Visited in February 2017
461 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10017
I had the most profound revelation during our recent trip to Hong Kong and Tokyo. It really made no difference where I was actually, or what type of cuisines we were partaking in, it’s a general realization on meals and eating out.
We spend all this time planning out the best places for dinner. All day long, we look forward to that meal. All day long we limit ourselves in what else/how much we consume, all so we can save room for that meal. When we finally arrive at said meal, and we could be thrilled and awed, severely disappointed, or anything in between. If it sucked, you wasted your entire day of meals to be dissatisfied. If it was just ok, then you wish you had opted for at least some of those other meals or snacks prior. But even if it’s great, if it’s everything you could have hoped for, then what? You had one really great meal of the day, and were not satisfied with ANY of your other meals or snacks because YOU restricted yourself.
Think of the possibilities if you splurged your appetite on LUNCH instead of dinner? If it sucks, you move forward, have a second lunch if you’d like. Snack the rest of the day, to your heart’s content. I’m a big proponent of second lunches by the way. Don’t judge! But if it was great, fantastic! You already had a win for the day, so go ahead, eat and drink whatever else you want. Don’t worry about ruining your appetite, killing your taste buds, just enjoy! See? There is zero harm in planning your GREAT meal for lunch, only gains.
I came to this revelation after our lunch at Sushi Masuda in Tokyo, Japan. Chef Masuda is a disciple of Jiro from the documentary “I Dream of Sushi”. Due to that relationship and to Chef Masuda’s 2 Michelin Star rating, we were forced into a lunch reservation as opposed to dinner purely out of availability. We were beyond thrilled with our meal, and then we headed to the Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku Stadium and were able to happily snack on away! Today, after our really fantastic meal at Ginza Onodera with head chef Masaki Saito, I found TWO more reasons to support my “fancy lunches RULE” revelation.
First additional “Fancy Lunches RULE” reason: COST! Ginza Onodera for example, serves a $150 lunch omakase for 15 pieces, or $300 dinner omakase for 20 pieces, or $400 dinner omakase for 6 small plates (includes cooked foods) and 12 pieces. You do the math! And remember, you can always order additional pieces! Unless if you’re at Tanoshi of course, they only give you like 10, 15 minute max to order additions. Ah hem Tanoshi!!! Second additional “Fancy Lunches RULE” reason: Crowds are almost non-existent during lunch, especially if you take the later seating. Reason? People have to go back to work! But if you can take a personal day, take a half day, or sneak out for just 2 hours, it will be worth the time! If you plan to imbibe, make that a half day at least! J You get so much more attention from the chef, the staff. You can learn so much more about what you’re eating, how it’s prepared, or just chat in general. TRUST ME, it’s 100% worth that half personal day.
Chef Saito is an amazing chef, AND he is very willing to chat with customers and share his sushi insights. He’s really quite entertaining actually. He does have a temper, and need for perfection. Another entertaining something actually. We watching him reprimand the second chef, three times, and then his kitchen staff once. The kitchen staff was being a bit rowdy for all of 3 seconds. But the secondary chef, we did not catch what she did “wrong”. It’s like really? You’re mad at that? And he was. But of course, without a high bar for standards, you would never reach excellence. You do your thing Chef Saito!
Our Lunch Omakase today:
- BURI ZUKE – I just realized, the only thing ZUKE-d (a specific marinade with soy and mirin as its main ingredients) I’ve ever had was Tunas. But I suppose Yellowtails are a close cousin? Served with a super mild Japanese mustard, this was oh so tasty!
- KINMEDAI (Golden eye snapper) – The most insane thing? I noticed the quality of the rice before I did the fish! The rice is very well seasoned, I feel like it is a DASHI of sorts, but really can’t tell. There’s a good amount of vinegar in it too. It is really delicious. The KINMEDAI was fantastic as well. It’s one of my favorite fishes of all time, and I don’t even mind that it’s not ABURIed (torched).
- KOHADA (Gizzard shad) – You know how underage kids will have cheap tequila, get sick and never want to drink again? Well, kinda like my situation but not quite. Used to LOVE KOHADA, but I recently had an insanely gross KOHADA at Uogashi, that I could no longer care for the sight of it. But Chef Saito’s Kohada, served with egg yolk flake, brought me back as a fan, HUGE fan!
- KAMASU (Barracuda) – Insanely delicious! Just the other day, we went to Jewel Bako, and Chef Mitsunori gave us some unrecognizable KAMASU. This one was clearly a KAMASU, and really delicious!
- MADAI (Seabream) – Similar to the KAMASU, our very recent FRUSTRATING Jewel Bako experience served us an unrecognizable MADAI. This one is a traditional MADAI, and it was just fantastic. I’m very much of the camp, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
- SHIMA AJI (Striped Jack) – Beautiful! Just beautiful! This shima aji was still super dense, super flavorful, and still had a fantastic fresh crunch to the bite!
- HIRAME KOBUJUME (Marinated Flounder) – KOBUJIME is a margination method very different than the ZUKE. It’s a milder method using the KOMBU seaweed. I love whitefishes prepared this way. The KOMBU binds such lovely flavor to the fish, it’s incredible.
- AKAMI ZUKE (lean marinated Tuna) – Chef really excels with his margination techniques. Like his BURI, this AKAMI’s flavor was so thorough. It wasn’t just the outside layer, the whole piece was incredible.
- CHUTORO ZUKE (Marinated Medium Fatty Tuna) – Perfect amount of fat and flavor!
- SABA (Marinated Mackerel) – With the exception of KURUMA, I RARELY like SABAs. Topped with KOMBU, this was fantastic.
- AJI (Horse Mackerel) – Topped with grounded ginger and soy, this was a fantastic piece of AJI. And by the way, Chef drinks with guests!!! That always makes for an extra fun time!
- AORI IKA (Bigfin reef squid) – This high end IKA was fantastic, not at all chewy or slimy, instead, still had a tiny crunch. Really great.
- IKURA (Salmon Roe) – Beautiful luscious WHOLE, non-crushed pearls that has been perfectly marinated. Delicious!
- HOKKAIDO UNI with HOKKAIDO sea salt – Chef Saito said this UNI was marinated in sea water, and topped with powdered Hokkaido sea salt. Outrageously fantastic. And gorgeous, might I add!
- ANAGO (Sea eel) – Ugh, I wish I asked for no ANAGO. We were running late for our appointment, so I didn’t want to push my luck. Asked for nothing. But I wished I could have saved the space for more RAW fish.
- Vegetarian roll – I don’t remember the exact kind of vegetable this was, nor was I too interested. I really wished he gave us another piece of raw fish instead.
- HOKKAIDO UNI repeat of course!!!
- KAWAHAGI (Filefish) – This very unique whitefish has a very limited season in the Fall. The uniqueness and appeal of the KAWAHAGI it their huge LIVER. When you order a KAWAHAGI sushi, you get it served with a slice of their liver. Double Yumminess!!!
- NAMADAKO (Live octopus) – Very good and not chewy NAMADAKO. I have to say, I still prefer Chef Takashi’s better. Too bad he’s no longer at Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya. Too bad he’s now at the non-true-omakase, LESSER Blue Ribbon Sushi…
I am SO GLAD we visited Chef Saito for lunch and not dinner. While the overall bill for lunch was still roughly $650, it was well worth it, and all around a fantastic time. They did do something funky though. They did that walking you all the way out to the sidewalk thing, and continually bowed. And we didn’t even tip them! They don’t allow for tips! We will be back again and again and again. Thank you Chef Saito!