Restaurants & Bars 4

Mi-do-ri no sushi, Umegaoka

chibi | May 25, 200307:08 AM

A few weekends ago, my butchou invited us out for, as he put it, one of the last chances this year to eat sushi (he won't eat sushi after the end of May because "nothing's oishii after that", and for fear of red tide). We were given strict instructions to eat no lunch that day, and to meet at 4pm sharp in front of Umegaoka station on the Odakyu line, which turned out to be just a stone's throw from the original Midori-no-sushi. At 4pm, there were the beginnings of a line forming, as the restaurant is renowned for low prices and high quality. By the time we left, the line stretched well round the corner.

We began with house specialties: octopus sashimi, succulent and meltingly soft chunks of suckers, the slimy-ness transformed into silkiness with the fresh sharpness of ponzu and a dollop of spicy momiji oroshi (chili-infused grated daikon). The other house specialty was kani-miso salada, a mound of sweet cooked zu-ai gani crab meat, topped with a thick creamy green puree of crab, um, stuff. As close to crab delight as one can get without sucking it out a freshly-steamed crab yourself.

We moved on to the nigiri, starting with gutsy fish to come down from the crab salad: they were out of kohada, so we settled for firm iwashi (sardine), and aji (spanish mackerel?), rich but not gamy and freshened with just a tiny smear of smashed ginger. Despite the oiliness of the fish, I was struck by the deliciousness of the rice - fragrant with vinegar, but just barely tangy, not sour, and the grains of rice glistened as though they had been individually polished until they shone.

A few palate-cleaning slices of ginger later, we moved to toro. First, chu-toro, deep pink, striated strips with a satisfying chewiness that allowed the taste to linger. Next, decadent pale-pink mottled o-toro, generous slabs that draped the rice. Buttery-rich, a soft pillow for your teeth to sink into. Next came botan-ebi (prawns), huge beasts with silky, slightly sticky, translucent sweet meat. Followed by thin, briny shako tails (mantis shrimp).

Then we moved onto my butchou's wife's favorite part of the evening - clams. We sampled a range of textures, from almost ethereally soft ishigaki kai, to a liver-like akagai, to briny crisp mirugai and tsubagai. At this point, the house sake was flowing about as generously as the conversation and we began ordering whatever delicacy looked good. Elegant tapered strips of sayori, firm and chewy almost like ika. Matsuba gani crab legs, full of sweet, slightly briny meat that we sucked out like candy. Slightly pinkish, creamy rich hotate (scallop), the sweetness heightened with a sprinkle of salt. Uni - good, but not that overwhelming ocean-intense delight that sometimes can happen. Aburi-toro, "regular" aka-mi cuts of tuna, briefly blasted with a blow torch to give it a smoky patch on the surface. Katsuo (bonito), lean at this time of the year, but with a richness almost like beef carpaccio.

Sated and slightly dazed from the range of textures, and tastes, we calmed ourselves down with bowls of intensely flavored miso shiru made with fish stock and called it quits. But not before butchou ordered two anago (two veritable bricks dripping with smoky goodness) for us to take home.

Wishing good luck to the patient hordes lined up outside, we made our way down the street to Meriage, a tiny, battered but comfortable wine and cheese bar. There we finished our conversation over a bottle of Yarden 1998 Golan Heights cab, enjoying its rich, jam-like finish while we nibbled on yellow, luscious stilton, and a tangy cabichou.

Umegaoka 1-20-7

Nigiri range from 150 yen to 500, excluding special items such as o-toro. Kani-miso salada is 600 yen.
There is also a branch in Shibuya - anyone know if it's good?

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