Sushi Hashiguchi in Tokyo (Jan ’15): “one-man operation imposes stylistic constraints”

15 Dec
  • Rating: 16/20
  • One-line review: About 11 months ago, I found myself at the counter of husband-and-wife operation, Sushi Hashiguchi. The rain was pouring, and we weaved our way through a mix of low-intensity work buildings and 3-4 storey residential buildings. It seemed we had lost our way, because there were no storefronts or nearby restaurants. After turning on Google maps, we finally caught a glimpse of a lantern, and made our way up the steps into an elegant room.Sushi Hashiguchi, at that time, was the second-rated sushi house on Tabelog, the Japanese restaurant review site. It is especially famous for the “dancing” sushi, where the chef folds an air pocket between neta (topping) and shari (rice). The topping collapses slightly into the rice and thus provides an impression of dancing. In reality, this motion is microscopic and almost unnoticeable, unless you pay a lot of attention. If I was not looking out for it, I might have missed it completelyThe sushi at Hashiguchi is comforting food. The rice is lightly vinegared, warm and disintegrates easily into the mouth. The pristine flavors can either be a drawback or a blessing, depending on whether you think it is boring or enlightened that Hashiguchi does not heavily modify or touch up his ingredients (a necessity of his working practices, I might add, because Hashiguchi has no apprentices – all the prep work is done by himself, while his wife tends front of house). I found it boring, but your mileage will vary. Certainly there is room to apply a religious sensibility and delight in the joy of simple sushi.

    A sumi-ika dish mixed the best starchy textures of spear-squid with broken uni, and was probably the most distinctive dish here. We probably committed a bit of a mistake by sequencing three consecutive big meals together – this was the last of a 1.5 days sequence beginning with Seizan, Noma in Tokyo, and finally this restaurant. As they say in Osaka, “kuidaore”!

  • Best dishes: Mirugai sashimi,, sumi ika and uni, kohada, otoro, anago sushi from Kyush

(no photography)

Sashimi

  1. Hirame or sole. The texture was softer than Mizutani’s (3.75/5). I find pure hirame (not engawa, which is the outer part of the fin and delicious either by itself or torched aburi-style) an acquired taste. At its best it is somewhat tasteless, similar to kawahagi (filefish) in being a filler fish.
  2. Mirugai or geoduck. (4.75/5) Texture was crunchy yet soft past the first chew. The best piece probably here
  3. Hotate (a big scallop) brushed with soy, wrapped in crisp nori (hotate shoyuyaki). Sweet and moist (4.5/5)
  4. Sayori with shreeded shiso leaves (4.25/5). Fantastic and firm texture, though taste was a little flat
  5. Shreeded radish and shiso, salty seaweed
  6. Boiled kuruma ebi (tiger prawn), with head and guts. (4/5) The sweetness is telling of a first-class specimen, but the starchy texture of kuruma ebi is something I don’t like. It is I believe unavoidable, I have had first class examples from Saito and Hashiguchi – but there is no eliminating the feeling of eating an oversized piece of sea-insect. The problem is that Kuruma ebi prawn flesh may be sweet, but anodyne and one-dimensional. I believe the Chinese way of cooking is preferable, since it introduces variation by aromatic accompaniments
  7. Sumi ika and uni with wasabi (4.5/5) A specialty here, this was an extremely rich broth of Hokkaido bafun uni (broken with chopsticks), soy, wasabi and creamy sumi ika.
  8. Kaibashira (small scallops with mustard greens) (3.75/5)
  9. Seaweed

Sushi

  1. Whitefish (Hirame) (3.75/5)
  2. Redfish “Izuki” (sic) (4/5)
  3. Sumi ika – smooth, strong wasabi, firm rice (4/5)
  4. Kohada – what we needed, a smooth fish with strong vinegar taste (4.75/5)
  5. Akagai (4.5/5) sweet
  6. Chutoro (4.75/5)
  7. Otoro (5/5)
  8. Mackerel (“himesa” sic) (4.5/5)
  9. Aoyagi 4/5
  10. Kaibashira
  11. Hamaguri (4/5)
  12. Bafun uni 4.5/5
  13. Sumi-ika. Cooked squid (4.5/5)
  14. Anago from Kyushu (5/5)
  15. Tamago. Cold custard

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