Tokyo’s loss is Sapporo’s gain. With the homecoming of an incredibly skilled chef, Sushi Shota delivers authentic Edomae sushi and premium maguro direct to the plates of Hokkaido locals. Add to this fare that goes beyond tsumami appetizers into dishes of Japanese fine dining, and we can see why guests are delighted with their choice to dine at Sushi Shota.
In your search for Sushi Shota, you must look for a standing paper lantern in the doorway because it is nestled underground in an unadorned building with no signboard. Once you climb down the stairs, a stately cellar door from an old sake brewery appears, whisking you at once from the everyday to the extraordinary, where a magical maguro encounter awaits.
Guests’ expectations are heightened with every step along the tranquil approach, and then the chef and his quintessentially Edomae sushi domain appear. A single-plank hinoki cypress counter is the centerpiece in a space where sushi is the star. There is no showy ornamentation, but there is life and texture to the materials used, from the bamboo ceiling to the earthen walls containing rice straw – the sign of a highly skilled plasterer. Behind the chef’s workspace is a captivating artwork layering stencils used by kimono dyers to apply patterns. It was selected by the proprietress, who wears a kimono to serve their guests. Such touches show deep respect and pride for traditional Japanese culture, as does the tableware. A collection of modern, understated Karatsu and Arita ware provides the perfect canvas for Chef Oda’s creations, complemented by Edokiriko cut glassware for sake.
Tokyo’s loss is Sapporo’s gain
Sapporo gourmands can now savor authentic Edomae sushi and premium maguro without journeying to Ginza. And for those from Tokyo and other parts of Japan and the world, now you have another reason to add the north island to your bucket list. Sushi Shota showcases the highest-grade Japanese wild bluefin tuna in carefully calculated combinations with rice and toppings. The chef’s omakase menu is a satisfying and filling course of about fifteen nigiri interspersed with beautifully curated dishes that go beyond tsumami appetizers – things like crab dumplings, pond smelt topped with tofu sauce, and deep-fried Japanese angelica shoots. Wishing guests to enjoy the best each season has to offer, Chef Oda could not choose what to cull, so he decided to keep everything.
The course starts with the climax, wowing guests with the signature hand-rolled tossaki. The moment you eat this bite, you know you are in for a treat, and that awe-inspiring first encounter is precisely what Oda is going for – he wants it to be love at first bite. Comprising just 1.5 kilograms of a 100-kilogram tuna, the precious portion comes from the base of the tuna’s head. Moving frequently, the highly muscular part displays all the best qualities of maguro – aroma, umami, deep flavor – in one bite. Its availability on the menu here is only possible because of Chef Oda’s time at Tokami and deep links with Yamasawa.
The rice is Yumepirika – a premium Hokkaido rice brand with large grains sourced specially from Hokkaido Tsukigata FARM to Sapporo’s northeast. It is seasoned with a blend of akazu vinegars – a long-aged Yohei vinegar full of depth and umami and a fresh variety for contrast. Chef Oda makes minor adjustments to the blend for the best affinity with the maguro. As a result, the rice ovals have sufficient presence to stand up to the maguro but crumble beautifully on the palate. Oda cooks rice to different levels of hardness to suit the various seafood toppings because this sensation of falling apart in the mouth is essential to the sushi experience.
But the factor paramount to the successful service of sushi is temperature. Like rice firmness, Oda makes minute adjustments according to the seafood being showcased. Maguro is cut earlier and placed on a warmed plate to raise its temperature before being rested on top of a piping-hot rice oval. The result is a perfect union of the tuna fat with the rice giving diners an unparalleled melt-in-the-mouth experience. To truly understand the difference, you need to take your place at this counter. It begins with premium ingredients, but Chef Oda’s exquisite sense of moisture content, acidity, temperature, and myriad other factors allow guests to enjoy the finest maguro available at that moment.
Most ingredients are shipped from Toyosu Market suppliers well-known to Oda from his daily trips there during his Tokyo days. However, items like hair crab, surf clams, and shijimi freshwater clams are shipped direct from the source, selected for seasonality and quality. The tuna is, of course, supplied by Yamasawa. Oda had not been especially interested in tuna until he came across Yamasawa’s tuna at Tokami, and his mind was changed forever. He was floored by just how good it could be in terms of flavor, aroma, texture, everything. Now long acquainted with the supplier, Oda places his utmost faith in their selections.
With beverages, Chef Oda wants guests to enjoy their favorites in a style that suits them and thus has a selection of approximately 30 sake brands from around Japan, including the hard-to-find Juyondai and Jikon, as well as Burgundy wines. Premium maguro with phantom sake? A match made in heaven!
Chef Oda’s unwavering fixation is with tuna from Toyosu wholesaler Yamasawa. Because they know his preference for smaller tuna to a tee, he entrusts them wholly with shipments. He feels the higher fat level on 200-kilogram tuna muddles the flavor somewhat, preferring tender, more flavorful fish weighing between 80 and 150 kilograms. Guests gain a new appreciation for bluefin tuna through the chef’s range of nigiri featuring tossaki, akami, two types of chutoro, and otoro. The opportunity to compare the belly and back portions of chutoro is rare: contrast the soft-textured belly and its perfect fat levels with the rich tuna flavors found in flesh from the back.