Despite having been to Japan (Osaka, Kyoto) earlier this year, I decided to join J on her work trip to Tokyo since the dates coincided with the end of my exams and it seemed fitting to take a holiday then. As it turned out, many of other classmates had also made plans to visit Tokyo and we had made plans to meet up and I was also going to catch up with up with a friend who had been living in Tokyo for a while.
Of course, one of the first things I thought about was what to eat. Sushi came naturally to mind, the question was where. After some research and thought, I decided to make a booking at Kyubey. Many blogs had written about it being foreigner friendly and it had pretty reasonable prices (in my opinion) for lunch.
I walked to Ginza from Tokyo station (After my early morning breakfast ramen) on a wet Thursday morning. The only of my time in Tokyo when it rained (boo). Still, it was a great way to explore the Ginza neighbourhood and check out the amazing buildings
Kyubey is located on a smaller street behind the main chuo-dori street in Ginza. It’s quite hard to spot, especially if you can’t read Japanese. Thankfully, I had recognized the doorway from previous blog entries.
To be honest, when I stepped inside, I felt pretty intimidated which made me feel pretty uncomfortable. After handing the reservation slip to the front waitress, I was made to stand around in a tight waiting space while other Japanese customers were ushered to the lifts / counters. After a few awkward minutes, I was then told that I would not be seated in the main building, but in the annex. Hence, with another couple, I was ushered out and led across the street to a basement where two sushi chefs were already busily dishing out their craft.
I was quickly told to take off my coat and my handbag stowed away. I had no time to do anything else except to take out my phone for those precious camera moments. OMG! I literally felt like a duck in a pen of chickens.
The chef assigned to me was able to speak some English and I was asked for my drink choice followed by my menu choice. Deciding between the Oribe (10 pieces of sushi) (5,500 yen) and the Omakase (11 pieces of sushi with appetizer, dessert) (8,000 yen), I decided to go with the Oribe – which turned out to be a really good decision, since I would be really stuffed at the end of the meal.
Meal choice aside, thankfully, the couple seated beside me were also visiting from Singapore and they were friendly enough to strike up a conversation which helped me to relax and start enjoying my lunch.
We started out with some seaweed…
We started out with tuna, followed by another sushi (which the chef did not tell me what type of fish it was and I was a little too afraid to ask). Third, was squid and fourth was umi (sea urchin). My first impression was that the chef had laced each sushi with a rather liberal dab of wasabi. Every bite had a “whoosh” of wasabi heat up my nose. LOL. Out of the four below, it was my first time having sea urchin and I was very impressed with the silky smooth taste of sea urchin. It turned out to be one of my favorites for the meal.
Next up was the famous live prawn action that has been well documented in various blogs. The chef brought out a plate of live prawns which was still moving around and proceeded to ask us how we wanted our sushi done. Everyone around the table answered “Fresh”. I confess that I said “cooked” but quickly confirmed with the chef whether this would be all right. Both ways were fine, he said, though he did approve my initial request for it to be served cooked.
Below is a picture of the live prawn and after it was served on a bed of rice. It actually still twitched after being served! Regardless, I still preferred my cooked version as I found the prawn to be very sweet and juicy.
A shot of the sushi chef preparing the prawns. I only took this picture after he gave the go ahead for pictures to be taken!
Next up, we had scallops, otoro (tuna belly), mackerel and anago (sea eel). All were very good. The mackerel was another first for me and the chef served it with garlic and some salt which gave it a very strong flavour.
Lastly, we had five different types of maki. At this point, I was already very full and had to slowly work my way through all five. The wasabi touch was also very strong and one of the rolls actually made me tear.
To finish off the meal, we were served tamago (egg omelette) and a radish sandwich with shiso leaves and plum sauce. The omelette was really light and fluffy and the texture was almost like custard.
After 90 minutes, my first ever sushi meal was complete. After the initial awkwardness, I was able to relax and actually have some conversation with the chef, which really helped me to understand and better enjoy what I was having.
One of my friends, M, told me that Kyubey was good, but not the best. However, from what I saw and with the number of locals that filled up the restaurant, it seemed that Kyubey still remains a popular place to have sushi at.
For a first experience, I thought the quality of the ingredients was very good and (to me at least), the sushi was very well prepared though perhaps I was not very used to the amount of wasabi that the chef used. However, I would not count that against the restaurant, after all the chef knows best right. I would definitely recommend going for lunch since it is more value for money. Between the oribe and omakase, I really did not find much difference. The couple beside me had ordered the omakase, so other than two different types of sushi and the addition of an appetizer and dessert, there was not much distinction between the two sets.
Add: 8-7-6 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan