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Sushi Mizutani | Tokyo | Dec ’14

25 Dec
  • Rating: Disappointing
  • Address: 8-7-7 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
  • Price I paid: 34,000 Yen ($283 at 100 yen = 0.83 USD)
  • Chef: Hachiro Mizutani
  • Michelin stars: 2

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Sushi Mizutani today was my first high-end sushi experience. The chef seems to an extremely like-able person (he noticed very quickly I was a lefty), and my dining companions (Americans and Singaporeans on either side) were generous with conversation.

I liked Mizutani’s rice, which has been called “mushy” by some. It was just warmer than body temperature, lightly vinegared, and dispersed like a cloud after one or two chews  – allowing me to focus on the seafood. The meal was generally of high quality, but rarely mindblowing.

The most recent news is of Sushi Mizutani’s recent downgrade in the 2015 Tokyo Michelin guide from 3 stars to 2 stars. The blogger Mesubim hypothesizes that this was because Michelin wanted to canonize Jiro as a living god, and felt it was unduly harsh on Mizutani-san. While I agree that it is very harsh to downgrade a chef who stands at his counter day in and day out, I feel my meal there did not blow my mind – outside of 3 perfect pieces – engawa sashimi, mirugai sushi, and sayori sushi – the rest of the seafood was very good but nothing I felt you could not get at a top-end kaiseki or Japanese influenced restaurant.

But Mizutani is a craftsman who has been doing this for more than 50 years. If his sushi was ever worth three stars, it probably still is around as good as when he got his stars. Mesubim is probably right in that there is something political behind the decision to demote both Kojyu and Mizutani in the same year – but it seems to be aimed at correcting a prior exuberance in handing out stars – and aligning it to recent diner experiences. In Japan, the rank of master may be seen as something you get for life – for example, the sumo rank of yokozuna is a lifelong rank. But Michelin is a foreign guide. Is the downgrade harsh? Yes. Is it deserved? From my visit, yes.

Rating: Disappointing (between 13/20 and 16/20)


Other People’s Reaction:

Liked it:

  • Mesubim – “I tried it Mizutani a second time to confirm my feelings and, I think he has what it takes to be a three star. The bridge is made up of many, serving, preparing and the ambiance is calm, over decorated and a little nouveau riche. I cannot say I wouldn’t go back because I liked him, he is respectful, diligent and careful how he works. His helper is immaculate.”
  • Luxeat – “Everything, from hirame (yellowtail), kohada( gizzard shad) and to “die for” sayori (needle fish,which was topped with sweet shrimp paste), to explosive awabi ( abalone) and uni  sea urchin) from Hokkaido, that was sooo sweet and tasted like saffron, was the summum bonum of sushi. I don’t think it can get any better.

Didn’t like it

  • Kayoubidesu – “This was by far the most disappointing of the “high-end” sushi-yas that I have visited. The quality of fish was generally good, but the rice was very poor. It was soft, mushy, and lacking seasoning. Particularly disappointing was the kuruma ebi – it was served almost cold, and lacked the juiciness and flavour that you would expect at a high-end sushi-ya. Perhaps this was a one-off, but I was not inclined to return. Mizutani-san comes across initially as reserved, but is happy to engage in conversation (although he speaks very little English).”

Best pieces: Hirame (engawa) sashimi, saba sashimi, akagai sashimi, mirugai sushi, sayori sushi, bafun uni sushi wrap

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Sashimi

  1. Hirame (Engawa) – Flounder, outside edge –  Two pieces. Vibrant pink. Crunchy, firm, and sweet. 5/5
  2. Hirame – Flounder – Two pieces. Muscular. 4.25/5
  3. Awabi – Abalone – Three pieces. very tender, though somewhat lacking in taste. Needed soy and wasabi. 3.75/5
  4. Saba – Mackerel – Sliced with an intermediate cut in. Lightly vinegared, erfect swell of sourness, but never overpowering. Lightly cooked on the outside. Eaten with ginger and soy 4.75/5
  5. Ika – Squid – I find Japanese squid to have a magical starchy texture, that melts in your mouth. I have not found this elsewhere. Here, it had the starchy magic, but was a bit more jelly-like and less starchy than Kojyu’s squid, which has become my benchmark for squid. 4.25/5
  6. Akagai – Ark shell – served in strips – a clean, crunchy opaque jelly. 4.5/5
  7. Tako – Octopus – slightly chewy. Served with salt 3/5
  8. Hotate – scallop wrapped in nori – mediocre. While I appreciate the nori wrapping was piping hot, the scallop wrapped inside (like an onigiri) was slightly seared, but too dry 3.25/5.

Sushi

  1. Kohada – Gizzard shad – a salted vinegar taste 4.5/5
  2. Chutoro – Somehow I don’t find tuna as mindblowing as people claim. Sure, it’s a good fatty fish, but not something I’d compose paeans to. Chutoro, barely perceptible sauce. Good. 4.5/5
  3. Kamichutoro – Between chutoro and otoro. No impression, besides it was fatty and I’m sure a flash of good fishy flavor.
  4. Otoro – Wet and fatty 4.25/5
  5. Akagai – sweet and crunchy 4.5/5
  6. Mirugai – geoduck – Crunchy, with a subtle but insistent subterranean taste of clam in the aftertaste. Very very good. A star piece. 5/5
  7. Sayori – halfbeak/needlefish – an amazing fish, dressed in a good soy blend with ginger. Mizutani-san sliced the sayori in half and deposited a tiny mound of ginger in the cavity of the slice. 5/5
  8. Ebi – cooked prawn – very sweet – 4.25/5
  9. Bafun Uni – very creamy, a wrap – 4.75/5
  10. Anago – sea eel – Mizutani prefers not to douse the anago in sweet sauce. The falling apart texture of anago (minimally dressed) completely became a sweet powder in 1 or 2 chews. 4.5/5
  11. Tamago – _really_ sweet custard, a bit rough, a sweeter version of the dissolving anago 4.25/5

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