Friday, December 4, 2009

Sushi Zanmai

One of the greatest things about living in Tokyo is that even the mediocre sushi you have in Tokyo will be better than the best sushi you've had in the US. In Tokyo, the sushi choices range from super-cheap stand up sushi bars to kaiten sushi (rotating sushi bar) to 3-Michelin starred experiences. I am a sushi fiend and need to get my raw fish fix at least 2-3 times a week in Tokyo so I've sampled a wide array of budget-priced sushi joints and I can firmly say that in my experience, within the limited Akasaka-Roppongi-Azabujuban area, Sushi Zanmai is absolutely the best bang for your buck. Zanmai consistently serves up fresh, generous portions of nigiri sushi at extremely affordable prices. Their toro and maguro offerings are especially excellent and throughout the year they have various specials on seasonal fish. Currently (through mid-December), they offer three versions of tuna tastings - I've tried all three and my favorite is the one featured below - one piece of maguro, one piece of chutoro and a toro, shiso and daikon handroll. Zanmai is open 24 hours - a delicious, affordable post-clubbing alternative to the ramen shops.

Ikura and Uni - the ikura pops in velvety bursts of omega fatty acids without the oversaltedness that a lot of ikura suffers from. The uni was a solid, silky version with just a tinge of brininess.

From L to R: amaebi, salmon, hotate, aji, a type of shrimp (forget the name but it kind of looks like a blue cockroach), tamago

Delicious broiled anago - the soft flesh crumbles in your mouth with a wonderful twinge of charred smokiness mixed with the sweet eel sauce

Tuna sampler (on sale for 398 yen through mid-December, a steal since a single piece of chutoro is normally 298) with maguro, chu toro (medium fatty toro, my favorite), shiso and toro handroll

Deluxe version chirashi

Food rating: *** and a half
Bang for buck rating: 5

The essentials:
Location: Various, but the one on Gaienhigashi-dori near Don Quijote is open 24 hours
Average price of meal for two: 6000 yen (~$65)

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