Restaurant Sushi Sen (鮨千)
Nothing can beat a Sushi dinner, and this time my partner Kyo brought me to his favorite restaurant: Sushi-Sen （鮨千）.
Just like any other great sushi restaurants in Japan, Sushi-Sen has only a few bar seats, has a sole chef and a couple of helping hands. Chef Sen-san (that is how patrons call him) mostly makes Nigiri sushi, but does have other dishes as well, such as shrimp miso soup (Okay, it is the best that I can describe this delicious soup).
(Setting of Sushi-sen is just like a typical Nigiri sushi restaurant, everyone sits at the bar, instead of Omakase menu, a more local restaurant will make to order)
Sushi-Sen is blended into the local surroundings of 苦樂園 (Kurakuen), and the customer base is the locals as well, we are probably one of the very few foreigners that visits in a year. Unlike the glamorous Sushi restaurants in Ginza or Roppongi, that each visit needs an ultra-advanced planning, organizing the exact date with hotel, the exact time of visit, strictly follows what is on offer on the day (almost always Omakase), it is almost like going to a three-star French restaurant. According to my partner Kyo, “while I love those super top Sushi place, it is not something that one can go as frequent as you wish, to the point that it is a bit daunting. I like to enjoy good Sushi whenever I want to, and without much planning”.
(Like many Sushi restaurants in Japan, Sushi-Sen is quite hidden in the neighborhood without any big flashy signs)
(The street view of Sushi-sen, with the restaurant is just to the left of this photo, this is a very typical Japanese neighborhood, and has almost no traffic on a Saturday afternoon)
I can really understand why. Historically sushi is a type of fast food, spread around the Tokyo streets, that one can just go there, have a few pops, and leave. People even stand on the side of the bar to have their Sushi. In modern days Sushi is becoming ever popular and ever more prestigious, evolving into the find dinning model. I don’t question such model, yet I do agree with Kyo that enjoying Sushi the tradition way is more comfortable and layback. That does not mean the food is bad at all, otherwise how can you survive in the Sushi country 😉
(Upon sitting down, Sen-san showed us the ingredient of the day: wild caught blue fin tuna from Hokkaido)
At Sushi-Sen, you don’t have to book in advance, nor you will need to go through a set menu. Just show up, wait for your seat, and have whatever you like. Sen-san will tell you what the best ingredients of the day are, and help you decide a small menu. He is super flexible that even the customer request something he has never done before; he would gladly give it a try. That night, another customer requested him to make some “Konbu Shoyu” - some sort of soy sauce with Japanese seaweed. He took out the bowl and grinded the seaweed into powder and made that special soy sauce for him. It tasted lovely and I think I will try to make some next time.
(Yura uni, a super expensive and highly thought after sea urchin that is found at the river entrance of Yura river, a 150km river flows long north of Kyoto Prefecture)
Again, this just shows how layback the atmosphere is at this type of local restaurants. The sushi tastes very good and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course I have to share some of the Sushi that we had that night.
(Otoro, fat belly of blue fin tuna, caught in Hokkaido)
(Aji, yellow tail bait fish)
(Kuruma ebi, Japanese tiger prawn)
(Matsutake prawn soup)
Address for Sushi-Sen:
18-13 Ishibanechō, Nishinomiya, Hyogo 662-0074