I'd planned on making our first full day in Tokyo our "red lettered day" for our trip and things were starting out great with a visit to Tsukiji and breakfast at Tenfusa. We left Tsukiji and decided to walk up to Ginza. We stopped for coffee in a nice quiet shop and struck up a conversation with a nice couple, he was retired military, his wife, a native of Tokyo, returns yearly to lecture. It was quite an entertaining discussion.
Ginza is the upscale shopping and entertainment neighborhood of Tokyo....huge multilevel department stores, like Mitsukoshi, which once had a shopping complex in Waikiki which had an entire floor of video games. So large it even has its own subway stop on the Ginza line! More on that later.
We walked around the Ginza area killing time. I'd gotten lunch reservations at Sushi Iwa through the wrangling of some friends. That's the deal with being in an apartment, there's no concierge service, but I think we did fine. For what it's worth, the place has a Michelin Star, which, I guess for some people is all that really matters...... sigh.
Now finding a single doorway on a side street in Ginza while trying to use the Japanese address system, can be frustrating. Armed with a photo of the storefront, finding the address 8-5-25 Ginza, Chuo-ku ranks right up there with spending your day chewing on aluminum foil. For some reason, the Missus did exceptionally well once we could locate the "chome" - district, in this case 8-chome. The next number is the block, which was easy enough....you find 4 or 6 and you know "5" is in there somewhere. That last number is the building....the trick here being that the numbering for buildings is not consecutive. Rather, buildings are numbered in the order in which they were built or in reference to some "center"! All this made finding almost everything an adventure. We really didn't feel bad after seeing so many Japanese visitors and even residents of Tokyo...even our friend Reiko has no idea how to find a place without using a business card, an app, or asking directions. Given the immense tolerance and patience of folks we ran into, this is fairly common.
The shop itself is quite tiny; only six seats. The lines very clean, very neat, the space wide open for viewing the chef Hisayoshi Iwa preparing our meal.
So why lunch? Well, the Missus was having a hard time justifying spending over $200 per person for a sushi dinner, kaiseki maybe, but just not sushi. Plus, with rice involved, we tend to fill up rather quickly. Sushi Iwa has a basic sushi lunch (10 pieces) for 4750 yen - (under $50, you can get the 13 pieces for $85). This is a bargain in my eyes.
We started with a nice clean, cold sake, which the Chef recommended.
It was a joy to watch the precision practiced by the rather young (mid-late 30's) Chef. I love the single bite Edo style sushi. The rice here is very mild and balanced in flavor, which is my preference. The nikiri is also quite neutral, no heavy sweet or salty tones, just adding a mild umami. I loved what I call the "rice explosion", when the nigiri enters the mouth and just breaks down without chewing....the Missus still isn't used to this having had too much neighborhood sushi back in the states.
1 - Hirame.
It's standard operating procedure to start with a firm and mild shiromi and hirame (fluke/flounder) fits the bill. I personally love shiromi, the subtle flavors, rasied by a nice nikiri. This had a bit too much wasabi on it for my taste, but was still a nice firm piece.
2 - Madai
Firm then yielding, my kind of fish.
3 - Kinmedai
I really loved this fish, golden eye sea bream, when I had it earlier in the year at Shunji. This just confirmed my love for the firm, yet deceivingly fatty flesh which was elevated by the nikiri. We basically used no soy sauce for any of our nigiri.
4 - Akami-zuke
Lean maguro, "cured" in a soy sauce mixture. This was fine, but really nothing special in terms of flavor or texture. In fact, this one just reinforced how good Tadokoro is in my mind.
5 - The prep for the ika was amazing to watch. The squid was sliced horizontinally into paper thin sheets....you could actually see through them! It was then cut into very thin strips.
It almost looked like shio ebi! After having mine, I told the Missus this one was going to change Her view of ika. And it did! It was amazingly tender with great flavor....it nearly melted in our mouth.
6 - Katsuo
Good oil, but still quite mild, nice meaty texture.....the usual ginger helped refresh.
7 - Ishigaki Clam
At first I thought it looked like mirugai, but I was told it was Ishigaki-gai - Giant Clam from Ishigaki Island, something new for me. It was firm and crisp and more briney than sweet. In fact, the rather heady flavor reminded me of Chocolate Clams.
8 - The hotate (scallop) was cured, then massaged.
9 - Ikura
The Missus had also never had ikura that tasted like this. It was clean, like a orb of the cleanest, sweetest, ocean water. I often go back to this line, "I've been told that the freshest, cleanest salt water in the world exists several hundred miles off the South coast of the Big Island, deep in the ocean, the Ikura made me think of how clean and refreshing that water would taste" from a post from the past.
10 - Anago.
True Edo-mae sushi places in Tokyo will never serve you unagi, rather, only items from the ocean, and out of Tokyo bay will be served. This was an excellent example of the sweet, mild, melt in your mouth, anago nigiri. Nothing I've ever had (Kaito, Kokoro, Tadokoro, places in LA) has ever been this good.
11 & 12 - Things ended with some miso shiru and a combination of rolls.
All in all, a wonderful meal, and a bargain at $110 for the two of us.
8-5-25 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Wow, we'd had quite a day....and it was only half over!