Sushi Shintaro, Tokyo

Lunch, Wednesday Feb 11 2009

This meal can’t be compared to any other i’ve done since years now. Suprisingly, it is for sure one of my best meal ever while totally unexpected and unpredictable. And i can feel very lucky when you’ll know we eated there by pure coincidence.

We were already lucky to stay 2 days more in Tokyo thanks to our cancelled return flight. 2 days means at least 2 meals🙂 … and after the first 3 we had during the previous days, i wanted to opt for another kind of food and restaurants and was looking to eat at one of the most famous sushi restaurants : Jiro or Sushi Mizutani… but damned, they were all closed because of public holiday on this wednesday.

We decided to take our chance and after a walk around the imperial park, we entered Ginza where we hoped to find some open sushi bars (even from an average level, it would still be better then those we have here in Paris).

All the places i marked on my plan were closed (or sometimes we even never found the places…). After 1 hour of searching in all small Ginza streets, we sadly decided to return to L’Osier (well,… « sad » can’t be the right word but we were so determined to find an open sushi bar that we were quite disappointed to be there without trying a sushi restaurant). And 30 meters before the entrance of L’Osier, in the same street, i see a  small and dark entrance with stairs going down and in front it a small white board with some very nice sushi pics. As the stairs were lightened, i told my friends to wait for me and i went downstairs, looking for someone and hoping we could eat some sushis.

I arrived at the baseground floor, nobody there, followed a small corridor and at the end was facing the doors of what i hoped to be a restaurant. I opened the doors and was almost face to face with a young guy, in white cooking clothes, suprised to see me : i looked around me and saw a lovely 8 seats counter, light wood, very clean and classy. Wow, a restaurant with just 8 seats, it reminds me the places i’ve been recommended (Jiro…). The young chef couldn’t stop smiling to me and said that indeed the restaurant was exceptionnally open and it was ok for us to eat there. So great !

I ran back to the street and asked my friends to join.

We took our places and then entered the « master » in the room. Black kimono, above the 50years old, the chef doesn’t speak any word of english, the translations is done by his young apprentice. They are asking us what we want to eat : sushi, sashimi, maki ? We are ordering sushis in a blind way as no fishs are shown on the desk. How many pieces ? We don’t have to care about that, we just say « stop » when we are full. Easy🙂 .

Quicky, because i was shooting fast and furious, the apprentice kindly asks why i’m doing that. Trying to explain the blog story, he smiles again and translates to the chef. We feel the chef being proud and he suddenly stop preparing one sushi and explains me he’s very famous in Japan, that one of his best friend is the chef from famous Tetsuya restaurant in Australia and showed me a japanese magazine where the journalist dedicated a full page to him. What a luck we had to have found this place.

And from this moment, and during the next 2 hours, the four of us will simply be in heaven, living an out of time experience. We are seating there in a 8 seats restaurant, exclusively treated by 2 amazing guys, taking care of any of our wish or comment. Unforgettable.

And as soon as the first sushi lands on our plate we discover what a real sushi means. Amazing quality. First the rice is the best i’ve ever eated. And of course each fish will be the best i’ve never tasted before. Here, you better eat sushi with your fingers (sticks are available but it is not the real way of eating here). And more important : no soy sauce, no additional wasabi. For each sushi piece the chef will indicate us what has been prepared and of course how to eat it. Our menu will be built piece per piece by the chef and will be prepared in this sequence (with some doubts on some fish names) :

Sardine

Goldfish

Have a look a the ginger, best ginger i’ve ever eaten too…

Horse mackerel

Prawn

Eel (salted and grilled)

Mackerel

Squid

Tuna

A flat fish

Fat Tuna

Sea scallop

Red clam

Abalone

Makis : fat tuna, abalone

Dessert

2 hours later, we had no words to express the pleasure and intense emotions we had. The sushis were so fantastic. I never had in the past such quality of products combined and so well balanced in one small bite. Each fish or sea food was outstanding. Probably the first 3 but also the eel, the mackerel and the fat tuna were amongst the most unforgettable thing i’ve eated in my life. It is almost something you can’t describe like for another meal as you need to live that once to have all the dimensions of the experience. From a human perspective it was also incredible. It looks that they didn’t know what to do more to please us. It was already more than enough.

They thanked us so many times for our visit, they couldn’t stop greeting us and even joined us to the elevator for a last goodbye. So humble. So human. I was quite shocked and totally thrilled by such an experience.

Back in the streets, the contrast was quite violent. Around all these people walking and running, I was totally lost and needed a few hours to recover from this. I couldn’t do anything else than going back to the hotel and just resting some time.

But my main question after this meal was : how is it possible that this place is not known ? (no references in guides, only a few links in Google like here…). And are all sushi restaurants like this one ? I got a part of the answer in my flight back to Paris where i met a japanese girl being in the food area since many years. She told me that Sushi Shintaro is recognized as one the best sushi restaurant of Japan. And that i was very lucky to get a table there. Actually, this information had no real effect on me. It just reminds me i had lived there one of my best meal ever… and now, i just dream to come back. One day…

Laurent V

4 commentaires

  1. Hello Laurent !
    This sounds amazing🙂
    I´m going to Tokyo in aug so your posting is giving me more to consider…..in a possitive way.
    Ruygin, Mizutani and Les creations de narisawa is the only ones that I « must go » to but I will look for Shintaro. Im also thinking about Lósier and Quintessence for lunch .

    Thanks for the reports!

  2. Been there, done that!

    It´s really hard to pick the top spot from my four sushi encouters over there -but in my opinion you should´t blame yourself to much on missing out Mizutani;)
    They gave me their sashimi during their set up time and it was fun to se the counter beeing filled up with all the fish and seafood but I had to limit myself to 10 pieces of nigiri cause our Kanesaka booking was for 20.00;)
    This was our « fine dine sushi »:
    Shintaro, Kanesaka, Mizutani, Sushi Saito

    Can highly recommend them all!

  3. A similar experience happened to me.
    After a business trip last week I visited Sushi Shintaro during lunch time on Saturday.

    Reception was very welcoming.
    I was the only customer. The Chef, his apprentice and two other cooks prepared my fabulous meal.
    Quality of the fish and the overall tast are exceptionaly good at Sushi Shintaro.

    Earlier that week I discovered another intersting fish restaurant in Kyoto.
    Different level than Shintaro but still very high quality compared to what one can expect in the better places in Brussels.
    I visited two times in row. I will definitely return in the future.

  4. Karel, glad to read you liked it. I definitely would like to return as well.. we missed such places here in Europe…


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