Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ginza Harutaka

Talking about Ginza Harutaka, one way or another, people would mention the fact that Harutaka Takahashi was an apprentice of Japan's notorious sushi master - Jiro Ono. Along with Hachiro Mizutani, Harutaka-san was known to be the most talented students of Jiro and both of them already made names for themselves: Mizutani was a 3-star sushi-ya whereas Harutaka consistently ranked favorably according to tabelog and became the favorite place among elite chefs in Tokyo. Unlike Sushi Mizutani whose shari was more sticky (less al dente), the shari at Harutaka was more similar to Jiro's especially in terms of texture (firm but smooth) and temperature (warm). However, to distinguish himself from his master, Chef Harutaka's rice was more balanced - less acidic with mild salt that blended really well. It's very suitable to my palate.  

We only managed to have a reservation at 9 PM albeit it's only a weekday; similar to our experience at Sushi Sho, we had a 2nd seating. Reaching the Kawabata building around 8:30 PM, my wife and I decided to try our luck to get in earlier since we were quite hungry. Fortunately, the earlier diners were already left. There were 4 empty seats available at the counter throughout the night and we took advantage of those by putting some of our stuffs there. The dining room was relatively small and bright with simple design dominated by the natural color of hinoki. The atmosphere was relaxed and we felt very welcome by the friendly staffs - a sharp contrast to the rigid and stern experience I had at Ginza Jiro several years ago. The sous chef ensured us once again that our omakase would consist of sashimi/appetizers and sushi. We nodded and the adventure began      


Ise Ebi (in sashimi and jelly form) served with clam of miso - Starting a meal with something refreshing is generally safe. The spiny lobster was tender but a bit plain, combined with pleasant jelly and more flavorful clam miso - quite good
Grilled Sanma with its liver sauce - The Pacific Saury was tasty with some smoky flavor. The sauce would solidify/intensify the Sanma's flavor

The soup of Hamo in Matsutake broth - The soup, scented and flavored with the Pine mushroom, was delicious and clean. It went well to support the delicate/tender Pike Conger. One of the better tsumami (appetizer) dishes at Harutaka
Sashimi: Hirame (Olive Flounder) and Botan Ebi (Large Shrimp) with nori and wasabi - Both items were fresh. In Autumn, hirame began to develop its fat; the wasabi and shoyu would bring its natural flavor whereas the botan ebi was smooth and inherently sweet. Good sashimi selection

Abalone soup - The (kuro) awabi served with its dashi. The awabi, carefully cooked for several hours, was tender and delicious in its core flavor. The 'white' soup stock, served warmed, was slightly thick and light; kindly enhanced the overall enjoyment of the dish
Seared Bonito - The Katsuo, cut in medium thickness, had 'full body' flavor. The middle was red (barely cooked/almost raw) and its smoky skin was properly seared leaving the tasty fat in between. The top quality bonito was accompanied by a slightly bitter 'side dish - garlic, ginger & a little oil'. They tasted better when consumed together with the bonito  


Sumi Ika (Spineless Cuttlefish) - A fantastic ika will set the positive tone of Edo mae sushi experience. It was silky, naturally sweet, and tender with a good amount of wasabi
Kisu (Sillago) - A low fat fish with clean taste and tender texture. First time eating this
Shima Aji (Striped Jack) - Nice 'milky' white fish with sweet tone at the end

Akami (Lean Tuna) - It's a lightly marinated and tasty akami. The shari was a bit too much when compared to the neta size .. still good nevertheless
Chu Toro (Medium fatty Tuna) - Aged for 5 days and you got the 'best' of Akami and O-Toro (balanced between fat and flesh). It was delicious, rich and almost melt in the mouth
O-Toro (Fatty Tuna) - Very velvety and oily yet we could still taste its flavorful flesh. An excellent otoro, perhaps the best one I ate this year    

Kohada (Gizzard Shad) - Beautifully cut. Harutaka-san expertly put the right ratio of vinegar & salt on this briny silver fish. This complex fish also had a hint of sweetness - very pleasant
Ikura (Salmon Roe) - Glistening and fresh orange roes with cool texture, distinct saltiness and burst of natural oily flavor. Love it!
Aji (Horse Mackerel) - A lovely fish; fresh, a bit oily, and good texture

Kasugo (Young crimson Sea bream) - Well seasoned, pleasant texture and refreshing
Broiled Kuruma Ebi (Large Tiger Prawn) - Tender and juicy; sweet and high quality. Possibly, it's one of the best kuruma ebi I've ever eaten
Aka Uni (Red Sea Urchin) - Excellent uni with crispy nori in generous portion. The sea urchin was briny, creamy and sweet
Buri (Amberjack) - This Japanese yellow tail was tender and flavorful
Akagai (Ark Shell) - The 'blood' clam was chewy (in a nice way) but not as 'sweet' as the one I had at Tokyo's elite sushi-ya
Anago (Salt water Eel) - Creamy, sweet and melting in the mouth
Tamago (Egg) - Moist, spongy and sweet with great egg flavor 

The tsumami at Ginza Harutaka was good even though not (yet) at the level of appetizers prepared by Yoshitake. But the sushi was truly outstanding.  As we enjoyed piece by piece, it was clear that the neta was really fresh and of high quality. Harutaka Takahashi diligently visit Tsukiji market every morning; he personally & carefully selected the fish and sea food. Harutaka-san would let most of them alive as long as possible before serving the morsel to his guests in the evening. He might look young but as he showed his knife art work, we could observe his precision and elegant movement of a sushi expert. The result was a consistently excellent sushi piece(s). Chef Harutaka applied the right amount of sauce and wasabi in which both the neta and shari worked together in harmony to produce a delicious sushi. Every sushi master has his own unique style and the edomae sushi served at Ginza Harutaka was arguably my personal favorite in Japan, if not in the whole world. Somehow, I believe that the best of Sushi Harutaka is yet to come; Harutaka-san would still evolve and refine his already high skills. I will expect a better meal or at least as great as this one when I return here again in the future. Here are the pictures: Harutaka Sep '15

Food: 96 pts

Service: 93 pts

Overall: 95/100

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