Ancient Fast Food: Ginza Seamon

Posted on May 13, 2006 Under Food, Travel


When hungry foreigners first descend upon Tokyo, sushi is often high on their list. Noodle counters seem more plentiful than sushi bars in Tokyo, but for either fare one had better have some inside knowledge to be certain you’ll taste something beyond the ordinary. Gaijin might not mind mixing their metaphors, but be clear that the Japanese rarely mix sushi with mundane offerings like tofu, tempura or teriyaki at the same establishment. If you want sushi in Tokyo, go to a sushi bar. Full stop. And we’ve found one you’ll love.

Forget your budget for one night (take some profit in AAPL or cash in a CD) and go right to the Ginza. Don’t be distracted by the limos lined up outside Kyubei or the paparazzi across from Rainbow Roll. They both give glitter, but we found the crown jewel. Walk down Namiki Dori Street to the Dolce & Gabbana store at the corner of Miyuki Dori Street – and cross the street. Through the modern, circular tube door, take the lift to the 6th floor and enter Ginza Seamon. Breathe and be present – you are in sacred surroundings. Settle in at the long counter and forget the menu. Just tell the master sushi chef to bring on the “full course.” Choose some sake, wine or champagne from the extensive list, and be quiet. In 60 seconds, you will be in a state of pure bliss.

First, cleanse your palette with crisp grated radish (daikon) and tiny button mushroom (nameko). That’s green tea silken tofu with sea urchin (uni) that melts in your mouth, transparent flounder (hirmae) with a hint of sweet, freshly grated horseradish (wasabi) that teases your palate. A thin sliver of shiny mackerel (saba) wiggles (I swear it moved) as drops of fine soy sauce (shoyu) glisten on its surface, bluefin tuna belly (toro) is like egg white parfait that dissolves in 3 seconds. Before this, “melts like soft butter” were words one might employ to describe fine sashimi, but butter is four times more dense than the dark red belly tuna (toro) acquired by Seamon’s mastermind Kimihiko Araya for this and his two other jewels, Bar Masq and Shellfish Ginza Kazan around the corner. Red sea bream (tai) served with cubes of tender ginger (ginger), roasted head of Mantis shrimp, yellow striped butterfish with boiled Kyoto eggplant (nasu), white spotted conger sea eel (anago) masquerades as a juicy mango, purplish amberjack with Japanese lemon (yuzu), parrot bass striped break perch with Japanese mint leaf (chiso), dark banded rockfish and Atlantic cutlass fish with chewy, pickled seaweed (shio kombu) all arrive in a precise procession of mind blowing perfection and sumptuous simplicity. An egg cake (tamago) and a superb coconut, apricot soy and kuzu custard (sort of a Chinese digestif) ends the meal.

Asking how much a meal like this will cost is like wondering how many miles per gallon you’ll get in your Lamborghini. Just go with one other person (there were six of us) and fly home in economy. That should just about cover it. Be clear that nothing you order at your favorite local sushi haunt will ever taste the same again, that is unless you live on Chuo Dori Street. If there is fresher sushi anywhere, it’s still swimming. An absolutely phenomenal dinner is guaranteed.