Forget the conventional ways
Forget the adage that ultimate simplicity leads to purity
Forget everything you know about sushi
Let go and Let Amano
(Forgive the lame attempt to be appear deep & philosophical)
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have finally found a sushiya in Japan that I have no reservations putting as the “no.1 sushiya“. Just one meal there has changed my perception of what sushi is and can be.
I used to believe that simple is best: the less the number of ingredients, the easier it is to achieve harmony in a dish. This is especially true for very complex and sophisticated ingredients such as caviar- there are only so many ways to serve it without drowning out the nuances.
This eventually extended to my belief that for sushi to reach heavenly heights where the diner can catch a glimpse of Zeus frolicking happily in heaven with St. Peter, the amount of ingredients and processes involved have to be “simple”-maximising the natural flavors of the ingredients and not cloud it with other essences.
Prior to my meal at Tenzushi, I had the pleasure of eating at Sushi Morita, where the style of using many complementing ingredients instead of just nikirijoyu (soy sauce for sushi) or nitsume (sweet reduction sauce) to finish the sushi is used. It was a good experience, but it wasn’t as convincing as the one at Tenzushi which was the style perfected.
If you’ve watched the anime Rurouni Kenshin, Tenzushi would be the Hiten-Mitsurugi Ryu, with Amano-san being Hiko Seijuro XIII wielding it.
The rice here- seasoned mildly with rice vinegar, provides a beautiful canvas on which the master Amano paints his ground-breaking pieces. You will see in the pictures to follow that Amano-san nails almost every element associated with sushi.
Sourcing prime products? Check.
Excellent “processing” skills such as curing & marinating? Check.
Good control of fire when it comes to grilling? Check.
Excellent creativity and supreme attention to detail? Check.
Sushi that BOTH beginners and connoisseurs can appreciate? Check.
And without further ado……….
Toro to start
Can someone say UMAMI BOMB? Beautiful tuna even in summer.
Blanched Aka-Ika (Squid)with Tobiko roe, Uni (Sea Urchin) & Nishiki- Goma
One of the highlight pieces and certainly one of the most picturesque that showcases the ability of Amano-san to not only pair items that match but to calibrate them in such a way that despite the many ingredients with different flavour profiles, they all seem to be at harmony with each other.
Perhaps Amano-san can help in alleviating our world which seems to be getting less and less tolerant of differences.
“Rare” Kuruma Ebi (Japanese Imperial Prawn)
The usual kuruma-ebi in Edomae sushi is served cooked- here it is served rare with minimal cooking to preserve the texture while also improving the flavour profile. The result is a silky smooth and sweet prawn.
Shime-Saba (Vinegar-cured Mackerel)
Curing & marinating is one of the mainstays of sushi. A sushi chef must be proficient in the art of curing fish in vinegar, usually hikarimono, to make a more delicious product. Here Amano-san shows his expertise with the skill- and although very good- it falls short of the best from Tokyo.
Agemaki-gai (Constricted Tangelus)
A seasonal clam offering, this had a beautiful toothsome bite and lovely “clam” flavour lifted by the smart application of the ni-tsume sauce.
Hirame (Flounder) with its liver and ponzu sauce
Flounder can get boring, especially if you’ve had a few umami bombs on the way, but pair it with its liver and you get wowed!
Grilled Tachiuo (Belt Fish) with Plum Sauce
This is where Amano-san’s (or rather, his adorable daughter’s) grilling technique comes to fore. Beautifully done, the burst of clean fat from the fish is pared with the sharpness of the plum sauce.
Chutoro-zuke (Marinated Medium-Fatty Tuna)
This is the ougi 奥義 (secret technique) of Tenzushi Kyomachi- equivalent to that of the Amakakeru Ryu No Hirameki 天翔龍の閃 (Flash of the Soaring Dragon) from Rurouni Kenshin. I had not dreamt that chutoro could taste so good- this was supremely fatty, meaty, smoky and gelatinous all at once. Without a shadow of a doubt the best sushi I have ever had-nothing else comes close.
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about:
The most romantic fish 5eva 4eva n eva
“Katai” Aji (Horse Mackerel) served with Shoyu powder, ginger paste and sesame
Another case where Amano-san pushes the boundaries of sushi further without losing his roots. The use of intense shoyu powder instead of nikirijoyu is marvelous, matching perfectly with the firm flesh of the horse mackerel which spreads the intensity of the flavour release over a longer period of time as more chewing is needed.
Lightly seared Tai (Sea Bream) served with Nishiki Goma
Another perfect piece from Amano-san. Just a light sear to bring out more flavour from the bream and topped with smoky nishiki goma.
Sazae (Turban Shell Clam)
There is a very interesting legend for this ingredient- apparently there is a Sazae demon in Japanese mythology. The story goes like this: a ship of pirates hugging the coast heard the cries of a woman drowning in the waves who they promptly rescue with the intention of ravaging, only to find that the woman was willing and raring to go- she lay with every member of the crew that very night. However, she had her own agenda- she bit off the testicles of the crew members when they were done and claimed them. The men were naturally incensed and charged at her before she revealed her true form as a Sazae demon- and offered to sell the pirates back their testicles for their plundered treasure. Something to think about when you eat this nigiri at Tenzushi lol.
Uni (Sea Urchin)
Anago (Sea Eel) served with ni-tsume(sweet reduction sauce) and sesame seeds
Very good but once again does not match the best of the best from Tokyo.
Tuna Roll with Umibodo (Sea Grapes)
Nice way to end- crunchy umibodo is definitely an interesting ingredient to pair with fatty tuna. After the tuna hand roll you will receive a tamagoyaki(grilled egg) and a melon to end.
What is amazing about this meal is not just the highlight reels but the meal as a whole- the calibration here between fish and rice for the WHOLE meal is spot-on for ALL the pieces. Not one item dominates the other and each has its own place and reason.
I am writing this months after I ate there, and recently just visited some of the best sushiyas in Tokyo, and I still maintain my stand that this is the no.1 sushiya in my book.
Cost Performance: 4.8/5 (When compared to other Kyushu shops)