Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sushi Kyubey - Hotel Okura

My first experience at Sushi Kyubey will always be remembered as the night I dined with Hugh Grant. I mean sure, he sat at the bar about 3 feet away from our table, but I think that proximity is close enough that it counts to say that we had dinner together. Actually, for the first full hour of dinner, we didn't even notice him. We were halfway through when my friend suddenly said: "that guy looks so much like Hugh Grant. He sounds like him too." And I turned around looked at him and replied: "that IS Hugh Grant." After debating whether to do the teeny-bopper thing and ask for a picture with him, we decided not to. I guess because we are no longer teeny boppers?

In any case, Sushi Kyubey is supposed to be one of the very best sushi places in all of Tokyo. Gunkan-maki, the sushi that is wrapped in nori (such as uni or ikura), was created at Sushi Kyubey in the 1930's. The original location is in Ginza, but we decided to dine at the Hotel Okura location, which was recommended by a friend as her favorite location for its intimate setting.

Verdict? The slices of fish are fresh and delicious, the uni was silky with no briny flavor at all and the tuna roll that was served at the end was surprisingly super-delicious. It was unlike any other tuna roll I've had - it just had a little something extra.

When I used to live in the States, sushi was sushi. There was good sushi and bad sushi, but I didn't have sushi often enough to be able to tell the nuanced differences between different sushi chefs. But that is one of the luxuries of Tokyo - you have access to so much good food, so much amazing sushi, that after awhile, you actually can talk intelligently about different sushi.

While Kyubey's fish as fresh as you would expect from a high-end sushi restaurant, the rice to me was a bit bland. They must use a milder vinegar, or less vinegar, because I couldn't really taste the vinegar in the rice at all. Like all foods, I think how you like your sushi rice is a matter of personal taste, and I think I prefer mine a bit more vinegary.

We ordered the omakase (the chef's selection course), which included 10 nigiri, tuna roll, cucumber roll and unagi.

Otoro, hirame, another white fish, buri, maguro (not pictured: amaebi)

Delicious aji, uni, bonito and kohada

End of the meal - Surpisingly delicious negitoro roll, cucumber roll and unagi two ways (grilled with salt and with unagi sauce)

Green tea ice cream - tasted more like vanilla ice cream than green tea (not part of chef's course)

Food Rating: **** (delicious, fresh fish, but rice falls short)
Bang for Buck Rating: 3 (Sushi Dai at Tsukiji is less than half the price!)

The essentials:
Location: basement of main building of Hotel Okura, Kamiyacho, Tokyo
Average price of meal for two (dinner): 22,000 yen (~$250)

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