Founded on passion passed down from his father, a young chef has his heart set on building the top sushi restaurant in his hometown of Fukuoka. Committed in buying from local fishermen, Sushi Karashima offers a treat of flavorful seasonal catches, perfected by traditional techniques and exquisite Karatsu tableware.
Tucked away in a quiet residential area, newly opened Sushi Karashima is quickly adding fans from near and far. Subtle and minimalist, the black and white exterior with linear designs feels like an entrance of a modern art gallery. Its contemporary decor extends to the inside with the black ceiling, white walls and large hinoki counter that stretches across the spacious room.
The experience at Sushi Karashima is to be indulged with all five senses. Presented in front of each seat is a round black plate, the work of Naoto Yano, one of the young talents in local Katastu ware. The center of the thick plate is lit up with a spotlight, setting a perfect stage for every morsel of sushi for the attention it deserves. The chopsticks, made of Japanese timber bamboo, are designed to have a firm grip and are easy to use.
Behind the counter are two large cutting boards, one for Head Chef Hiroshi Karashima and the other for his father, also a long-time sushi craftsman. With his biggest mentor aiding him by his side, the young master chef is committed to establishing his original style of sushi. Together, they stage a grand feast that showcase as many as twenty-five seasoned local ingredients.
At the center of the kitchen is an open charcoal grill, where he cooks over crackling Hidaka charcoal from Miyazaki Prefecture, one of the three great binchotan makers in Japan. A lot of work goes into creating the perfect heat but it’s all worth it if you want the ultimate best, he explains.
To be indulged with all five senses.
The evening at Sushi Karashima begins with a simple dish that reveals the very essence of the restaurant’s cuisine. The tiny cup of steamed egg, sprinkled with yuzu lime, is infused with the pure umami of dashi. The aromatic broth, taken from freshest catches from the seas, is deep in flavor but light on the palate, perfect to coat your empty stomach.
Following the amuse-bouche are a dozen of tsumami dishes that display his extensive skills in Japanese cuisine as well as non traditional techniques. The tsubugai clams from Hokkaido for example, are marinated in oil, instead of dashi, for an entirely different depth of flavor. To make sure the guest can savor the entire meal without feeling full, every dish is elegantly small.
“I put work into every sushi,” he says as he dips his hands in the donabe pot for a handful of vinegared rice. He says he is fascinated by the potential of white fish, and it excites him to experiment with various ways to work with it, whether it be salting or marinating with vinegar or kombu. He also uses warmer rice to create a wonderful contrast with fish like gizzard shad, which he likes to serve cold.
Karashima works hard to make every sushi unique by incorporating his own techniques. While many chefs like to serve freshly boiled shrimp for sushi, he prefers to rest it in broth to bring out more sweetness. Sea bream from Fukushima is first dipped in vinegar, then rested in a creamy marinade made of egg, vinegar and sugar for 3-4 hours. Three thin strips of lightly vinegared young gizzard shad is gently pressed together on top of the rice oval. Fatty tuna of the day is a summer cut of kamatoro that was caught off the coast of Nagasaki.
To finish, the chef hands over a petit raw egg rice bowl using local Kumamoto egg. Mix the creamy yolk with light soy sauce and thinly-shaved bonito flakes over a warm bed of vinegared grains, every bite of this ultimate comfort food is simply divine.
When buying any ingredient, Karashima’s motto is to visit the producer first. For that reason, his procurement extends to many individual vendors. Especially particular about how the fish is caught, he likes to choose fish like butterfish that has been applied “shinkei-jime” right on the boat. Shinkei-jime is a way to keep the fish fresh by working on the nerves. He’s become so close with some fishermen that he quite often goes diving with them.
The rice is a Sagabiyori brand from Saga Prefecture, where the chef makes monthly visits to pick up the batch himself. The firm grains have a solid and rich flavor while light on the tongue. He is also picky on wasabi and chooses the rare Misho variety from Shimane Prefecture, loved for its wonderful aroma and sweetness. The soy sauce comes from Mitsuru brewery in Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture.
“Water is an important ingredient too,” Karashima explains. He uses nansui, or soft water with low mineral content, to make dashi, while he boils seafood in kosui, or hard water with high mineral content, to trap the flavor in. He also pays careful attention not to overuse salt in his cooking as he doesn’t want to leave guests thirsty at the end of the meal.
He also stocks a superb selection of local and regional sake. For those visiting from outside Fukuoka, he collects the best from across the Kyushu Island. For local customers, he urges them to try some rare bottles he procures from a sake store in Tokyo. He also stocks a nice variation of Champagnes and white wines.
Since visiting Ryutagama, a leading Karatsu kiln, he has fallen in love with local pottery and have been collecting pieces since. The irregular curbs and dents create a unique shape and feel to every cup. The intricate sake cup made from Shotoku Glass sparkles light in all directions. Selecting a cup from the diverse collection is a fun in itself. His fascination with tableware is not limited to traditional Japanese crafts. One of his favorite pieces he uses for an appetizer is a Ercole Moretti Venetian glass that he bought when he was 23 years old. He makes frequent visits to the kilns in Karatsu to meet the artists and learn more about the art. He enjoys building relationships with them and working together to create something unique for his dishes.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000