My plan was to dine at the famed Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten as well as another high end sushi establishment for comparison. Jiro didn’t work out, but everything went very smoothly with Kyubey. Kyubey has a long history as one of the oldest and most well regarded sushi establishments in Tokyo. It was here where gunkan maki was invented. This may be more familiar to you as a “warship roll,” how you might normally eat uni with the seaweed wrapped around the rice. The second generation and current owner Yosuke Imada, whose father founded the restaurant in 1936, has managed to expand the empire to 7 locations throughout Tokyo while maintaining the establishment’s high end consistency and reputation. I didn’t want to take my chances on any of the restaurants I dined at during my trip, so I tried to stick to the main branches of each chain. I specifically requested to dine at the main Ginza location, but somehow got placed at the Annex which is just across the street.
We decided to try 2 different omakase sets, the Kyubey** with 16 pieces of assorted sushi and 1 roll, and the Shigaraki* with 2 appetizers, 3 kinds of sashimi, grilled fish, 10 pieces of sushi, 1 roll and dessert. Both sets were priced at 15,000 yen.
Lightly dressed, no surprises.
Both sets included some small appetizers. Lightly flavored, pretty tender.
I definitely thought about Care Bear when eating this dish since she would probably be so freaked out. I have eaten a lot of things with the head still present from shrimp, chicken, pork, and fish. This was on another level since they seemed a lot closer to recently living by the look in their eyes, which was a bit disturbing. That didn’t stop me from partaking in these squirmy guys with just a few drizzles of soy sauce and freshly grated ginger.
The amberjack here was just as buttery and delicate as at Sushi Daiwa. Really excellent and special.
So clean and yet still so fatty and luscious.
Fresh, clean, delicately flavored with grated ginger, green onions, and soy sauce.
Our sushi chef was quite friendly and personable. His English wasn’t too bad either. Kyubey is definitely very foreign friendly, so I am certain he uses his English frequently. Out of the other 9 guests seated with us that night, only 3 were Japanese. The rest were from Norway, Germany, and Malaysia, all with excellent English. He was showing us how he grated the fresh wasabi on a board of shark skin. The Annoyer, being fascinated with most things sushi, found a similar board while shopping and totally wanted to to buy it. If fresh wasabi were easier to come by in America he probably would have bought it.
This was the first of the 16 pieces of sushi. The Annoyer loved it.
Still chewy, but The Annoyer spoke nothing but praise.
Silky smoothly chewy. Perfection.
Since this was part of The Annoyer’s set I’ll just quote him. “Probably one of the best akami that I’ve had. Just pairs really well with their nikiri sauce and rice.”
“Just the best kanpachi that I’ve had.”
The famous gunkan maki! I got in on this and I can say it was EXCELLENT. Harutaka and Daiwa had delicious uni, but this was just a little bit better. The differences are pretty marginal.
The shrimp were dancing in anticipation of their demise.
I can’t say this was too different from Harutaka or Daiwa. It was dressed with a few drops of sudachi and sea salt, kind of like a Japanese lime.
I wonder why shrimp heads in America are deep fried, while the ones in Japan are grilled. Excellent with good smokey char.
More smokey char. Very tender.
Probably one of the best grilled fishes I have ever eaten. It wasn’t too fatty the way Chilean sea bass can be, but it was very moist with just enough fat. It also had the same smokey char as all the other grilled seafood I ate in Japan. YUMS!
Our guy hard at work. I can safely say he did not dry out the sushi like Harutaka.
“I never liked surf clam before coming to Japan because it was always cooked and rubbery, but this was very sweet and had a texture similar to scallop.”
“One of the best Otoro that I’ve had. Good marbling, fresh, just melted away”
Very few things were better at Harutaka, but the Kohada was less fishy there.
“It had a flavor similar to madai, but less chewy and sweeter.”
Hamaguri common orient clam**
Very sweet, firm clam served with tsumei sauce
I was pretty stuffed by this point. I still prefer unagi.
Clean, simple, delicious.
Radish shiso, brown paste, sesame seeds
I was really afraid I was going to hate this, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. The radish were so crunchy and juicy, kind of like a pear. The shiso added just a little bit of bite. The brown paste was just a little sweet and the sesame seeds added some nuttiness. It was a delicious palate cleanser.
Maki squash, pickled radish, cucumber, tuna
I finished all 8 pieces! I didn’t think a high end Japanese restaurant was the type of place to leave uneaten food. I did not want to be rude. The tuna was the best one.
More cake like than egg like.
I’m not sure if the fruit in Japan is better as a whole, or if they only serve you the very best of the lot at restaurants. Probably the latter. This was so sweet despite it not even being in season.
Yosuke Imada, the owner, came out to greet us. Apparently, he makes a point of coming out to greet all his guests who dine at the Ginza location. He also handed us a copy of the Wall Street Journal article about him and his restaurant empire. While it was bordering on self promotion, I found the article very informative and interesting. Unlike Harutaka who basically ignored us, Imada was down to get chummy.
The Annoyer and I were very pleased with our meal at Kyubey. I can’t imagine the experience we had at The Annex would have been any different than the main location just across the street. The sushi was fresh and amazing. The rice was perfect. The service was friendly and personable. The price point was high, but I’ve had worse sushi at higher price tags and left less stuffed. It was probably The Annoyer’s favorite meal of the trip since he’s such a huge sushi fan. I really can’t fault the place for anything. In Japan, there are obviously a plethora of sushiyas to choose from. I think Kyubey is probably a solid choice given the price, service, quality, and most of all, friendliness toward foreigners.
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here