Sushi Kanesaka is a small sushi restaurant in the basement in the Misuzu Building in Ginza. It wasn’t too hard to find with the help of Google Maps on our phones, but for those who need visual cues, this Street View might help you find the place.
We went into the basement through the noren, which are those half curtains typically donning the name of the restaurant, and we came across the wooden door that let us peek into the beautiful space. The maître d’ slid open the door, welcomed us in, and seated us on the Chef’s right side of the bar. After placing our belongings out of the way, she came to take our order. For a weekday lunch, that meant choosing between the 5,000¥, 10,000¥ or 15,000¥ menu. We chose the 10,000¥.
We were lucky to be served by Chef Kanesaka himself, and he was very pleasant. Kanesaka-san spoke English with us, and we chatted about New York sushi restaurants among other things, and he generously told us about each dish in English. The relaxed atmosphere was why we chose Kanesaka, and it definitely met our expectations.
We started with seaweed and myoga ginger salad. Myoga is a flower bud of a ginger plant that tastes like ginger, but much more fragrant. There were many times throughout this trip when my taste buds would experience something new and my eyes would just open wide in response. You know those times when your brain understands something new for the first time, like a complex math concept or a new grammar rule? This was certainly one of those moments, but in the realm of food.
Starting from the top left, going clockwise, we started with hirame or fluke, shimaji or stripe jack, maguro, and toro. Each piece of fish was so sweet and perfectly complimented by Kanesaka-san’s rice, which was the Goldilocks of sushi rice. It had the perfect amount of vinegar and was just the right temperature so that the grains separated just enough while eating. Both the fluke and stripe jack were great pieces, but the tuna definitely stood out. When we thought the maguro was already rich in flavor, out came the toro, a fattier piece of tuna that just melted in our mouths.
Next was ika served differently from anything I’d seen before. Because the quality of the ika wasn’t perfect to Kanesaka-san, he sliced the piece into paper-thin slices, and continue to slice and dice the ika into small slivers that he dressed lightly with lime and sea salt. The texture was a little different, but in a good way, since I wasn’t distracted by what could have been a chewy piece of ika, and the lime and sea salt really complimented the piece.
The next four pieces were tiger prawn with a baby shrimp paste, herring, horse mackerel with scallions, and bonito with shiso. The tiger prawn was very tasty especially with the added paste, but I was a little disappointed it was cooked, as I’ve grown to love raw sweet ebi. I loved the detail of Kanesaka-san’s knife work on the herring, and thought it was the fishiest tasting piece of the lunch, it was still great. Both the horse mackerel and the bonito were paired with herbs which rounded out the pieces. The mackerel was surprisingly unfishy and mostly sweet, and the bonito reminded us of a lean tuna. Everything we had at this point shook up what we thought we knew about fish flavors.
We were then served a clam miso soup that gave us a break from all the wonderful nigiri. I’d never had clams in miso soup, and therefore had another one of those eye-opening moments. But after the soup, I’m very sad to say that I didn’t take a picture of what was the best piece of the meal.
The ark clam was an incredible unique piece of sushi that I really don’t know how to explain it. It appeared to still be moving when Kanesaka-san placed it on our plates, and we were so excited to try it, I forgot to snap a picture. It was fresh and crisp in both flavor and texture. Words and my lack of picture does it no justice. Also to note, we were the only ones who got the ark clam. We couldn’t pinpoint the differences between the different priced lunch sets, but all we know is we picked the 10,000¥ and we got the ark clam.
Next was the uni. I dearly love uni, and I always say I love the briny taste and how it reminds me of the ocean. But this uni was so different. It had all the same texture and sweetness, but no ocean taste! Nothing about it was fishy, and I was just amazed that a piece of uni could taste like that.
The tamago and anago marked the ending of our meal, so I tried to savor these pieces. The tamago tasted like dessert to me, perfectly sweet and fluffy, cooked evenly throughout, absolutely well done. And the anago was without heavy use of the sauce I usually associate with saltwater eel. It was warm and delicate and sweet on its own, it really didn’t need the sauce. And last but not least, the tuna temaki. Simple and pure, it was a great way to wrap up this lunch.
The food was amazing, as you’ve seen, but what made this an unforgettable experience was what happened after we left, after we said our “gochisousama deshita.” You see, it had been raining the entire time we were in Tokyo, but we took a chance that day and left our umbrella in the hotel. Sure enough, as we were about to leave Sushi Kanesaka, it was a steady drizzle. We were in no rush to get anywhere, so we decided to wait in the building’s entrance for the rain to stop.
After a few minutes, three of our fellow diners at Kanesaka (a woman and her parents) came out to leave, and when they reached where we were, the father said sweetly, “Oh. Rain. No umbrella?” We shook our heads no, but tried to tell them it was okay and we were going to wait. The daughter went back into the restaurant, and we assumed she must have left something. As quickly as she went in, both she and the maître d’ came out, carrying two extra umbrellas. They held out a long clear umbrella to us and kept insisting that we take it. Of course we bowed our apologies and said we didn’t need the umbrella, but they kept insisting. After several rounds of bowing, we gave in and took the umbrella. And then they tried to give us another one! We had to strongly push back about taking two, and bowed our deep grattitude to all of them.
We’ve always been very fond of Japanese culture, and our tiny trip to Japan only grew that love deeper. We were shown such respect by everyone, and above the sights and food, it was an extraordinary place to visit (and we were only in Tokyo!). We carried that umbrella all over Thailand and Taiwan; if our friends at Kanesaka went through the trouble of getting it for us, we certainly wanted to bring that keepsake home with us.
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Misuzu Bldg., fl. B1, Chuo-ku