One expensive uni night out
IT’S not every day my husband and I find ourselves roaming the backstreets of Japan freely, and so it’s not every day we choose to fork out $500 for a sushi dinner.
But it was with absolute fervour and delight we sat down at the counter at Sushi Bar Yasuda in Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo, with Naomichi Yasuda at the helm.
You may know him as Anthony Bourdain’s pal from Parts Unknown, or that viral Munchies video that basically taught you that you were eating sushi the wrong way your entire life.
Manhattan’s sushi cognoscenti were floored when Yasuda made the announcement he was leaving New York after 27 years to open the 14-seater basement sushi bar we were sitting at.
That night, we were there for an introduction to uni, or sea urchin, and wanted it done the right way. We had heard the first taste of uni can uniformly decide your uni future.
You have two menu options at Sushi Bar Yasuda – the set menu with a 14-piece sushi assortment (?¥7800) or the omakase, which is the Japanese tradition of giving the chef creative freedom to serve you (with a varying price to match).
There was only one way to go here, in my opinion, and so as part of the omakase experience, my husband and I were quizzed about our favourite kinds of sushi.
Piece after piece of artfully formed, skilfully executed sushi was produced in front of our eyes as Yasuda talked us through the star ingredient of every piece.
A slick painting of his signature soy sauce – a blend of shoyu, seaweed, bonito flakes and sake – and the fluffy morsels landed delicately on our bamboo serving platforms, ready for our eager palates.
Yasuda went in for the kill as we had mentioned the uni thing, introducing us to sea urchin sourced from Hokkaido, followed by a brinier, ochre-coloured version from Russia. Mindblowing.
We were introduced to steelhead trout, slow melt-in-your-mouth otoro or fatty tuna, akagai or arc clam, oyster from the Toyama prefecture, the famously phallic pacific geoduck, “squid face,” tiny green scallions (yes, as a sushi topping), anago or saltwater eel, and Japanese river prawns.
Chef Yasuda also made us his personal favourite, a fatty tuna and green scallion maki that was crisp, refreshing and way too good.
We learnt about the shari or sushi rice sourced from his hometown of Chiba, the topgrade seaweed paper that he prefers to use, and his personal soy sauce blend.
It was a true masterclass in sushi if we had ever witnessed one and it was highly interactive.
Clockwise from top left: Geoduck, mini squid, river prawn, squid face, prawn and sea urchin.
Yasuda shows his craft.