Don’t confuse Sushisho Saito, a tiny, hushed sanctuary for the serious sushi aficionado, with the 3 Michelin-starred tourist haven Saito. Though the latter has received much international press, our destination, Sushisho Saito is where the real foodies go. Like many of Tokyo’s hidden gems, the restaurant is located on the second floor of a nondescript office building, in Akasaka. “Sho” means “master,” and Sho Saito is known throughout Tokyo’s culinary underground as one of the most gifted sushi masters in town.
As a devotee of New York’s Master Yasuda (who is currently relocating to Tokyo as a personal challenge to further his skills) I am a fan of traditional omakase-style sushi, chef’s choice, to be experienced one mind-altering piece at a time.
I woud have never found Sushisho Saito without the expertise of my gastronomic guide, Tokyo Fixer Shinji Nohara. His mission was to give me the very best sushi experience possible in Tokyo, no holds barred. There were only two other groups at the 8-seat sushi bar, the woman beside us wearing the slinky pink dress was apparently a movie star. Sliding into my seat at the blonde bamboo counter and watching the master in anticipation, I felt like I was a member of a private club.
Sho Saito is known for perfectly pairing some of Japan’s top sakes with his omakase menu. Shinji went for the pairing but I stuck with beer, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I was served the best beer I’ve ever tasted. Sho Saito hand selected the über-local organic microbrew as the restaurant’s signature beer. I know I’ll never find it anywhere else, but that’s the magic of these kinds of once-in-a-lifetime culinary experiences.
From the first, firm, buttery piece of kimmedai, or golden-eye snapper sushi, I was riding a foodie high all the way to the 30th, yes thirtieth, and final course. Not only was each bite meticulously prepared, whether it was a simple presentation of mackerel or a lightly seared bonito. I sampled many new and diverse dishes, some I had never imagined I’d be trying, like cod sperm sacs, or raw sea cucumber. It was a culinary adventure on many levels from beginning to end – a meal for a true sushi lover. However, if your idea of sushi is a california roll and spicy tuna, this might not be the place for you.
Standouts: The anglerfish (also known as monk fish) liver was rich and sublime, like foie gras. The uni (sea urchin) was definitely the best I’ve tasted, even superior to the delicious Santa Barbara variety.
Shockers: Shirako, the raw, engorged sperm sac of a codfish. I had one of those “I’ve seen it on TV but I can’t believe it’s in front of me” moments. It honestly may have been the mentally toughest thing I’ve put down this past year, but I did it with a smile. The sea cucumber may be the most interesing thing I’ve eaten, both in texture and taste. Initially, it’s very hard, almost like plastic, but as you chew it becomes more supple. The flavor is sour, almost acidic, but not bad at all, I’d definitely try sea cucumber again.
The 30-Course Omakase Dinner
Kimmedai – Golden Eye Snapper
Shiro-ebi – Baby White Shrimp
Hirame – Winter Fluke
Shirako – Sperm Sac (Cod)
Saba – Mackerel
Crab, Roe, Meat, Guts
Aoyagi – Orange Clam
Tako – Octopus (boiled in sake and water)
Kodai – Baby Snapper
Namako – Sea Cucumber (served with cucumber)
Maitake Mushroom Egg Custard
Ikura – Salmon Roe
Katso – Bonito (lightly grilled)
Mehikari – Greeneyes
Dry Aged Tuna/Toro
Anago Liver – Sea Eel
Pickled Zasai Stem – Mustard Plant
Angler Fish Liver
Slightly Grilled Otoro
Uni Hand Roll
Slightly Grilled Golden Eye Snapper
Kohada – Gizzard Shad
Kawahagi – Filefish (with kimo/liver sauce)
Buri – Wild Yellowtail (aged five days)
Toro Tartar (pounded with sesame and scallions)
Sushisho Saito is located at: 2F, 4-2-2 Akasaka, Minato-ku
For reservations, call: 03.3505.6380
2010 Mileage Total: 98981