Last night Madame Wife & I decided to give a "new" (to us) sushi restaurant a try: Naito Sushi, 3-33-3 Hamadayama, Suginami Ku (TEL: 03-3302-4763). The shop has been here for 9 years & owner/chef Naito-san has been in the business for about 20 years.
Are we glad we tried it? You bet! This is one of the best sushi shops we've been to. Itamae (Sushi Chef) Naito does sushi very, very well.
I commented on a recent article I had read about how the taste of sushi changes depending on how tightly packed the rice is. Naito-san said, "Not only how tightly (i.e., how many grains of rice in a nigiri - the rice "ball" in sushi), but also how much air the chef puts into it." He explained that the purpose of folding and refolding the rice into the right shape a few times is one of the secrets of good sushi. The "folding" process adds air to the rice - that is, air between the grains - which keeps the rice less tightly packed and causes the rice to "melt" in the mouth & blend well with the fish.
At most sushi shops you get a small dish to put soy sauce into (I'm sometimes appalled at how much soy sauce some people, usually non-Japanese, put on their sushi; remember folks, just lightly touch the fish - NOT the rice - to the soy sauce - after all, it's not meant to be a soy sponge). No such little dishes at Naito Sushi (except for the sashimi). The sushi is already lightly salted, or brushed with the chef's soy based sauce, so no additional sauce is needed. This was another first - and definitely a good experience. Chef Naito's method means you should eat the sushi soon after it's placed in front of you; otherwise, it may fall apart as you try to pick it up, but then again, who wants to sit & admire the sushi for a long period. After all, it's meant to be eaten!
Another of Naito-san's 'secrets' is to get up early & be at the Tsukiji Fish Market before 5:00 A.M. to pick out the fish he'll be serving that day. He likes to serve only fish that are in season on the day, which means you'll get the freshest possible fish and some interesting varieties. We had several that we've never had before - all scrumptious - even the shellfish, which are usually not my favorite. Naito Sushi's shellfish are the most tender I've ever had at a sushi shop.
Mrs. Naito does a great job of recommending the right sake to go with the sushi. We tried two of her recommendations: Kagatobi (Ishikawa Prefecture), which is smooth with a slight essence of banana. Next was Tsumoru (Nagano Prefecture). It starts out with a slight anise taste and has a bit of yellowish tint in the glass. Now, unlike wine, sake usually doesn't change flavor as it "opens" in the glass, but this one did. Later sips had very little of that first taste of anise, but there is a bit more "bite" to this one than Kagatobi. Both very good sakes. Oh, and you might want to give the beer specialty of the house a try - a blend of Bass Ale and Asahi Super Dry - yumm!
And the price? Plan on about 10,000 yen per head; depends on what, and how much, you eat & especially on how much you drink. You can go lower or higher. If you want to keep within a certain budget it's always a good idea to let the chef know ahead of time, but if you just like to order the things you know, or try some new dishes, or drink a few more sake brands, then plan on a higher budget.
If all you've ever had is sushi at a 100 yen kai-ten (conveyor belt) sushi shop then you are definitely in for a super treat. Eat good sushi & you'll probably wonder why in the world anyone would eat kai-ten sushi (okay, it may have it's place, but.....).