Sushiko Honten, Tokyo

Because our trip into Tokyo city was decided at the last minute, we had hardly any time to properly research where to eat. So we relied heavily on the concierge's recommendations, which all turned out fantastic. I suppose it's also coz it's near-impossible to find bad food in Tokyo, the chefs taking so much pride in their work.

We were told that the Ginza district, where we stayed, boasts the highest concentration of Michelin-starred sushi-yas. Like throw a stone from anywhere in Ginza and you'll hit a Michelin-starred sushi-ya degree of density. Out of the 3 sushi-yas closest to the hotel (we wanted something close by enough to be able to walk there, and walk off the meal thereafter), Sushiko Honten was the closest (and also, they had availability). The 130-year old restaurant was purportedly "very traditional", i.e. "no salmon", which we were perfectly ok with. I mean, if it withstood the time-weathered test of a century, it has to be impressive, right?

The Hubs says Sushiko Honten was the best sushi he's ever had in his life. It's apparently so transformative, so life-changing, the Hubs refuses to eat sushi in SG anymore....and yes, we haven't had sushi since then.

Stripped down to the fundamentals of sushi gastronomy, Sushiko Honten was pure, simple, and basic. There was nothing new-fangled, nothing modern, nothing unconventional, but WOWza, was it mindblowing. Every dish was sublime, and a masterpiece in its unembellished "plainness".

For a sensory omakase experience like no other, we forked out (JPY55620 for 2).

We were served by Sasaki-san (also known as "Joe"), a jovial fellow with twinkly eyes and a cheeky chattiness. His likeability distracted from a group of crass, over-compensating foreigners who were only too eager to inform their attending chef how much their car cost, how much their entry-level room at the Aman cost, and how tiny their appendages were.

First up was a duo of sweet shrimp, steeped in soy, patted dry, and then finished with a gobbet of fresh wasabi.

Next was Bonito (Katsuo) or skipjack tuna, the umami notes of its rich meatiness enhanced by the soy marinade.

This was quickly followed up with fat hunks of the best abalone I've ever had, bar none: the one from Chiba having bathed in sake for 8 hours (left), and the other from Hokkaido infused with soy for 2 hours, both dabbed dry before plating, and served with a blob of wasabi.

The sashimi course comprised a couple of thick slices of Striped Jack (shima aji) and Tuna Belly (otoro), brimming with a seafresh sweetness, and sided by an impossibly sweet creamed crabmeat.

Soft and fatty and melty like foie gras, the Aburi (seared) Swordfish and Tuna (toro) Steaks were sided by horseradish for a subtle kick.

This was followed by a gazillion sushi courses, beginning with the tuna (maguro). Something must be said about the rice here, a perfect balance of the firm, sticky, chewy and soft, and vinegared piquancy exquisitely subtle to counter the fish.

Medium fatty tuna (chu-toro)

Flounder (hirame) with touch of lime

Prawn (ebi) seasoned with salt and lime

This was the most nuanced Miso Soup ever, salty but just perfectly so, and loaded with mushroom.

I've always ever had uni sushi swaddled in a nori sheet, but the Sea Urchin (uni) was so expertly finessed at Sushiko Honten, it actually didn't require a seaweed wrap to hold it together.

Salmon Roe (ikura)

Tuna Belly (otoro)

Yellowtail (hamachi)

Simplicity at its most exceptional, a slab of Shitake Mushroom, grilled to imbue a smoky char to highlight its earthy flavour.

I'm not usually a fan of Squid (ika), but this had a delightfully clean and clear flavour with the slightest hint of creaminess, and given a citrusy lift with yuzu.

The candied caramelisation gave the Sea Eel (anago) a sweet counterpoint to its meaty savouriness.

Seared Tuna roll stuffed with julienned cucumber and sesame seeds - I loved loved loved this.

The Egg (tamago) walked the tightrope of a fluffy souffle on the one side and an omelette on the other. Amazing stuff.

At the end of the meal, the chef held up the sushi menu, and asked if we wanted seconds of anything. Our hearts wanted it all, but our bursting pants said otherwise, so we each limited ourselves to one extra piece. I got the Shitake, and the Hubs got the uni, while wiping a tear of happiness off his chipmunk cheek.

The unassuming restaurant front which belies the greatness of the sushi within.

Sushi Ko Honten
6-3-8 Ginza
Tokyo 104-0061
Tel: 03-3571-1968
Open daily from 11.30am to 10.30pm

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