Sushi Kimura pretty much fits the idea of ‘hipster’ Edomae sushi. The shop is located far from the Golden Triangle of Sushi Temples in Ginza. You won’t get tuna belly because Kimura-san thinks it is ‘overrated’. You will probably be the only foreigner dining there.
So why eat at Sushi Kimura? Well, if you want a sushi experience that is pretty much not found anywhere else inclusive of Tokyo itself, this is the place (I exaggerate). Sushi Kimura manages to fuse both age-old tradition with modern techniques to form what is called “jukusei” or matured/aged sushi. The niche of Sushi Kimura is the extensive aging periods that he puts his fish through. Depending on the type of fish, it can range from 2 days to 2 months. Compare this with the conventional period of 7 days for aging tuna and the ‘super-aging’ of tuna at Sushi Sho for 21 days, and you have an idea of how unique this process is at Sushi Kimura.
So why age fish? What aging does is that it helps to break down the proteins in the fish, improving both the texture of the fish and its umami levels, creating new flavors. However, some fish may prove difficult to age well, a prime example is white fish which has a higher water content and some silver-skinned fish such as Aji (horse mackerel) which does not take well to long periods of aging. This does not mean that aging necessarily produces the ‘best’ results. It is merely a technique to heighten the flavor of the fish.
So how does this tie in with tradition? The answer lies in the shari at Sushi Kimura: seasoned with just akazu (red vinegar from sake lees) and salt. In the Edo period, akazu was more widely used in the sushi stands than the white rice vinegar we are accustomed to in modern times due to the difficulty in producing the latter then. Shari seasoned with akazu has a more potent earthy-piquant vinegar kick but is nowhere as “sharp” as drinking vinegar from the bottle. It is in fact quite complex and mellow although I must admit that the first bite can be quite a shocker. The more sushi-crazed amongst you must be wondering why sugar is omitted from the shari: akazu is slightly sweet. Furthermore, using sugar can steal the spotlight from the natural sweetness in the fish (particularly white-fleshed fish) which is developed through the aging process.
Kimura-san’s rice is very al dente and the size of the sushi is a little on the large side. Some diners say this is a minus but I say this is a major plus as long as the rice doesn’t dominate the fish and ruin the harmony. The reasons for this is his unique neta that provides a silky-ish texture and hard al dente rice a beautiful contrast is made. The al dente rice also requires more chewing, allowing you to savour more of the fish flavours, whereas if the rice was soft, one would have swallowed the sushi without fully savouring the more delicate flavours of the fish due to the ‘softer’ fish texture.
For me I was overwhelmed by the experience: I never expected such a marked difference in the flavours due to aging. I expected the flesh to be sweeter sure, but some neta had totally new flavour profiles. The prime example would be the Makajiki (Blue Marlin) aged for over two months together with soy sauce. The fermentation process and the aging process goes hand-in-hand to create the most unique nigiri I have eaten thus far: having a crazy coffee-chocolate note, a clean fatty taste, and heightening complexity at every chew.
The atmosphere is also very relaxed, with the diners chatting with the chef. Kimura san is very helpful, telling you what’s what and willing to discuss his methods. Also, he charges a very good price at 16,200 Yen without drinks. Considering that you get otsumami (appetisers)+ sushi, this is an insane price for this level of sushi. Compare this price with the top places in your home countries and you will see the cost performance. One might think that this is because the fish used is not as ‘premium’ but they would be wrong: it takes a very good piece of fish to be eligible for aging (think like good steak).
I can’t wait to be back.
Date of Visit: Feb 2015
Address: 3-21-8 Tamagawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo