feeling as we collected our raincoats and umbrellas and headed back out into the wet, darkened Ginza.
Tokyo Ginza Takahashi Bldg. 2F
6-7-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo