Thursday, 7 March 2013

Sushiya - formerly Sushi Iwa - And, how I learned to eat fish sperm...

It was our last night in Tokyo till we come back in a few weeks. Our hunger for great sushi has still not been sated. We decided to try for Sushi Iwa. Iwa was the first Michelin starred sushi bar we'd ever been to. Straight off the plane, we dumped our bags at the hotel and headed out to find sushi. But that was three years ago. We hoped he'd have us again even with Georgia in tow. It took a little to find this place even though we'd been here before. The first time we spent an hour looking for the place. This time not nearly as long but I did have trouble pin-pointing the alley it was hidden in.

I poked my head in the door. There didn't appear to be any customers. So far so good. I didn't recognise the chef but I first thought maybe it was Iwa and my memory sucked. I asked if it was okay for us to have 3 seats including a child and he said yes. Even better. Then I said "Iwa?" and the reply was a disheartening no. New name and new chef. Bugger. It is now called Sushiya. We decided that a bird in the hand is better than not getting sushi at all, and anyway, how bad could it be? The chef and place looked the part.

Sperm Sac! Sperm Sac! Sperm Sac!
Shrimp and Roe
So began another night of most excellent sushi. We use the Michelin Guide because how else can we decide where to go and what to eat? I mean, most of the better restaurants in Tokyo are hidden by a curtain in alleys or basements or on the 12th floor of some office block. Without a guidebook you don't even know what cuisine they specialise in. A cursory look through a window will not tell you if the place does sushi or tempura. Other than guide books you can only rely on local knowledge. Hotel concierges only know so much, and, if you stay somewhere like the Monterey they're next to useless anyway. We happened on Sushiya just because it was formerly something else. What a fluke that this was as good as any Michelin starred sushi place we've been to.
Some sort of tiny shrimp or plankton

It probably means there are hundreds of decent sushi places in Tokyo. The difficulty is finding them. As tourists only here for a short time we don't have time to try and fail. That ain't fun. Luckily Sushiya was a hit. It answered one question we'd thought about. Are non Michelin starred places cheaper? Quick answer, nope. You may have heard that dinner at Jiro can cost about $300 per head. That is probably the most you'll pay. Everywhere else is around $150 to $300 per head. You can halve that for lunch. We were here for dinner. No lunch discount for us. On the plus side. We were in a sushi restaurant with Georgia after dark. That is a big win.

Our chef, like Kanesaka a couple of days ago, is gracious and most accommodating when it comes to Georgia. He was happy to make up some tuna sushi for Georgia. As usual she also shared whatever we had too. Except for the cod fish testicles. Remember I mentioned something about sperm a couple of days ago? This was a warm dish of what looked somewhat like cooked brains. It was soft and squishy and even tasted a little like brains. When our chef served it he said it was cod fish liver. Since then I did a bit of research and now know it was testicles. More accurately described by Wikipedia as a sperm sac. They can be served raw but for once I was really glad a fish dish was cooked. Even when we were eating it I had a sneaky suspicion it wasn't liver. That's why I looked it up.

Every time we've been to a sushi bar we've been served something we've never had before. This time it was the sperm sac. I still reckon sperm sacs taste better than sea cucumber. And yes, I swallowed. Ahem.

When we arrived we were the only customer but the place filled shortly afterwards. Sushiya only seats 8 or 10 people. Apart from us there was cranky looking guy with his trophy bride and a group of 3 younger guys. They were amused at my taking photos of the food but after a while they pulled out their phones and were snapping away too. We even compared photos. They were amused at Georgia powering through her sushi. When they left they said Georgia was very cute. Mr Cranky Pants barely acknowledged us. He is probably the type of customer that chefs restrict access to children for.

Sushiya is the first sushi restaurant that had a kimono clad waitress/hostess we've been to this time round. Most places, except for the Hiyama the other night, have been sausage fests. She was a delight and seemed relish talking to Georgia. She was another that got a "bye bye" out of Georgia when we left.

All in all the sushi here was excellent. I'd go back again for sure. Michelin star or not.

This ends our first stint in Tokyo. We come back to Tokyo in about 2 weeks. Tomorrow we pick up our car for our drive around central Honshu. The first stop will be Nikko about 2 hours drive to the North of Tokyo.


  1. Great to hear that Sushi Iwa is around. Apart Sushi Iwa, what has been your other favourite top sushiyas in Tokyo? How would you compare Iwa with Mizutani? Sawada? Oono? etc

  2. I'm yet to try those three but I definitely want to. David Chang calls Sawada his favourite sushi place in the world. We couldn't get into Mizutani the last time around.
    However I think Sushiya was as good as any 1 Michelin starred sushi place I've been to. Gives credence to the theory that appearance in the Michelin Guide is purely political. The best sushi I've had have been at Sushi Saito and Kanesaka.

  3. I should mention that we visited Tokyo again in early 2015 and found Sushi Iwa again. More formal that last time and we had to make reservations but by golly it was good. We also got to Sukiyabashi Jiro this time. But I will save that story for a proper blog entry.