Food and Food: Asia and japan and Travels16 Nov 2010 10:11 pm

I realized the other day that I have yet to blog about what may be the most well known Japanese food in the world: sushi! It is not because I have not eaten it. In fact, I eat it atleast once a week, if not more. It shows up all over; at staff parties, izakayas, kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi joints, supermarkets… but we made a special point to eat it in Kyoto. We used the Michelin guide to steer us in the right direction, and it did no wrong. Using the hotel concierge`s help (which I highly recommend if you are coming to Japan for a visit) we booked a dinner reservation for omakase at Sushi Imai.

Sushi Imai is a bit special. So special there are no photos. This is not due to a technical malfunction, forgetting my camera or because we were asked not to take photos. It was a conscious, albeit difficult, decision.

I always feel somewhat bashful when I pull out my camera at any restaurant. Even more so at very intimate places where you stick out like a sore thumb to begin with. I have felt the same at Guy Savoy, Joël Robuchon’s Mansion and most very tiny, very busy restaurants here in Japan. It is a hard decision to make, because naturally these are the places I want to blag (blog + brag) about the most. I just could not bring myself to shoot the beautiful pieces of art chef Tomotaka Imai was putting out on the counter. While places like this beg to be blogged about, I still think it is one of the places best visited in person. And going to Sushi Imai can never be a bad decision.

So, I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the experience. Mostly I was mesmerized watching chef Imai with his knife and sharkskin grater. We ate many kinds of sushi that night: octopus boiled in cherry blossom broth (VERY Edomae style, but with a Kyoto twist from the sakura), fluffy fresh freshwater eel, abalone, gizzard shad, sea bream, egg stuffed with rice… We also made friends with the other eight diners there, including a family of three, a set of three friends or work colleagues and a couple compromised of a writer and a chef who took the bullet train from a few prefectures away just to eat at Sushi Imai. We all bonded over fish. And booze.

We all groaned when Mike hit his head on a low hanging rafter, we shared a bottle of champagne, we all ate our sushi right off of the counter with our fingers, we ooed and awed over the monkfish liver carved up infront of us. (it was turquoise green!) We all felt guilty after eating that.

Yeah right. Pretty sure only Mike and I felt bad after eating it. (Seriously, I wish I had communicated to the hotel concierge we did not want to eat certain kinds of fish.)

Sushi Imai is a Michelin starred sushi restaurant, one of a few in Kyoto. The other diners told us there was no other place better for sushi in Kyoto. Of course the sampling is probably a bit biased.

Perhaps this place is special because it serves Tokyo style sushi which is quite different from the famous pressed Kansai style sushi (which we also had.) Perhaps it is special because of the rice. The service. The thoughtful preparation of the fine fish.

Perhaps there is no “perhaps.” It is special because of all of these things. Go check it out, and remember to take photos with your mind. And tongue.

Omakase (chef’s choice) at lunch is 2100-4200 yen. Evenings, 8400 yen. A la carte will rack up to 13000 yen both times.

Sushi Imai
Sushi Imai is the basement of a rather unremarkable white tiled office building. Look for the noren and entrance, below.
lunch from 12:00 to 14:00
dinner from 17:00 to 22:00
Closed Wednesdays. Make reservations; there are not many seats.

The one photo I took, of the exterior

This is the noren, or curtain to look for.

One Response to “sushi imai, kyoto”

  1. on 17 Nov 2010 at 9:28 am Chris

    As much as these meals kill me with a tinge of jealousy, I love hearing about them Kelly. Thanks as always!