Wednesday, May 24, 2017
It's not often that I get to celebrate KH's birthday on the exact date. So when the opportunity presented itself, we arranged something special. Right after work on a rainy Friday evening, we made our way to The Table, Isetan the Japan Store. The Table is Isetan's latest offering of an eclectic collection of Japanese restaurants on the fourth floor. The whole floor had very subdued lighting with a ceiling that was an organised mass of noren.
Out of the 5 restaurants there, KH chose Sushi Azabu, a traditional restaurant that specialises in Edo-mae style sushi. Edo-mae is basically old style Tokyo. Another interesting fact is that Sushi Azabu's mother restaurant is in New York, and was accorded a Michelin star! At 6:30 PM, we were the first customers. Both chefs welcomed us, Chef Toshihide Terado and Chef Saito Makoto Sam. We took the best seats in the house, right at the sushi counter where one can watch the master at work. KH chose the Omakase while I went for the much cheaper Koi. We toasted the occasion with junmai sake, making sure to look into each other's eyes as we drank (some superstition about bad sex LOL). Chef Toshihide Terado, who is the head chef, attended to our order. Once he got our order, he chose what he needed from a wooden sushi neta case. The chef fulfilled our orders one after the other. One for KH, then one for me.
KH's Omakase included cooked items, while my Koi was a pure nigiri sushi course. As a starter, KH got whitebait with spicy roe. And he was served a chilled fruit drink. A small plate of sashimi followed containing his favourite chutoro. Unfortunately, he said it wasn't fatty enough. During the whole time, we watched the chef work magic with his super sharp knives. Sushi Azabu's chawanmushi was extremely delicate and smooth. Next for KH was grilled Spanish mackerel. The taste was quite distinct, not something I had encountered before. A simmered fish collar came next, continued by firefly squid with sweet miso. From there on, it was all nigiri sushi.
From where we sat, we could see the expert hands squeeze the vinegared sushi rice and then smoothly apply the fresh seafood on it. By default, the nigiri sushi already contains wasabi and right before serving, the chef applies a thin layer of nikiri (sweet soy sauce with mirin) using a brush (boar bristles?). The chef would put the sushi on a long plate between us and the bar. Along the course of dinner, he would wipe the plate if its dirty and refill the gari. Chef Toshihide Terado would announce each piece in a low voice, letting us what type of seafood he used.
I had several interesting pieces, for example hotate with freshly-grated yuzu zest. An interesting additional depth to the flavour. Another was mackerel with a thin layer of kelp on top. Not something I had ever tried. At one point, KH got a gunkan sushi topped with sea urchin roe, something which he does not like. The chef noticed his dismay and replaced it with a negi toro maki. While ordering, KH had told the other chef about his preference, but that somehow was not communicated to our chef. I actually profited from the mistake because I got to eat an extra piece of sushi. Hehe. When Chef Toshihide exclaimed, "Last piece." to me, KH got his dessert of yuzu sorbet.
It was definitely a dinner to remember, not only for its excellent taste and service, but also the price tag. Haha. We did not immediately go home after dinner, but spent some time at Isetan the Japan Store to see if there was any new attractions. Once our curiosity was sated, KH drove me home. In case you're wondering, there was no birthday sex. A birthday kiss would have to do for the time being. He was not disappointed because we had also planned that out as well!