命の出汁 – broth of vigour

an adventure in japanese cuisine, an obsession with the izakaya

Sushi Bar Yasuda – Tokyo

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Let it be known that I am a Sushi Junky, 100%. What started in the Edo period as a street food and eventually took over the world and became something to add to in every country (sometimes not so well) grabs me with it’s simplicity and intensity.

Towards the end of 2013 I saw an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” on CNN that featured Tokyo. Well, it featured parts of Tokyo that were not really up my alley for the most part (being tied up and having wax dripped on me for one) but it did highlight a sushi chef in his restaurant – Sushi Bar Yasuda.

Now that I have you back . . .

This story really dragged me in. Firstly, someone who had made for themselves a name overseas and then returned back to the mother ship to prove themselves. Sushi is everywhere in Japan and with the movie “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and the plethora of Michelin Star sushi only restaurants in Tokyo this is not an easy feat. Secondly, a wild passionate martial artist running his own sushi bar and sticking to his “guns”. And lastly, a top quality sushi restaurant in Tokyo where the master actually speaks english.

My first visit to Sushi Bar Yasuda was with my wife in August 2014. The majority of folks that evening were international visitors who had booked there prior to their arrival with the hope of having some sensational sushi. They were not disappointed. Many of them had suffered from the impact of “global sushi”. By this I mean that they have had limited exposure to much beyond salmon and tuna and thought more of the fish than the rice. Yasuda-san politely tried to nudge most people out of their comfort zone without being too pushy to enjoy some more different toppings. I tried to help having long ago had my sushi apprehensions shattered by friends and colleagues desperate to feed me the weirdest things the sea has to offer.

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Yasuda is very clear to comment when you are in the restaurant (as he states in the Bordain segment) that sushi is about the rice, “Sushi is Rice culture, not Fish culture” and this is evident in his end product. There is something a step beyond just a nice piece of topping on good rice going on here. From the video also you will see that he spends much time in preparation. Unfortunately the video gives you the impression that he is incredibly cheap when it comes to selecting ingredients. One night at his place and you will realise that this is more him using his skill to find different tasting morsels from various parts of the fish. Ask where his Uni (sea urchin roe) comes from and you will realise that he seeks to find the best for his customers.

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Keeping a 14 customers satisfied and under control like I have seen no one else accomplish on there own, Yasuda-san fires out perfect balls of sushi mixed with banter and in English and Japanese. You can get mesmerised just watching him put together sushi. See the small video below.

There are several sushi items that have surprised me at this place. Delivering Uni (sea urchin roe) without wrapping it in roasted seaweed, oyster sushi, and having sushi with nothing more than sprouts; the latter being one I often ask for seconds of and the taste still surprises me.

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Yasuda-san often refers to his place as “sushi bar public house” and he loves to have a buzzing atmosphere. This is completely at odds with the majority of more high end sushi places I have visited which are very somber and quiet. Feel free when you come in to get fire off some questions and the mood will flip immediately. He is more than happy for you to take photos and to not only enjoy his food but have a great time. On subsequent visits with work colleagues I have moved with them and others to the small table behind the counter and held court with more drinks until the shop finally closed.

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OK, so this is not the place you will come to every night for sushi. Or if you do, please contact me through the blog so you can adopt me as your son. However, compared to many other upmarket sushi places (or Normal Sushi instead of Fake Sushi as Yasuda-san would say) the price is reasonable, the atmosphere incredible and the sushi extreme. I always go for his YASUDA style Omakase and trust him but there is a fixed menu if you want predictability on price. See his website for information on pricing but as a guide we tend to pay about 2/3rds of what that place in Ginza charges for food alone including drinks.

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