Farewell to Tokyo at Sushi Taku

by Nano Betts
travelwithnano.com

When it came down to planning my final week in Tokyo, I had a very strictly curated list of the culinary experiences I wanted to have. It included all of my personal favorites: the brunch in Aoyama Flower Market and Mercer, coffee stop at Lattest Omotesando, ramen and gioza in Ippudo, duck soba at Kawakamian, tonkatsu at Narikura, wagyu steak at Jumbo Hanare, French tasting menu at Dominique Bouchet, desserts at Janice Wong and bar-hopping in Ginza. Although, the culmination of this outrageous gourmet marathon was the revered omakase dinner in one of Tokyo’s upscale sushi restaurants.

To bypass the arduous reservation system, I made the booking via TableAll which provided excellent concierge services and did a fantastic job accommodating my needs. While my first restaurant choice was not available (I kid you not, getting into some restaurants in Japan is no joke even when booking two months in advance and willing to pay top dollar), the concierge offered Sushi Taku as a worthy alternative which happened to have openings for the dates I indicated.

Located in the narrow backstreets of trendy Nishi-Azabu, this seasoned, little gem of a restaurant has been boasting with two Michelin stars since 2008. What sets it apart from other sushi restaurants is the unique wine pairing, carefully selected by the in-house sommelier. Although, being a huge sake fan, I still opted for the latter.

Unlike other traditional sushi restaurants, Sushi Taku is more spacious, yet cozy and welcoming, and the décor beautifully mixes traditional elements with sharp, modern touches. Most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere at Sushi Taku. Both the head chef and his apprentice who served us were incredibly friendly and open to conversation. They speak English, but to give you more info, they also show the photo of the fish you’re eating in a special book. It was a fun way to track what I was eating.

The restaurant is currently helmed by Kenji Ishizaka, who honed his skills for a decade at Kyubey, one of Tokyo’s most prestigious sushi bars. He then took over Sushi Taku as a head chef replacing its original founder who moved to Hawaii in 2016.

The cuisine of Taku is a perfect medley of traditional sushi pieces and tsumami (small bites), which are usually strong on salt and pair well with wine or sake. For the rice, the chef carefully alternates between red-vinegared and white-vinegared varieties. For oily fish, he uses red-vinegared rice to hold together the flavor, while for lighter fish, he uses the white varietal to bring out the flavor. I thought both the temperature and texture of the rice was excellent, and the acidity complimented and enhanced each piece of fish. Sushi here is also top grade. Ishizaka sources fresh fish daily from Tokyo’s fish market, as well as Yanagibashi market in the southern island of Kyushu.

We enjoyed the omakase menu with a total of 35 (!) carefully selected, delicious morsels. The zhighpoints were buri yellowtail, which melted in mouth like butter; shirako served warm in delightful yuzu jelly sauce; sawara mackerel sashimi smoked with hay; excellent iwashi sardine; anago sea eel dusted with sudachi peel and wasabi and a fantastic trio of tuna – maguro, otoro and chutoro. Taku’s signature dish – the sea urchin sample platter – was another high point. On a beautiful set of traditional Japanese ceramics, the chef carefully sets three spoonfuls of sea urchins: Bafun sea urchin from Hokkaido, purple sea urchin from Aomori and red sea urchin from Kyushu. While different in appearance, texture and of course, flavor, all three were divine. Admittedly, I asked for a second serving of bafun which was served in a form of gunkan-maki. And as if that was not enough, the sea urchin rice bowl paired with sweet salmon roe was a true explosion of umami and topped it all off. Below is a more detailed recap with photos.

We finished off the feast with 6 types of sorbet, among which soy bean flavor was one of my favorites. It was truly a delightful dinner and a perfect farewell to Tokyo. If your budget can allow it, I cannot recommend a high-end sushi restaurant enough. It’s an experience like no other – from the demonstration of the itamae’s utmost skills to an unmatched quality of sushi you will definitely be in for a very special treat.

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