Sushi Kanesaka

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.

Sushi Kanesaka
8-10-3 Ginza
Misuzu Bldg., fl. B1, Chuo-ku
Tokyo, 104-0061
T 03-5568-4411

Tokyo: Day 3

On our first full day in Tokyo, we had sushi for breakfast, which was a real treat. We typically eat American breakfasts at home, meaning fruit and cereal or oatmeal on weekdays and pancakes or pastries with eggs and breakfast meats on weekends. They’re not the most balanced meals, and they’re usually high in sugar or fat content. When traveling, we love to leave our eating habits behind and embrace the food culture of the place we’re visiting. In Asia, that usually means eating just another meal like lunch or dinner.

So what did we do? We walked around Shinjuku in search of something that was open and looked enticing. We found this shop somewhere north of the Shinjuku station, across the street from McDonald’s, and started to study the shop’s kiosk. The pictures definitely helped, and after putting some coins in and making our selection, we went in and gave our tickets to the woman staffing the kitchen. A few minutes later, the next customer came into the shop and spoke to same woman in the kitchen; immediately afterward, she came over to us, said something in Japanese, and handed me ¥180. After a moment’s confusion, Tim tells me I put too much money in the vending machine, and that Japanese people are so honest and nice that it was in the open on the street until the next customer came in and honestly gave it to the restaurant who honestly returned it to the last customer, me! Wow, that really blew me away. That would be like leaving $5 on the sidewalk on 42nd Street in New York…. see what I mean? Wow.

Now the curry itself was good. I actually liked it better than the curry rice we had the first night. And the tonkatsu and ebi furai (fried shrimp) were so freshly fried they had extreme crunch, really great texture. We were already impressed with Tokyo at this point in the trip, and that experience just added to it.

After breakfast, we walked around Harajuku and Shibuya and made our way to Meiji Shrine that’s dedicated to the Emperor and Empress of the Meiji era. Walking through the grand forest was serene, and everything from the architecture to the trees surrounded us with their beauty. You simply must visit Meiji Shrine when in Tokyo.

We made our way back to Ginza for lunch at Sushi Kanesaka, and I can say that it’s the best sushi I’ve ever had. It was such a special meal, I’m saving the details for an entire post on its own.

We had a short list of things to buy in Tokyo, and glasses from Muji were at the top of that list. We went to at least 5 Muji locations in search for them, but were unsuccessful. We finally found Muji Yurakucho, which was the largest Muji of the ones we visited. There were bikes, many floors of housewares, beauty/skincare products, furniture, plants, and most importantly, glasses! After picking out frames and giving them a prescription (which they confirmed by examining Tim’s current pair of glasses), we were told to come back in 30 minutes.

We took that time to sit and relax at Muji Cafe & Meal. Much like IKEA does, Muji offers food cafeteria-style, using their own housewares. For our afternoon snack, we picked an orange brioche and a milk cream bun to go with our iced coffee and tea. We are true Mujirers, so it was quite an experience sitting in the Cafe & Meal eating our Muji goods waiting for our Muji glasses. Yes, I realize how ironic that is, considering Muji means “no-name”, but we are still big fans of the quality of the “no-label” goods.

After more walking and a tiring trip to Akihabara, we decided that our last dinner in Tokyo would be more ramen. One of the places I wanted to visit was Tokyo Ramen Street, located in First Avenue Tokyo Station. By the time we got there, it was late and we were exhausted and famished. The lines weren’t too bad, but we were in no mood to wait for a line. We tried studying the guides/maps to find a shop with no line that served the kind of ramen we wanted.

That proved to be impossible, and we gave up by finding Ramen Mutsumiya and ordering miso ramen with chashu and corn and tsukemen with chashu and shoyu dipping sauce. It was all very good.. not quite as good as Suzuran, but it fit the bill considering how tired and hungry we were. I’d love to go back when I have energy to wait on line for supposedly the best tsukemen at Rokurinsha Tokyo.

Muji Yurakucho
東京都千代田区丸の内 3-8-3
インフォス有楽町1-3F

Tokyo Ramen Street
At First Avenue Tokyo Station
B1F Yaesu South Exit