Set in an old wooden house built in the early Showa era, Ueda’s traditional-style sushi shines like gems on antique tableware that the chef and his wife have together collected over the years. Serving only six guests a night, the gracious hosts promise an indulgent experience with a seasonal omakase meal made using local catches from Mikawa Bay. Since winning the highest Michelin rating, their phone hasn’t stopped ringing with calls for reservation.
Just a 15-min car ride from Nagoya Station, the little restaurant is found in a historical building that Chef Naoki Ueda inherited from his father who ran his own restaurant there. While he has made some upgrades in recent years, the dimly-lit dining area still holds that cozy and nostalgic atmosphere. Despite its three-star status, the place feels warm and inviting, making you want to dine there again and again.
While neither the chef nor his wife speak a word of English, the couple has made it their mission to welcome international guests as a way to convey the beauty of Japanese cuisine to the outside world. As a master of cha-kaiseki as well, Ueda understands that a culinary experience is not only about the food. By paying attention to details like decor and tableware, he hopes the guests will gain a deeper appreciation for local craftsmanship.
If you look around the restaurant, the space is filled with beautiful artifacts. The serving trays in front of each seat has a lacquer-like shine but are actually pieces of ceramic, made by a Seto artist named Yoshinori Fujii. He also worked on the calligraphy of the restaurant sign. The wooden chairs, designed by a young craftsman in Kanazawa, fits perfectly with the warm ambiance. The pieces of cat ornaments also add a playful touch.
Sushi shines like gems
Focused on local ingredients, the omakase menu begins with a few seasonal appetisers followed by ten or so nigiris, a couple of makis, a soup and slices of sweet rolled omelette. The series of nigiris start with lighter tastes like white fish and squid before moving onto tuna and other darker flavors.
The hamo, pike conger, appetizer is a pure reflection of Ueda’s skillful craft. The fish is sliced thin, softened with fine slits and gently blanched so it curls outwards in a sphere like flowers in full bloom. Take small sip of the broth soup that unleashes deep umami in your mouth. There’s a great sense of beauty in the simplicity of the dish.
Fresh-water eel is first cooked in sauce and grilled over the shichirin charcoal grill behind the counter. The fillets are grilled over bamboo leaves, adding a roasty aroma while preventing them from getting burnt. Served in a small glass bowl, watarigani blue crab is made into flakes and mixed with crushed okura and vinaigrette jelly into a beautiful and soothing bite.
A stunning contrast of red and white, a piece of kuruma shrimp glistens on the shiny tray. Just cured in kombu, the shrimp is still half raw, giving it that beautiful transparency and soft and moist texture. Boiled shrimp is tasty too but I love the texture of raw shrimp, the chef comments.
The rice used for vinegared rice is grown by a farmer that Ueda’s father also used. The large grains are cooked al dente to make sure they fall apart the right way in your mouth. They are flavored using a blend of local red vinegars. The dipping sauce is made with a fine balance of sake, soy sauce and a little bit of mirin. It’s important that the flavor of the soy sauce is not too strong.
He says he loves the challenge of working with hikarimono, or “shiny things” in Japanese. The slices of fish belly are served with the silver blue skin. Depending on the weather, he needs to make delicate adjustments to the amount of salt and vinegar to strike that fine balance.
Two slices of shinko, young gizzard shad are layered and pressed on top of the shari into a perfect morsel. The fish is first dipped in salt water, then rested aside for an hour and coated in watered down vinegar to tighten the flavor.
The piece of chutoro fatty tuna has that gorgeous bright ruby shine. Caught off the shores of Katsuura, the cut has an amazing aroma with delicious sweetness and a slight hint of sourness. Sardines, also caught in Mikawa Bay, have a wonderfully rich layer of fat. The fish is cured in salt and then in vinegar.
Murasaki uni or purple sea urchin is shipped from Hokkaido. To enjoy its pure flavor, Ueda prefers to serve it as simple nigiri, instead of a gunkan maki where you have a strip of seaweed wrapped around the rice. He sprinkles just a tiny amount of Hawaiian salt on top.
Egg omelette offer a sweet finish to the meal. Made with grated white fish, yamato yam potatoes, mirin and sugar, the eggs are slow cooked for over three hours. Soft and moist like a cake, the slices are cooked perfectly with not a single air bubble on the surface.
Most of the ingredients come from Yanagibashi Central Market where Ueda can get his hands on the freshest catches from Mikawa Bay. The quality of the fish is superb, especially squid, kuruma shrimp and shellfish. As a Nagoya local, he hopes to showcase the best local produce to his guests.
For sea urchin and bluefin tuna, he looks for the best in the country from the market in Yaesu. He particularly likes tuna with good aroma and the right amount of sourness. The wasabi comes from Gotemba while he stocks three different kinds of salt.
The restaurant stocks a wide variety of drinks, including different brands of beer, champagne, white wine and Yamazaki whiskey. The sake selection is diverse, made up of about 20 different vintages. He always makes sure he has sake from the local Tokai region that runs along the Pacific Ocean, including vintages like Kamashibito Kuheiji, Jikon, Zaku and Chouchin.
Ueda keeps a fabulous collection of tableware. Many are antique pieces such as a piece of Baccarat that dates back to about 1900 and a set of 10 ceramic plates from Edo Period. The couple not only enjoy finding pieces they love during their trips to Kyoto but feel great joy serving their guests using them. The pieces of glassware and carafes are equally stunning.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000