In the heart Nagoya’s entertainment district is a little sushi bar that offers a grand world of its own. The moment you step inside the restaurant, its elegant and still air sets the tone for the sophisticated meal to come. Serving only six guests at a time, the delectable menu is carefully curated to bring out the deepest flavors of local catches and seasonal delicacies.
After three relocations, Sushi Hijitaka has found its current home inside a busy commercial block in Sakae. Chef Akira Hijikata says that every move has created an opportunity for him to refine his focus on what he strives his restaurant to be. Disciplined and honest in nature, his heart has always been set on owning a place in his hometown, after having completed his decade-long apprenticeship in Tokyo.
Despite the small 33-square meter space, the well-curated interior makes the room feel open and pleasant. Set with a mix of wooden architecture and white motifs, the ambiance feels clean and crisp. The gorgeous counter and the shelves behind it are made from a plank of kiso hinoki wood. His mother’s calligraphy by the entrance offers a warm welcome to every guest.
Every evening, the restaurant offers two seatings of six guests, one at 6pm and another at 8:30pm. “The earlier slot is ideal for business dinners,” the chef explains. “But I recommend the later time for guests from overseas because I want to take my time in explaining each dish.”
Celebrating the rich variety of produce across Aichi Prefecture, his seasonal recipes feature rare ingredients like fresh octopus caught off the Himakajima Island. Be mesmerized by the level of craftsmanship and aesthetics of each dish that come served in breathtaking tableware. Handpicked from a selection of Arita, Karatsu and Tajimi-ware, every dish is paired with a special piece that bring out the beauty of the cuisine.
Deepest flavors of local catches and seasonal delicacies
The enticing omakase menu flows through six or so appetizers, followed by a dozen nigiris, including their signature bluefin tuna, sea urchin and anago salt-water eel. The chef also treasures seasonal delicacies that are only found locally in Aichi.
One of his favorite small dishes is the cooked octopus. Almost impossible to get outside Nagoya, it’s caught in Himakajima, an island in Mikawa Bay. Coated in a beautiful glaze, the long arms are cut into chunks with wave-like slits, giving it that great texture. The tender meat unleashes sweet umami in your mouth with every bite.
Monkfish liver is smoothed down into a creamy rich paste that makes you want to lick every drop off your chopsticks. Cooked with soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake, the smooth mixture is pushed through a sieve. Nothing can go as well as this with a cup of crisp sake.
Local silver belt fish is grilled to perfection over hot Kishu binchotan charcoal. The fish is sprinkled just with salt to bring out its natural umami. The grated daikon radish on the side has a slight kick and is drizzled with some light soy-sauce.
Served in a beautiful mosaic glass cup is a collage of flavors. Refreshing and aromatic mozuku seaweed from Aomori Prefecture is layered with dashi-infused grated nagaimo mountain yam, and topped with bright orange pieces of sea urchin. Every scoop mixes such different flavors that perfectly complement one another.
Now, the nigiri. The picture of the chef as he gently presses the rice together is simply stunning. The piece of fish beautifully drapes over the grains, allowing for a particular texture as the morsel gently comes apart in your mouth. Served slightly warmer than room temperature, the sushi feels gentle to your stomach.
“I try not to touch the rice for too long,” he says as he explains his techniques. “I want the grains to feel light and airy.”
The signature bluefin tuna is sourced from Yamayuki, one of the top vendors in Toyosu. The day’s batch comes from a 94 kg catch, caught off the coast of Katsuura in Chiba Prefecture. The strip of akami is rested for almost a week, giving it that bold flavor and deep color. The marbled chutoro layer is cut so generously that it wraps around the rice oval.
Layered beautifully over one another, glistening gizzard shad from Kumamoto Prefecture is first cured in salt for half and hour, and then in vinegar for 15 minutes. The robust flavor of the fish matches perfectly the crisp shari.
Fluffy and sweet anago salt-water eel comes from Tsushima in Nagasaki Prefecture. The nigiri is pressed with the skin side up and coated with sweetened sauce, made using the head and bones of the eel.
The egg is flavored with local kuruma shrimp and yamaimo mountain yams. Cooked for over an hour, the slice feels smooth and soft on your tongue. The homemade custard pudding adds a sweet finish to the delectable meal.
About half of the seasonal ingredients at Sushi Hijikata is sourced locally while the other half come from the Toyosu fish market in Tokyo. The chef likes to use local vendors for fish like snapper and flounder. His favorite octopus, caught off Himakajima Island, is a special batch that doesn’t get distributed much outside the prefecture. The octopus feed on tiny shrimp, giving it that delicious aroma.
The variety of top-grade tuna comes from Yamayuki, a renowned vendor in Tsukiji with whom Hijikata has worked closely with for over five years. “Softness, aroma and color (of the tuna) are so important,” he explains.
The shiny rice is a blend of aged Aichi no Kaori from Aichi Prefecture and new Emi no Kizuna grains from Niigata Prefecture. The latter is large-sized grains, produced specifically to be used in sushi. The vinegar is also a blend of four different brands including Yahee, a red vinegar made by Yokoi, and Yamabuki by Mitsukan. To finish, he adds a pinch of arajio sea salt to the rice batch, but no sugar. To complement the superb picks of quality ingredients, the chef selects a number of local and seasonal sake. He also stocks fine vintages of champagne and white wine. The whites come mainly from France and America.
For over seven years, Hijikata has been perfecting his recipe for homemade shichimi, seven-flavor chili pepper spice. His delicious mix is made of ichimi red chilli pepper, aged mikan orange peel, white pepper, black pepper, sansho peppercorn, dried shiso leaves and black sesame seeds. The orange peels add a great fragrance as well as make the blend more yellow rather than red. The aromatic seasoning is a wonderful condiment for small dishes as well as in miso soup that changes the flavor significantly. Many guests have become fans on this spicy mix, they often ask the chef if they can buy some to take home.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000