Many people, including myself are originally surprised to hear that a tempura restaurant can be awarded two Michelin stars. After all, it’s not the typical image associated with fine dining. However, it’s a fallacy that Michelin stars are elusive to fine dining. It’s simply awarded to extraordinary cuisine, haute cuisine or ramen. Regardless, the tempura at Kondo is quite unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
The atmosphere was simple and clean, despite the copious amounts of frying occurring. This is my first time at a tempura bar, where all the cooking happens right in front of you. The chef fries one piece at a time, ensuring optimal freshness. After the sous chef preps the ingredient, the head chef dunks it into the tempura batter and gently submerge it into a mixture of three types of sesame oil.
I liked that they gave you options for toppings/sauces to experiment with. The tensuyu and grated daikon added savouriness which complements vegetables, while the simple sea salt and lemon cut through the richness of seafood. We ordered the “Kaede”, which included two appetizers, eleven tempura pieces, kakiage plus rice set, and dessert.
From a first glance, sushi appears deceptively simple. However, simplicity doesn’t equate easy. Little do people realize that it takes longer to become a trained sushi chef than it takes to become a doctor in Japan! When working with minimal ingredients, there is nothing to hide. This increases the complexity of technique as even the most minute mistake will be magnified. This is why sushi trainees do repetitive tasks (i.e. wash rice, sweep floors) for many years before graduating to making sushi rice, then scaling and fileting fish, and finally making sushi for customers. The purpose is to gauge their patience and meticulousness. Only the cream of the crop will be selected to apprentice under the master chef. Chef Rei Masada has trained under the legendary sushi master Sukiyabashi Jiro for nine years before embarking on his own restaurant. Albeit young, he already has two Michelin stars under his belt.
Japan holds the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world as it has sky-high expectations when it comes to gastronomy. The best sushi is bound to be found here, specifically in the Ginza district of Tokyo where many Michelin starred sushi restaurants are hidden underneath office buildings. Just to name a few; Jiro’s, Sushi Yoshitake, Sushi Mizutani, and of course Sushi Kanesaka are all located in this region. It’s a great debate among the foodie community which establishment serves the best sushi in the world but these are among the creme de la creme. Jiro is certainly the most famous sushi restaurant made well known through various television programs and his documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” but critics in Japan don’t believe it’s “The Best”. Nevertheless, each restaurant has its own strengths and weaknesses where some may serve better shellfish, others otoro, and some accept foreign reservations while others may not.
The entrance to Sushi Kanesaka is underneath a nondescript looking office building in the middle of Ginza where you go down a steep set of stairs. There, you will be greeted with a white curtain with a few kanji characters. If you have successfully accomplished the following, you will be rewarded with some of the best sushi in the world!