Ejo #41 – The Best Meal I Have Ever Had In My Entire Life (At Sushi Yoshitake – Tokyo, Japan)

I promised myself (I swore black and blue) that for this month’s ejo, I wouldn’t be writing about our travels (or the food we shove in our faces during our travels). I am quite obviously, a good-for-nothing liar, because as you can see I am very much writing about the food that we ate during our recent trip to Japan. But c’mon, have you read the title of this month’s post??? How do you eat the best meal of your entire life and not write about it? How do you enjoy the most incredible food you’ve ever consumed in 41 years of, pretty well non-stop, eating and not shout it from the rooftop? When you experience a meal like David and I had on the 13th April 2013 you simply MUST write about it. It feels like a moral obligation to do so.

 

So, I did a quick calculation. By my conservative estimate I’ve had in excess of 45,000 meals in my lifetime. I’ve had breast milk, mashed bananas, sandwiches, fruit, two minute noodles, lasagne, stir fries, pizza, hamburgers, veal schnitzel, cheese platters, soufflés, Wagyu steaks and Moulard duck foie gras en terrine with Rose gelée, Pink Lady apple, Génoise, nasturtium, red walnuts and Périgourd truffle.

 

That last one there was one of the dishes we ate at The French Laundry a couple of years ago. That was our first three Michelin star experience. We’ve had a couple since and to be completely honest I haven’t been so impressed by the three star brouhaha. Three stars apparently translates as fussy food, even fussier service and bloody ridiculous prices. I decided a little while ago that I preferred food that was somewhere in the middle. Yes, I still love a good tasting menu. But no, I don’t need each dish to be constructed from two dozen processes and made of ingredients varying from baby seal eye gunk to spherified Siberian tundra. And to be blunt, I have never had a degustation experience where every single course was of the same high quality. Never. There’s always a weak link in the food chain, which of course, ultimately let’s the whole meal down.

 

So, when I made the booking at Sushi Yoshitake (based on a ludicrous amount of online research), the fact that it owned three Michelin stars not only WASN’T a deciding factor, it almost put me off.

 

Just a couple of awards.

Just a couple of awards.

 

I needn’t have worried. Sushi Yoshitake turned out to be the restaurant I have been dreaming of my whole life. It is simple, friendly, unfussy and turns out the most incredible food I’ve ever tasted. For many years, I’ve played the game, “If you were stranded on a desert island, what one food would you choose to eat for the rest of your life?” with friends, and my answer has always been Japanese food. My answer, now, is Masterchef Masahiro Yoshitake’s food.

 

Every single thing that passed my lips, was the best I had ever had. Every piece I ate, literally made me gasp: with pleasure, with joy, with shock! The best octopus, the best snapper, the best sea urchin. And the abalone! When I was younger, my family owned property down at Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula. We would often go fishing and foraging on the beach for crabs, mussels and very occasionally (when we were lucky) abalone, so I am familiar with the taste of this mollusc. I’ve since had abalone a number of times at other Michelin worthy restaurants and always been disappointed. The abalone at Sushi Yoshitake was sheer perfection. I cannot imagine a preparation that could taste better than what was offered. I don’t know what Chef Yoshitake did to it, but I imagine it wasn’t very much. And that’s what sets this 3 star restaurant apart. He simply slices (with great skill) the very finest ingredients available. He doesn’t need a staff of sixty to prepare, boil, reduce, foam, freeze, aerate, spread or dice the food. He allows the food to speak for itself.

 

Before eating at this restaurant, if you’d asked me which meal had been the best meal of my life, I couldn’t have told you. The closest I could come would be to offer you a top five. Nothing before has ever stood out as the most remarkable, the most memorable, the most amazing meal of my life. Since the 13th April 2013, I have no qualms in saying that my meal at Sushi Yoshitake is the best I have ever had. It completely blew my mind. I am no longer in search of the holy grail of cuisine. I have found it. I have experienced it. I am fulfilled.

 

Finding Sushi Yoshitake without Google Maps would have been virtually impossible.  The signage is entirely in Japanese.

Finding Sushi Yoshitake without Google Maps would have been virtually impossible. The signage is entirely in Japanese.

 

Nothing in the seven seat restaurant detracts from the food.  It's all about paring back external stimuli and focussing on the look, smell, texture and taste of what you're about to eat.  They even ask you to refrain from wearing perfume.

Nothing in the seven seat restaurant detracts from the food. It’s all about paring back external stimuli and focussing on the look, smell, texture and taste of what you’re about to eat. They even ask you to refrain from wearing perfume.

 

Masterchef Masahiro Yoshitake is not above serving beer to his customers.  This complete lack of ego is what makes dining here such a pleasure (apart from the spectacular food).

Masterchef Masahiro Yoshitake is not above serving beer to his customers. This complete lack of ego is what makes dining here such a pleasure (apart from the spectacular food).

 

I have a feeling this octopus was alive not too long before this picture was taken.

I have a feeling this octopus was alive not too long before this picture was taken.

 

Fresh wasabi being grated on dried sharkskin.

Fresh wasabi being grated on dried sharkskin.

 

Condiments.

Condiments.

 

Fresh spring Japanese greens topped with sea cucumber roe.

Fresh spring Japanese greens topped with sea cucumber roe.

 

Salt (for the octopus).

Salt (for the octopus).

 

Tako (Japanese octopus).  Superlative.

Tako (Japanese octopus). Superlative.

 

Snapper (which was served in a sauce made from the fish's bones).

Snapper (which was served in a sauce made from the fish’s bones).

 

Japanese abalone

Japanese abalone

 

Sauce made from the abalone's liver.  Sounds (and looks) awful, but was so delicious I actually licked my plate clean when I thought (hope!) no-one was looking.

Sauce made from the abalone’s liver. Sounds (and looks) awful, but was so delicious I actually licked my plate clean when I thought (hope!) no-one was looking.

 

Sushi rice served with the left over abalone liver sauce.  I had no left over abalone liver sauce so Chef Yoshitake instructed his assistant to give me some more.  Was I embarrassed?  Not at all.  Compliments to the chef!  By the way, it probably goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: BEST sushi rice I've ever tasted!

Sushi rice served with the left over abalone liver sauce. I had no left over abalone liver sauce so Chef Yoshitake instructed his assistant to give me some more. Was I embarrassed? Not at all. Compliments to the chef! By the way, it probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: BEST sushi rice I’ve ever tasted!

 

Nihonshu, baby!

Nihonshu, baby!

 

Marinated baby cuttlefish.

Marinated baby cuttlefish.

 

Smoked bonito tuna with ponzu jelly.

Smoked bonito tuna with ponzu jelly.

 

Sushi towel.  Sushi is meant to be eaten with the hands, so this towel is provided for you to wipe your fingers after each piece.  The sashimi appetisers were incredible, but the sushi is when the magic REALLY started.

Sushi towel. Sushi is meant to be eaten with the hands, so this towel is provided for you to wipe your fingers after each piece. The sashimi appetisers were incredible, but the sushi is when the magic REALLY started.

 

Ika (squid).

Ika (squid).

 

Pickled ginger.

Pickled ginger.

 

Marinated sea-bream.

Marinated sea-bream.

 

The Masterchef at work.

The Masterchef at work.

 

Kohada (I think!!!)

Kohada (I think!!!)

 

Akame (lean tuna).

Akame (lean tuna).

 

Chutoro (medium fatty tuna).

Chutoro (medium fatty tuna).

 

The pièce de résistance - Otoro (fatty tuna).

The pièce de résistance – Otoro (fatty tuna).

 

Saba and mackerel roll.

Saba and mackerel roll.

 

Masterchef Yoshitake, doing the honours.

Masterchef Yoshitake, doing the honours.

 

Torigai (cockle).  I don't know if this was alive when served, but just before serving it, the chef slapped it, hard, and it started wriggling around.  It continued to do so in my mouth!!!!  Oh, and contrary to appearances, it was absolutely DELICIOUS!!!

Torigai (cockle). I don’t know if this was alive when served, but just before serving it, the chef slapped it, hard, and it started wriggling around. It continued to do so in my mouth!!!! Oh, and contrary to appearances, it was absolutely DELICIOUS!!!

 

Meticulous preparation and serenity.

Meticulous preparation and serenity.

 

Uni (sea urchin).

Uni (sea urchin).

 

Kuruma ebi (Imperial prawn)

Kuruma ebi (Imperial prawn)

 

Anago (sea-eel).

Anago (sea-eel).

 

Tamago (Japanese omelette).

Tamago (Japanese omelette).

 

Masterchef Yoshitake brandishing his impressive steel!

Masterchef Yoshitake brandishing his impressive steel!

 

Refreshing matcha tea to aid in digestion.

Refreshing matcha tea to aid in digestion.

 

Even the sign at the door inspires tranquility and harmony.  I took this shot just before Chef Yoshitake came out to see us to the elevator and say goodbye. I have never experienced such hospitality at a restaurant before, and I doubt I ever will again.  Sheer perfection.

Even the sign at the door inspires tranquility and harmony. I took this shot just before Chef Yoshitake came out to see us to the elevator and say goodbye. I have never experienced such hospitality at a restaurant before, and I doubt I ever will again. Sheer perfection.

 

6 comments

  1. Looks finger licking good. You didn’t really lick your plate. The plate you were talking about was more like a bowl. You must have a long tongue. Uuuurrrgghhhhhh!! 🙂 🙂 DD

    1. ‘Twas amazing. In total (we had about five katakuchi of nihonshu as well as a half bottle of champagne) it was about USD700. So no, not cheap. But cheaper than FL – and worth every single yen!

      As a matter of interest, did you know that in Japanese culture odd numbers are considered lucky? Which is why this restaurant only has seven seats. In Hong Kong, where Chef Yoshitake also runs a sushi restaurant, there are eight seats (8 being a lucky number in Chinese culture). So there ya go!

    1. Thanks Robyn, it’s always nice to know you’re reading. Any chance your travels will ever take you to Japan?
      x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s