Saturday, September 15, 2007

The best sushi I've ever had

I like sushi. In fact, I like it quite a bit. I don't love it, however, nor do I ever crave it--unlike, say, cheeseburgers, which I do crave from time to time. Gina loves and periodically craves sushi, and Jennie is not a big sushi fan but will eat it sometimes.

We consequently brought three very different levels of affection for this cuisine to our lunch at Kyubei restaurant (or Kyubey in many references) in Tokyo's fashionable Ginza district. We'd read great reviews on the place, heard it was hard to get into, and so set out to try it. One of the incredibly helpful, attractive, efficient, and generally most excellent concierges in the tenth floor executive lounge of the Grand Hyatt Roppongi had secured us a reservation and given us directions.

The directions got us close, but they were not enough to enable the taxi driver to take us all the way there. So, he dropped us on a nearby corner, and we set out on foot to find it. The day was hot, gray, overcast, and occasionally dripping on us, as if the sky were jogging in a huge old gym shirt and throwing off big gobs of nasty polluted Tokyo sweat on us. We walked the length of the street where Kyubei was supposed to be. No luck. We walked the length of the adjacent street. No luck. We went in a shop and begged for help, then followed the directions of the helpful clerk to a hotel at the block's end. No luck. We procured new instructions there. No luck. A passing man with a little English kindly took pity on us and led us proudly to a restaurant, which we entered with great hope--to find it was the wrong one. Amazingly, the kimono-clad hostess there ushered us down the block, under an awning, down a small walkway, through a traditional sliding door, and into the tiny foyer of the place itself. (Imagine an expensive restaurant in the U.S. offering a similar level of help to a neighboring competitor; you have to imagine it, because it won't happen.)

We were late, hot, wet, and though glad to be there, rather frustrated.

We then had to wait five or so minutes, Gina and Jennie sitting, me standing and taking up so much space I felt like the Hulk. Big fat gaijin, that's me. While we waited, we watched a small board emerge with a large, live shrimp on it, three strategically placed ice cubes slowing the glistening beast so it only occasionally twitched.

Finally, they showed us to three seats at the right end of the sushi bar. I counted 17 total seats, though later I learned the restaurant actually contained five floors of similar small rooms.

The menu was only in Japanese, and our sushi chef explained with way more English than we had Japanese that we had two options: nine or eleven pieces. Jennie chose nine; Gina and I went for eleven.

We were glad to be there, but our journey had certainly not helped our spirits.

It was all worth it.

The sushi was the best I've ever tasted, the best by a huge margin. We all agreed the meal redefined sushi's potential for us, transcended what we thought was possible. Everything was fresh, everything was delicious, and everything surpassed all the predecessors we'd tasted.

The toro (particularly good tuna, often belly meat) was beyond any I'd ever tasted in the US or Japan. The squid was flavorable and not at all chewy. The barely dead shrimp--yes, I ate it--was amazing, the best I'd ever had. As the meal proceeded, the chef realized I would trust him completely, as each time he asked anything, I pointed (politely, full hands) to him, bowed, and said I wanted his choice. He consequently made each dish the way he preferred, and each was magnificent.

Kyubei is expensive (something like $210 for lunch for three of us), very hard to find, and initially scary (remember the live shrimp?). Despite all that, I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you're in Tokyo and you love sushi, you have to go. If you're in Tokyo and you hate sushi, go anyway. It was amazing.

Why I didn't blog while in Japan

The answer is easy, if multi-part: Google/blogspot was both too smart and too stupid, and I was too lazy.

Google/blogspot was smart enough to detect I was signing on from a Japanese IP address, and so it switched all my prompts to Kanji, which I can't read. Posting and reviewing and inserting URLs and all the rest while having no English text was a huge pain, as I learned the one time I did it.

Google/blogspot wasn't smart enough to give me an option to say, "This computer should always blog in English." Or, perhaps, I failed to find that magic setting; I doubt it, but it's possible.

I did find the setting to switch the language, but it was a pain to get to and didn't stick across sessions.

So, with touristing, many hours of PT work, and writing every day, I was busy enough that I blew off blogging.

Sorry about that. I hope you resume reading. I'll try not to let this happen again.


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