Hatsune Zushi 初音鮨
If you love sushi and want to have a different sushi experience, I strongly recommend Hatsune Zushi. Hatsune Zushi located in Kamata, where is 30 minutes by JR from downtown Tokyo.
The chef-owner Katsu Nakaji (中治 勝) is the third generation of this family run sushiya, his grand-grandpa opened this sushiya 126 years ago. Katsu-san himself started making sushi in 1883, when he was 22 years ago, and he serves only sushi without appetizers. It is quite interesting that Katsu-san hands the sushi directly to your hand, instead of serving them on a plate.
Also, different from traditional Edomae sushi which are mostly served fresh and cold, Katsu-san warms up all the Neta in a hot plate. He seasons his Shari with Akazu (red vinegar) for a deeper flavor. The last but not the least, he detailed explains each fish include origins, weight, prices and how he processed them...
All 10 diners at the first round (5:30pm) arrived on time, seated at the Tatami style sushi counter and waiting for the show to start. He came out from behind the curtain, bowed politely and introduced himself to us.
Then he brought out the sushi rice seasoned with Akazu, and serves a bit on our hands for a taste. The rice was very well-flavored, each grain retains its own shape.
Oh, by the way, this review may seems a bit messy, because chef Katsu sliced fish and warms them up on a plate for few minutes, and this takes time. Sometimes he starts slice and warm other fish during waiting. I have re-organise most of the sequences for a smoother flow.
Chef Katsu told us that the Wasabi were freshly picked from Mt.Fuji area this morning, they were even more expansive than Tuna,
Gari (Japanese pickled ginger) is another essential part for a sushi meal. Different from most of the sushiya in Japan, Hatsune Zushi serves older ginger cut into slices. It was quite hot but works well to clear the palates.
Then the real show begins. Chef Katsu brought out a huge plate with hot water, pour them into the sink at the counter, and let us touch the hot plate - it was really hot. Then he started slicing the first fish we are going to have that day - Tai (sea bream). While he was slicing the fish, he detailed explaining the origins of the fish and were is it from. The Tai we had of the day was 6-day-mature, sourced from Akashi, Hyogo (明石).
Katsu-san placed all the sliced fish on the hot plate, cover them and it takes around 3 minutes until he started to make the nigiri. During the waiting time, he started preparing the Tako (scallop) we are going to have followed by the Tai, i didn't insert the figures here to make it more clear.
(5:50pm)It was my first time having sushi with a warmed-up neta (fish). I may the fish was a bit dryer than the normal sushi i had. The fish has a clean flavor and its subtle sweetness was nicely brought out after warming up. As the fish was served at body temperature when the chef hands over to you, it is very important to eat it on time. The rule here is to eat your sushi right at 3s for its best.
Most of the sushi chefs don't recommend guests taking pictures of their sushi as the food may not at their best after a wile. Here, Chef Katsu is not very strict with the rule, and he kindly show me everything before showing to the other guests. As i may not be able to eat right at 3s, sometimes maybe 5s, he told me to warm it up in my mouths for 2-3s for the same quality and flavor.
"One, two, three....great", he is like a teacher teaching a group of students. Tako itself was quite chewy, although only seasoned only with soy and wasabi, the flavor of the octopus was very elegant.
I love oysters, and even though i had a lot sushi before, this was my first time heard about oyster sushi. Katsu-san shucked the oyster from Ofunato, Iwate (岩手県大船渡市) and sliced into halves, wrapped over the sushi rice, and hands over to the guest.
This is the only piece served in normal temperature. The oyster was very juicy and tender, full of ocean flavors and have endless sweet aftertaste.
Then he brought a huge chunk of tuna sourced from Aomori (青森縣). The entire tuna cost 160,000,000 and this giant chunk costs him 477,000 yen. He also showed us the recipes :)
He was talking to his tuna...and divided them into 4 parts, and different parts would be prepared in different ways.
Kohada is always one of my favorite fish, it is quite interesting that Katsu-san rolled it inside-out. The moderate oils contents and its deep flavor matches well with the red-vinegared shari.
The baby Katsuo (bonito fish) was marinated with soy sauce and served warm of course, it high flavor was not less than tuna. Very tender and flavorful piece.
The whole fish was 4.1kg and Katsu-san picked the best part for his sushi. The clean flavor of the shiro-amadai nicely clease the palates.
The first part of the tuna we had that Katsu-san sliced was Akami, which has been dried for 10 days to bring out the flavor. Katsu-san is quite funny, he waved his hands to pervade the lovely aroma of warmed-tuna when he opened the lids, and he again praise himself for the great work. It was indeed delicious!
Autumn is the best season to eat Hamo (pike conger). Usually it is served with its best friend - Matsutake mushroom. Chef Katsu-san well-sliced the fish to be grilled. Once he came back to the counter, he brought a box of Matsutake mushroom, 3 pieces for 40,000 yen.
The Hamo was grilled for 7 minutes, and Katsu-san topped slices of Matsutake on each fillet. I have no idea what he is going to do with the Hamo and Matsutake, obviously not a soup, but i don't think he would served a grilled dish at this point. Guess what?
Hmm Hamo and Matsutake nigiri, how creative he is! The melt-in-mouth tenderness Hamo works perfect with the aromatic Matsutake, together with the higher-flavor shari, the entire combination was very harmony.
Tuna itself has a body tempurature at 28°C, and in order to enhance its flavor, Katsu-san marinated it with soy sauce at 28°C for a sync taste. The fish was very tender and the entire piece was quite high in flavor.
As the weather is getting colder, the skin of Ikura (salmon roe) is becoming leaner. Each single 'edible pearl' was creamy like egg yolk, perfectly bursted in my mouth with incredible umami juices. IN LOVE!
Here comes Mr.Lobster. He looks pretty angry with us, chef Katsu told him to calm down because he tastes more delicious when he is happy :)
The best way to let him rest in peak it pouring sake over him. See the collagen from the loster? Katsu-san showed us the collagen and let us have a touch, it was liking pudding.
Next we were served a glass of sake, which Katsu-san has poured over Mr.Lobster's body. It was the most umami sake i have ever had. Very clean sake flavor with a oceanic twist. Another best part of the meal. The lobster's head was going to be steamed, while the body part will be served fresh. When the head was steaming, let's move on to the Awabi first.
The Awabi was very large in size. Its oceanic fragrance made me mouthwatering once it was sliced. Katsu-san finished the nigiri with a little bit soy sauce to lift its flavor, another enjoyable piece.
The Anago (eel) was dried for 7 nights before being grilled, its natural aroma after grilled was increible. The outer-layer was pretty crispy and inside was very moist and creamy. Wasabi and Shari well-balanced the overall flavor. One of my favorite of the meal.
Katsu-san carefully took out its brain and topped on the fresh lobster meat from its body. It was another highlight of the night, the texture of the fresh lobster was so creamy and becomes richer as you chew it, the brain part has a deep flavor and matches well with the shari. Perfect combination ever.
Some people judges that it is a waste to make Otoro in this way, but to me, fresh otoro can no longer surprsied me, and this piece of Otoro Kabayaki was saporous. The freshly grilled otoro smells so good, and i couldn't wait to have to (but sadly i sat at another side of the counter and the sushi came last to me). It was fantastic - rich in oils that perfectly melted on my tongue; very feep and umami flavors, with a sweet soy twist.It was like a dream...
I swear this was the best maki roll i have ever had in my life!!
Made of all 4 kinds of tuna of the day - fresh otoro, otoro kabayaki, maguro zuke and chutoro zuke. Chef Katsu-san chopped them into cubes and mixed them up, the roll was quite large in size, even the gentleman sits next to me cannot finish it with one bite. I coudn't find any adjactives to describe this holly maki, it was simple unbelievable...if you are luky, you will probably have the one with more than 4 kinds of tuna. Please go try by yourself.
Followed by a Kanpyo roll made with homemade Kanpyo (dried Japanese groud). The sweet and crunchy flavor nicely refreshed me up.
I could imagine how my satisying smiling face looks like when i was eating the Tamago. Katsu-san's Tamago was my favorite sponge-caked. It was so moist, sweet and delicious. Perfect ending.
It was a really impressive sushi experience. A lot unique sushi and a lot to see, eating at Hastune Zushi is a lot fun even for solo-diners. The ambience is totally distinct from any other sushiya which are quite serious and no one is aware to talk too much, it was more interactive and homey here at Hatsune Zushi.
We ate a lot and learnt a lot. The bill comes a bit over 23k include the sake, which was incredible worth of value. I booked my next visit right after the meal.