Was super excited for my original trip Nov 2020...now planning for ??/202?. I've been reading this board diligently since late 2019 to prepare for the original trip and reading sushi and other restaurant reviews, combined with my dining experiences, made me realize I am starting to develop likes and dislikes with sushi. But some of the things I am disliking are things that seem to be raved about - so I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether I just "haven't been to the right place yet" and if there's a specific type of sushiya/adjectives I should look out for, based on my preferences. I hope it's okay that this is a long post - I've been thinking about this topic for awhile but didn't find any other post discussing a similar thing.
My dining experiences - although I used to speak Japanese (VERY rusty now) and traveled there often, I have actually never eaten sushi in Japan...I was more focused on soba/udon, tempura, and Japanese interpretations of western (e.g. French). So my sushi experiences may not be authentic. Across the following restaurants, I've probably eaten a total of 15-20 omakase-type meals in the past few years: Sushi Ginza Onodera (NYC), Sushi Nakazawa (NYC), Sushi Yoshizumi (San Mateo), Kusakabe (SF), Wako (SF), Kitcho (Taipei), and a few other random places in SF whose names I don't recall...Ju-ni? Hinata? Shio? I think.
My favorites (places I have been to 3x+) are Sushi Ginza Onodera and Kusakabe. The pieces just taste very flavorful to me. I hated Nakazawa but I only went once. I remember the neta being cold and not flavorful. The interior felt 'cold' as well - bright lights contrasted with black - very sleek but not sleek (and warm) in the 'blonde wood' way that most other sushiya are. Yoshizumi was good and I really liked the shari but surprisingly, after hearing all the hype and actually dining there, it was not my favorite. Wako I have actually dined at the most times because I love the service. However, they seem to do more otsumami and I have found I enjoy nigiri more (but again - maybe I just haven't been to a place that does otsumami well!) In particular, I have found that a lot of the cooked dishes at Wako read as 'fishy' to me (but my dining partners thought they were fine) - I recall a hone senbei ('bone cracker') and many cooked otsumami that I really did not like.
Because my favorite meals all used akazu (Onodera, Kusakabe, Yoshizumi), I think I might like a stronger flavored shari. I do love sourness in general (I put lime/lemon/Chinkiang vinegar on everything). The most memorable pieces I've had - fish that I've liked at multiple restaurants - are katsuo and kinmedai (of course akami/chutoro/ootoro is always very good too, but it's never my *favorite* piece). I have found that I don't usually enjoy the hikarimono (especially kohada) and I absolutely do not like eel (anago, unagi...something about the softer texture). I love bivalves (mirugai/akagai/hotate/abalone - not sure if this is a bivalve though - etc). I enjoy uni but dislike shirako (I've had it several times prepared several ways and to me, it was flavorless and mushy). I also do not enjoy ikura as I've found that it always has a strong fishy aftertaste (had this issue at every single sushiya I listed above).
I also realized that I tend to dislike cooked seafood in general - e.g. I love raw oysters but dislike cooked oysters (o-ah jian in Taipei); I love amaebi and kuruma ebi but hate cooked shrimp in paella, etc. Somehow my brain reads the cooked-ness as less flavorful.
In terms of preparations and dressings, I think my palate is not refined enough to appreciate 'pure' neta, because I LOVE the soy-cured pieces that I've had, or pieces with yuzu, wasabi, or shiso.
So now, to my original point - when looking for a restaurant in Tokyo, I would love to know what adjectives you all wiser diners would recommend I keep an eye out for (or a chef that you think I would like)? Based on my analysis above, I think I like strong shari, more white fish (? as opposed to silver skin), and nigiri-focused rather than otsumami+nigiri.
This very detailed post from 2019 (https://www.chowhound.com/post/sushi-...) had a few places that looked promising, especially Hakkoku ("forward" shari and "powerful" pieces and not much talk of hikarimono or eel or otsumami).
Thank you so much! Wishing you all health during these times.
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