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: Days 1 & 2

The trip started with Tokyo, so that’s where I’ll begin. I have to admit that I “prepared” for my trip by watching Lost in Translation, and I’d forgotten how great that movie was. We were extremely fortunate to have stayed at THE Park Hyatt Tokyo where the majority of the film took place. While we weren’t waited on like Mr. Harris, it certainly was the best service we’ve received from any establishment hands down. If you’re going to Tokyo and haven’t stayed there before, you must go. But first, sign up for the Hyatt Visa like we did to get two free nights (thanks for the tip David!).

I said we spent three days in Tokyo, but really, it was even less than that; we arrived Sunday afternoon and flew out Wednesday morning, so we only had two full days. On Sunday after we checked in, we only had energy to explore around the Shinjuku station where we ate quick curry at a counter then enjoyed pricey desserts before we decided to rest up for an early start at Tsukiji fish market the next day. The curry was great, and we were surprised it wasn’t orders of magnitude better than what we can get in New York. But the desserts.. they were perfect in taste and presentation. I mean, look at the menu picture and the actual dessert itself! I’m still not sure what flavor the jelly was, but it went very well with the kinako powder and vanilla ice cream. And the matcha azuki shaved ice made me a very happy girl.. even though it cost us nearly ¥1600. Pricey indeed.

Our first full day started at Tsukiji Fish Market, but not as early as we had originally planned. Since we were already packing in so much in our two full days, we decided to skip out on the 5:00AM tuna auction, but we still left relatively early to get our sushi breakfast.

Skipping the early auction couldn’t have worked out better for us. We stumbled upon Sushi Daiwa just after 8:00AM, and the line was so small that we had to double check we were at the right place! We only waited about 10 minutes before we got our seats at the bar, and as soon as we sat down, the meal continued at that pace. We were immediately shown a menu, but we didn’t need any because we asked for the ¥3,500 set.

The set included tea, miso soup, 7 pieces of nigiri and 1 maki roll. The sushi itself was pretty good, no doubt. The only piece that stood out as tasting significantly better than some of the best sushi we’ve had in New York was the otoro (fatty tuna belly). It was so creamy it melted in our mouths. Besides the otoro, we were impressed by how great sushi tasted and felt for breakfast. Filling up on lean protein to kick start the day makes perfect sense! It’s probably not traditionally done, but it was fun to try at the biggest wholesale fish market in the world.

After our morning at Tsukiji, we planned to shop around Ginza before our lunch reservation. We are big fans of Muji and Uniqlo, so we visited almost every store we saw in Asia.. probably at least 8 Mujis and 10 Uniqlos? Yikes. The flagship stores were fun to visit, but the 12-story Uniqlo in Ginza felt underwhelming compared to the 5th Avenue one in New York. But then again, that could be a good thing, meaning that they did such a fantastic job with the store layout, that all 12 floors were manageable and easy to shop. Tokyu Hands was another store I could easily spend days in. The kitchenware floor.. the stationery floor.. all the washi tape! Ahh, I’m still surprised at the self-control I exercised there.

Because this post is already getting lengthy (and I’m not halfway done with Day 2), I’m going to leave lunch and dinner for another post! The next post will cover lunch at a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant and our first ramen experience in Shibuya.

Sushi Daiwa
Tsukiji Fish Market
Building 5-2-1 (but don’t bother looking this up, just look for the lines!)
near the Tsukijishijo Station on the Oedo Line