9 | 3 | 3 | 1.5
- Some of the best sushi one can eat in this world
- Watching Itamae Hashiguchi is an experience in itself
- Interior embodies the simplistic Japanese design aesthetic
- The most diverse range of seafood of any sushiya in Tokyo
- No photography
- Nigiri is light and minimally seasoned, so it may not be everyone’s favourite
Omakase only (chef’s selection). Notable pieces include –
- Anago Nigiri
- Chutoro Nigiri
- Otoro Nigiri
TL;DR – Everyone will have their own favourite high end sushiya in Japan. But no one will argue that Hashiguchi has some of the best sushi in the world.
You would never guess that some of the world’s best sushi awaits inside.
So what was I doing eating $300 sushi, sitting in almost dead silence, in the middle of a seemingly dead suburban neighbourhood?
Well this story starts just a couple of months earlier. Once the decision was made to eat our way through Japan, we knew we had to seek the best sushi in the world. Having watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi multiple times, we knew exactly where to go. But being one of the hardest reservations to secure, the dates we wanted were booked out in less than a day.
To our surprise, Sukiyabashi Jiro wasn’t in the top 100 restaurants in Tokyo. Hell, it wasn’t even in the top 20 sushiyas in Tokyo.
Devastated, we consulted Tabelog, the local gospel for restaurants in Japan (much more reliable than the Michelin Guide, Tripadvisor or Yelp). To our surprise, Sukiyabashi Jiro wasn’t in the top 100 restaurants in Tokyo. Hell, it wasn’t even in the top 20 sushiyas in Tokyo. What was number 1? Sushi Saito, followed closely by Hashiguchi.
So here I was at the #2 sushiya in Tokyo, sitting in almost complete awe, in the middle of a quiet but friendly suburban neighbourhood.
Before arriving though, I had done hours (ok maybe minutes) of research on Hashiguchi. What fascinated me was the lack of information on this humble enigma of a sushiya. From what I could find though, I learnt that Hashiguchi is super anti-establishment, refuses Michelin Stars, and does not allow photography.
Soup Nazi Itamae Hashiguchi. Photo credit – @rliusd
I was expecting almost a Seinfeld-esque Soup Nazi.
So when I arrived, I was expecting almost a Seinfeld-esque Soup Nazi. But to my surprise, Itamae Hashiguchi was the most generous and gentle soul (until I asked if I could take photos). But I’m thankful he said no, as it allowed me to focus on the sushi and the artistic performance that was about to unfold.
And boy what a beautiful performance it was. Having been to multiple high end sushiyas, you discover that each Itamae has their own unique style. Itamae Hashiguchi’s movements were graceful yet purposeful, as if every move was meant to happen exactly when it happened. I simply cannot do it justice in words; it was indescribable.
Hashiguchi is famous for his unique “dancing sushi”…When the nigiri is placed in front of you, gravity compresses the fish against the rice, & the rice grains against themselves. During these split seconds, it appears as if your nigiri is dancing.
The sushi was as graceful as the performance. Itamae Hashiguchi is famous for his unique “dancing sushi”. He applies minimal pressure when making nigiri, resulting in air pockets being trapped amidst the shari and the neta “floating” on the shari. When the nigiri is placed in front of you, gravity compresses the neta (fish) against the shari (rice grains), and the rice grains against themselves. During these split seconds, it appears as if your nigiri is dancing. It was no fluke either, watching every single nigiri dance in front of us was surreal.
I often exaggerate and say things like Via Tokyo has ruined me for all other soft serves. But at the end of the day, soft serve is soft serve and if you put it in front of me, I’ll happily devour it.
But legitimately, Hashiguchi has virtually ruined me for all other sushi. Sokyo, widely accepted to be the best Japanese restaurant in Sydney – ruined. Sushi Dai, widely accepted to be the best sushi in the Tsukiji fish markets, which I had 2 days later – ruined. The moment I put the nigiri in my mouth, I would just become acutely aware of everything that was wrong with it; how imbalanced the neta to shari ratio was, how cold the neta was, how sticky the shari was. The moment you start tasting one element in your nigiri over another, is the moment your nigiri has failed; it should all taste like one harmonious piece.
What’s interesting, though, is that when I was eating Hashiguchi, my initial impression was that while it was very good, it was nothing life changing. Given all the expectation, I thought it would be an epiphany moment. At the time, little did I know, it would leave such lasting impression for all my sushi experiences to come.
I paid $300 for sushi, and all I got was this photo.
So here’s the only photo I took that night. But despite only having one photo, the memory of that night remains the strongest of all the meals I had in Japan.