Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sushi at Araki

Since we rarely eat it at home, we wanted to indulge ourselves with a special sushi experience in Tokyo. We asked our friends living in Tokyo for their recommendation and without hesitation they replied, "Araki." Araki is not in Tsukiji or Ginza where there are a great number of sushi restaurants which open their doors to customers from all over the world. Rather, it is off the beaten track in the residential town of Kaminoge, about 20 mintues west of Shibuya station by train, where its devotees must travel to prove their desire to eat the very best . Our friends warned us that Araki would not be easy to get to via public transportation. But, from our dining experience, that's usually a good sign. The more remote, the more interesting the place tends to be.

After getting off the train from Shibuya, we left Kaminoge station at 5:45PM with map in hand. Our reservation was promptly at 6PM, so we had little margin for error. We walked for about 10 minutes, winding our way through a network of dark, quiet residential streets. At about 5:55PM, we arrived at the location where the restaurant was SUPPOSED to be. We looked around, but saw no sign of Araki. Hiroko asked a couple who appeared to be waiting for a bus, if they knew where Araki was, and they pointed to the door directly behind us!

At 6PM, the door opened. By that time, the 10 people who had congregated outside practically stampeded through the door and quickly claimed their seats at the counter. We took the two remaining seats at the end and we all sat and waited for our chef to emerge from behind a curtain....After our drink orders were taken, he took his place behind the simple wooden counter. A serious, stern-faced man in his late 30's, he was assisted by an equally stoic, extremely adept young woman in her 20's.

The atmosphere was somewhat solemn, and we felt a bit like we were in a karate dojo where the sensei demonstrates his moves and the pupils observe in silence. Noticing a few exchanges of familiarity between the other customers and chef, it became obvious that they were all regulars. We were the outsiders, and though the staff was cordial (and spoke English to Rick), it was clear that this was to a certain extent, a club. The master chef would allow himself a slight smile now and then, but he never laughed. When he spoke (infrequently) it was curt phrases uttered in a soft voice. He was a man of a few words who was completely focused on his craft.

After painstakingly careful preparation, each offering was individually presented. We started with a variety of sashimi including hamachi, abalone, uni and iIkura, and aji (horse mackerel). The hamachi was so fatty and tender that Hiroko couldn't contain herself and after putting it in her mouth, broke the reverential silence with an exclaimatory "oishii!" The uni was sweet like panna cotta or custard, and it was the perfect compliment to the slightly salty ikura that it was paired with.

Following the sashimi we were served a succession of sushi; three different grades of tuna (maguro, chutoro, and otoro), river fish, shirako (everyone's favorite, codsperm), shrimp, squid, and at last anago. Everything that we put into our mouths was sublimely delicious, perfectly prepared and proportioned. And the shari (sushi rice) was the best we've ever tasted!

Alas, at precisely 7:50PM our "shift" was over. And, as the 8PM reservation group arrived and we prepared to retrace our path back to the station, all we could do was agree that Araki was without question, the perfect sushi experience we had sought.

Kaminoge Little Town 102

4-27-1 Nakamachi Setagaya-ku Tokyo



東京都世田谷区中町4-27-1 上野毛リトルタウン102


Melinda said...

Oh! I want to go there right now!!

Do you think that I'll be unwelcome there?

Hiroko and Rick said...

Hi Melinda!

I am sure you will be welcome there! I have heard that the master/chef is very friendly man. Make sure to make a reservation in advance. And, be sure to ask him if you want to take any photos. He doesn't like it very much.

In fact, I asked him for photos, and he said "no." Later, his assistant came and told us we could take photos as long as it is a personal use. (our blog is just personal diary...) He might be unfriendly towards us because I took picture....(but, I didn't take his pictures or interior of the restaurant.)