Sushi Ichikawa (鮨 いちかわ)

After a little bit of research online, I happened to find a michelin-starred sushi restaurant within walking distance of our stomping grounds in Futako Tamagawa.  Sushi Ichikawa is an intimate sushi restaurant with around 10 seats, the owner/sushi master Ichikawa-san, and just 2 staff.  The interior decoration is extremely minimal, drawing the customer’s attention instead to Ichikawa-san’s cutting skills as he transforms a whole block of tuna into a glimmering slice of creamy sushi heaven.  The large, stained wooden counter at which you sit also serves as the plates on which almost all of the courses are served.  Like Jimbocho Den, and many other fine restaurants in Japan, there is no menu.  Just sit back and leave it to the chef.

On a personal note, this was the first time either of us had enjoyed high-quality sushi.  We usually eat at kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) and leave happy.  Still, at a restaurant like Ichikawa, there really is a noticeable difference in the care put into the preparation of the rice and the freshness of the fish.  I have a feeling that this won’t be the last sushi post on this blog.

The course is 18,000 yen, and with two decanters of sake, our total came out to just over 20,000 yen a head.

Let’s eat Sushi Ichikawa!

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 Before the actual sushi, you get a few appetizers.  First was hirame sashimi (Japanese flounder) served with engawa (meat taken from the fin of the fish).

DSC_1232Boiled abalone and kimo (awabi served with its liver).

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Tachiuo (beltfish) served slightly grilled.  The fatty part of this fish is juicy and delicious.

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Mirugai (geoduck) served with bamboo in dashi.  This final appetizer warmed the body in preparation for the sushi to begin.

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Kohada (gizzard shard) – Apparently this should always be the first piece of sushi served.  The taste and freshness of this piece is the standard for the rest of the course.  If the kohada is no good, get up and walk away from the restaurant!

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Akami (standard tuna)

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Chu-toro (fatty tuna)

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Otoro (super fatty tuna) – Glad to receive two of these, because they are AMAZING with an intense, creamy flavor that honestly melts in your mouth.

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Ika (squid) topped with a bit of salt and sudachi citrus fruit.  The delicate cutting patterns on the top of the fish really display Ichikawa-san’s precision.

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Aji (Japanese horse mackerel) cut in a way that the soy sauce glazed on by Ichikawa-san penetrates every part of the fish.

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Uni (sea urchin row) is one of my favorite sushi, and Ichikawa did NOT disappoint.  Salty, creamy, and fresh, tasting like it was just plucked from the ocean.

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Zuke (soy-sauce marinated tuna)

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Hamaguri clam glazed with unagi (eel) sauce.  Ichikawa-san asks you to hold out your hand and serves this piece directly from his hand to yours.  A nice touch in closing out the sushi course.

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The final dish was rice topped with nodoguro (blackthroat seaperch) and wasabi.  An incredible finish, though we were a little surprised there was no dessert.  Indeed, even some fruit would have been a nice way to end the course on a sweet note.  Still, a very pleasant dining experience.

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A closing picture of the young owner-chef at work.

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Jimbocho Den (神保町傳)

We recently visited Jimbocho Den, one of our very favorite restaurants in Tokyo.  It only has one Michelin star, but deserves at least one more. The young owner/chef, Zaiyu Hasegawa, uses traditional Japanese kaiseki as a base for his menu while adding copious amounts of flair and personal creativity.  Speaking of menus, there aren’t any.  You are seated at a counter facing the kitchen, the chef asks about any food allergies, they say “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (a Japanese greeting), and the cooking begins.  All the while, the always gracious Noriko takes great care in providing amazing service, excellent drink recommendations, and helping you feel welcome as you enjoy every dish.  Indeed, one of the best things about Jimbocho Den is the atmosphere.  Though the food is top-quality and prepared with skilled technique, there is never an air of stiffness, and it feels like everyone is your friend. For the price, taste, and fun that this restaurant provides, it is one of Tokyo’s finest restaurants.  Budget around 20,000 yen a head for the course and several drinks.

Let’s eat Jimbocho Den!

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Koshi-abura and tara-no-me tempura with a salt powder.

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Thinly-sliced white asparagus with onsen tamago egg and crumbled dashi cookie.  The first time I’ve heard of dashi and butter being used together.

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The first “teiban” (dish that is always served, regardless of season) is a humorous one – Dentucky Fried Chicken

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While Den always serves the DFC, the stuffing is different every time.  During this visit, the chicken was stuffed with green peas and soft mochi rice.

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Otsukuri course- grouper (hata) sashimi dry-aged for one week with fresh wasabi.

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Kinka pork from Yamagata prefecture with spring onions, soramame beans, and wild rucola.  One of the best pieces of meat I’ve ever tasted.  The fatty parts were juicy and sweet.

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Den’s 2nd “teiban,” a 20-ingredient salad.  Every vegetable is prepared in its own way and there is no dressing, but an explosion of flavor thanks to kombu, salt, crushed tea leaves, and other ingredients.

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We were doing a good amount of drinking and talking with Noriko for a while, so Zaiyu gave us this “otsumami” to enjoy (otsumami is meant to be enjoyed with alcohol) – hotaru ika (squid).

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The suimono (soup course) featured tons of mountain vegetables (sansai) and a thickened broth to combine both bitter and savory flavors.  Zaiyu made sure to tell me that while the taste may be bitter, it’s very good for your health.  I thought it was delicious.

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Kamameshi – the final dish of the course is a rice dish that changes regularly.  Tonight’s featured shirasu (dried baby anchovy) and baby squid.  The rice was creamy and delicious.  I had seconds.

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Dessert tonight was kuzu-mochi in a kiwi sorbet garnished with rhubarb.  An amazing dessert blending textures while the kiwi brought a great tartness to the sweet mochi.

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The main man, Zaiyu, posing with our extra dessert.  I mentioned to Noriko that I had seen this dish on various blogs and wondered what it was.  She started explaining it to me and then just went ahead and requested “two coffees” for us.  It was actually a pudding and ice cream mixed with black truffles and topped with a foamy cream.  A truly decadent finish and a really kind gesture from the staff.  These people are awesome!