Generous portions, exquisite knife cuts, and an appearance like vibrant rock crystals – sushi made with love at this treasure of a sushi restaurant. Serving fresh catches from one of the world’s premier fishing grounds, this Fukuoka establishment has delighted guests with its local seafood for 22 years. But it doesn’t stop there — Chef Takao’s skillful nigiri and polished Edomae techniques draw sushi connoisseurs from around the country. Engage all five senses and get ready for the essence of Fukuoka sushi.
Sushi Takao is found a little off the beaten path of Tenjin, Fukuoka, which bustles with shoppers and diners amid the blocks of department stores. Customers are greeted not by a typical draped noren, but by a sign with the characteristic calligraphy of Bokuden Matsuda, the Saga Prefecture-born Fukuoka-resident artist whose calligraphy works are highly acclaimed both at home and overseas.
From the space to the service, everything has a simple, humble tone. There is no need for pomp or exaggeration – the sushi speaks for itself. Only seven guests can be seated in the comfortable seats to view the master at work behind the solid cedar counter. The earthy interior walls are accented by two seasonal woodblock paintings by Hajime Namiki, whose works can be found in public and private collections around the world. As evening falls, the husband and wife team prepare to entertain, with Chef Takao behind the counter and his wife attending to the guests’ every need. The warm, attentive service strikes the perfect balance with the reserved, somewhat old-fashioned nature of the master, whose focus is entirely on his cuisine.
A true craftsman
Every nigiri morsel that emerges from behind the counter is a picture to behold. Crafted with Edomae fundamentals, the flavor of the kohada gizzard shad is clean and elegant having been marinated for just thirty minutes, and the anago conger eel has a light, airy texture and gentle flavor. And Chef Takao was way ahead of the trend for aging, resting his catches before serving them from the time of opening his restaurant more than 20 years ago. That’s the reason there are so many passionate fans who can’t get enough of his sushi, especially his signature white flesh fish sushi.
The course is a journey through nigiri and appetizer dishes presented in their simplest form, satiating your desire for the taste of local Kyushu seafood. It showcases the best each season has to offer, and each piece of seafood has been prepared with perfect knife cuts to fill your palate with delicious flavor and texture in every bite.
It starts with a tasting platter, in early summer highlighting aoriika oval squid, five-day-aged maguro, octopus, flame-grilled grunt fish, and three-day-aged flounder, all served with cucumber and wasabi from Gotemba in the foothills of Mount Fuji on a stunning glass platter by glass artist Hideki Yokoyama. You then move onto nigiri which may include the gentle texture and flavor of maguro-zuke, having been marinated for just ten minutes; flounder that has been aged for three days with the perfect viscosity and depth of flavor; chutoro medium fatty tuna, this day caught in Kagoshima waters and rested for five days; and giant, plump shrimp from Hakata Bay in Fukuoka, which have the perfect bite and brilliant color thanks to Takao’s incredible touches.
Karatsu akauni sea urchin is showcased as nigiri, whereas winter varieties from Hokkaido emerge in the characteristic gunkan submarine style wrapped in nori seaweed, each style accentuating the ingredients’ unique qualities. Delectable layers of gizzard shad top the rice with perfectly taut pickled flesh, and anago conger eel from Taima in Aomori has been simmered then flame-grilled for the perfect plump and aromatic mouthful. The meal closes with the light, briny flavors of anago dashi.
Preparing fifteen to twenty varieties of seasonal seafood at any given time, it’s remarkable that almost all of it comes from local waters. Karei flounder comes from Hakozaki in Hakata Bay. The sea urchin Takao nonchalantly pulls out from the cool box is akauni from Karatsu, Saga Prefecture — a premium grade variety also known as “illusive uni“. Loved for its distinctive sweetness and elegant flavor, it rarely makes it outside of this region, so well-known and appreciated by locals who would like to keep it a secret. Takao is fortunate to have his own channels for attaining this exquisite ingredient. The origin of the maguro varies by season but always comes via Tsukiji, which has a monopoly on the best. The Kagoshima maguro this time was rested for five days to further deepen its flavor.
The vinegared rice base starts with Kumamoto rice grown according to the “aigamo method”, which uses ducks to eat insects and weeds, allowing farmers to reduce and even eliminate the use of agricultural chemicals. The rice is stored for one year after harvest for moisture to leave the pearly grains, resulting in deliciously springy and ever-so-slightly sticky rice upon steaming. It is flavored with Shobun Vinegar, a mild variety from a brewery in Kurume City, Fukuoka that has a 300-year-old tradition of vinegar-making. While Chef Takao has an unwavering dedication to this one vinegar variety, the salt he uses varies according to each dish: the appetizer plate is served with a small mound of German rock salt, while the vinegared rice is accented by Okinawan sea salt.
When asked about what is most dear to him in the restaurant, Takao beams, eager to tell us about his large collection of sake cups gathered over many years through his travels and visits to antique shops, and mostly chosen in collaboration with his wife. He proudly shared with us some special lacquerware sake cups that had just arrived after a two-year wait. Exquisite examples of Wajima-nuri lacquerware from the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, the auspicious designs include a Chinese phoenix and a pill box adorned with the image of Ebisu – the Shinto god of fishing and commerce. Charming textured pewter katakuchi lipped bowls come from the studios of Seikado in Kyoto, which opened in 1838, and the thick, brilliantly red Satsuma Kiriko cut glass cups are a rare sight to behold. All take the stage to serve dry junmaishu sake, of which the chef stocks six to seven varieties for the perfect pairing with sushi, alongside a selection of champagnes and wines to please every guest.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000