The ‘Father of Aged Sushi’ at Sushi Kimura pushes the boundaries to serve sushi and small plates cuisine, opening customers eyes to non-conventional fish varieties and exciting new combinations that will tantalize even the most trained of sushi palates. Tucked away in the suburbs of Tokyo, you cannot find any more local or seasonal than this.
Virtually impossible to get a seat, Chef Kimura has offered seats to TABLEALL only for non-resident foreign nationals visiting Japan, who would otherwise not have the opportunity to enjoy this unique sushi experience and philosophy.
Futako-Tamagawa is less than 20 minutes from Shibuya by train, but has a distinctly suburban feel. With shopping centers and restaurants everywhere, the area thrives with locals every day of the week. Wandering on the street level about five minutes from the station, there is an apartment building just a short walk from the public elementary school. It’s a relatively busy street, and yet the restaurant is so inconspicuous, you really must be searching to find it. The sandy stucco walls hold a simple ecru noren hanging adorned with the words for ‘Sushi Kimura’. The traditional Japanese characters selected for the restaurant’s name are steeped in meaning: the first one indicates joy, and the second refers to a rural village, expounding Kimura’s philosophy of finding joy in the local. Through the entrance, past the rotund earthenware pot, you walk into a comfortable and spacious room to find the gentle and warm smile of Chef Kimura. He stands behind the sunken counter where nine guests can be entertained as he prepares their course.
Father of Aged Sushi
The course begins and dish after dish reveals the love and labor that Kimura invests to please his customers. A journey through sushi bites and appetizers, the depth of flavor is unmatched. This is a sushi experience like no other. And because Kimura simply will not serve something that is not in peak season, every dining experience at Kimura will be new and eye-opening. You won’t find maguro tuna or gizzard shad here; don’t be surprised if you have never heard of or tasted most of the fish before. The appetizing small plates are delicious with a glass of your favorite drink, and it is through these dishes that Kimura shows his more playful and innovative side. Collaborative events with chefs of Italian, French and other cuisines have inspired him to incorporate ingredients like olive oil. Careful not to stray too far off-course, however, you won’t find any truffle here.
From the start, it is clear that Kimura is focused on showcasing not only the delicious flavors, but also the textures of the ingredients. Plump innards sit atop the briny dish of crab in salted and fermented crab viscera, followed by the delectable mouthful of deep coral-colored sakura shrimp miso paste. Made by roasting live shrimp and pureeing them shells-on, the mixture is then strained three times before being combined with seasonings including miso paste. Next, a pale green glass decorated in a rice sheath design arrives, filled with a creamy white liquid and topped with the fresh green hue of olive oil. This is the soft cod roe of isaki threeline grunt fish, which has been slow cooked at 58°C for three hours and pureed. It is velvety and luscious and leaves you wondering why you have never experienced this before. Sea urchin features next, but again, in a surprisingly new form: the sweet, creamy uni flesh has been pickled in the internal organs of the sea urchin creating a translulent gelée coating.
And then the nigiri sushi begins. Aged swordfish nigiri is made from a 10kg block of flesh that is lovingly tended to over 50 days resulting in just 1.2kg of perfectly matured sushi. Thinly sliced steamed abalone envelops an oblong of rice, striking with its milky color and contrasting thin black edge. Beautifully pink-skinned baby sea bream is followed by the nigiri of thread-sail file fish that has been aged for 6 days and is served with its liver. Depending on the timing of your visit, you may experience all or none of these, but there is no question that whatever is in season at the time will be served in the most delicious form possible at Kimura.
Aged sushi is a costly and time-consuming process that requires constant attention. It is a process by which the sushi is stored in refrigerators set at different temperatures over several days or weeks. Depending on the fish, the final product may be a third or even one tenth its original size, as the outer layers of the fish that cannot be used are continuously pared away.
It is hard to ascertain when Kimura gets a proper sleep. Open in the evenings from 5pm, he gets straight back to preparation for the next day after farewelling his last customers around 11pm. A short nap done and Kimura is up again and bound for Tsukiji to see and touch the fish coming into market. Unlike many other sushi chefs who visit around 7am or 8am and choose from among items selected by a trusted broker, Kimura wants to choose all his seafood by himself. In this way, he can never fall back and blame a broker, taking full responsibility for his personal judgment calls. When he is pleased with his purchases, Kimura returns to the restaurant to commence preparation once again.
His unconventional style does not stop at the fish, either. Wowed by the flavors of a three-year-aged Kyoto-produced vinegar called Fujisu, Kimura was desperate to incorporate it in his sushi rice, only to discover that the depth of flavor was dissipated by excess water from the soaking process. The vinegar merely sat on the surface of the rice. And thus, bucking all the advice from every rice grower, Kimura skipped soaking and, suddenly, the vinegar flavor soaked right through to the core. The result is a very al dente rice grain that is a fantastic contrast to the soft, aged fish.
The bottles of sake along the wall strike a bold pose, with compelling labels that seem to match Kimura’s conviction. He does not serve light or easy-to-drink sake; Kimura is instead constantly searching for sake that goes beyond simply accompanying food to elevating it. He visits breweries all over Japan, only buying once he feels a connection with the master brewer’s way of thinking.
Sake is served from an earthenware pouring vessel, with beautiful relaxed curvature, into a pinched hand-blown glass cup that fits perfectly in your clasp. Rather than pairing with each sushi bite, Kimura asks customers to leave it to him to find the perfect matches for the flow of the meal.