There has been much talk about how the Kyushu style of sushi is very distinct from that of Tokyo- so much so that the former is termed “Kyushu-mae” among certain foodies. My experience with sushi in Kyushu thus far leads me to believe otherwise- that the style of many sushiyas in Kyushu (or Osaka) is not drastically different from those in Tokyo. The places I visited all seem to have used traditional sushi techniques not unlike those used in Tokyo- so far I’ve had all the usual suspects: the use of vinegar to cure fish (sujime), sake lees vinegar flavored rice (akazu shari, or aka shari), the use of nikirijoyu and nitsume to season nigiri with…
I suppose the real idea of “Kyushu-mae” is limited to a few shops, to my knowledge just two: Tenzushi Kyomachi & Sushi Morita. Both shops have chefs that worked at the original Tenzushi, where instead of the usual nikiri & tsume to finish the pieces salt & sudachi(citrus juice) are used. Another stark difference between the traditional Edomae style & the Tenzushi style is the latter’s use of many complementing ingredients for their sushi.
Some background knowledge is in order: the chef at Sushi Morita, Nobuo Morita-san, trained at the original Tenzushi under the father of the current chef of Tenzushi Kyomachi, Isao Amano-san. Thus it is no surprise that their style is very similar- the use rice vinegar to season their rice and as mentioned the usage of salt, sudachi and many complementing ingredients. Both shops serve nigiri only, with no otsumami (small plates) as appetizers.It is also interesting to note that both their restaurants are family-run: with family members involved in all manner of preparation from grilling, boiling and taking care of the guests.
Personally, I felt that the biggest difference between the two would be the temperature of their sushi rice.
Morita-san uses sushi rice that seems to be at room temperature. Yes, you read that right, room temperature and not body temperature. Some might describe it as cold but for me I think a distinction has to be made between cold and room temp. In the words of a major sushi nut friend of mine, the temperature play at Morita is non-existent.
That being said, the sushi here is by no means flawed because of the temperature of the rice. I loved the use of other ingredients from nikiri and tsume to finish the nigiri– and as such had many memorable pieces here (even after a stellar, stellar meal at Edomaezushi Nikaku the night before)
We started with a piece of katsuo topped with fried shallots and spring onions- great piece to open up the palate.
Kensaka-Ika, topped with murasaki uni finished with salt, sudachi & kinome leaf.
Like the meal at Nikaku the night before, the shako here was amazing, still juicy despite being finished on the grill- I encored this later on.
Otoro Aburi finished with togarashi & negi was out of this world good!
Murasaki Uni Gunkan with Tobiko- nice combination with the Tobiko giving the sushi a nice pop factor.
This awabi is definitely something to talk about: it was simply fantastic! The intoxicating aroma, the addictive yielding bite and the intensity of the abalone flavour was already enough to send me to sushi heaven, but Morita-san had to somehow lift the sushi by adding a superb thick tsume sauce and the liver…bravo!
This was another stunner. Seared on the grill just long enough to allow the fat from the tachiuo to liquify and the flesh to have some meatiness, the end result is a superb explosion of clean, sharp and fatty flavors.
And yes, they also do the “conventional” stuff very well- the akami-zuke here was excellent with the depth of flavor and soft texture.
There is a saying that the kohada at a sushi shop determines the skill level of a sushi chef- I think if that is the case then Morita-san surely aces with flying colors. The kohada here is cured in kelp (kobujime) instead of being cured in vinegar- making the typical kohada flavor profile much more delicate, and somewhat enhanced with the enchanting smell of the ocean imparted from the kelp.
A seasonal treat- grilled hamo (pike eel) served with shiso leaf & umeboshi paste.
Oyster “warship” roll- haven’t seen this served in sushi in Japan since my visit to Sushi Bar Yasuda way back, was extremely creamy & briny. I personally love oyster gunkan and would like to see it more in sushi.
The anago here also deserves special mention for being awesome!
At just shy of ¥14,000 for lunch, I think this place has excellent cost performance, given that I had more than 20 pieces of sushi after adding on. The usual cost for the lunch set is just shy of ¥10,000.
Morita-san and his family provide warm and honest service over the course of the meal. English is very limited here but they are nice enough to have the translated to English fish names for us foreigners which I thought was a very nice touch. The counter can get a bit cramped- but it makes for a good conversation space if your neighbor happens to be chatty, like mine was.