Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saji Sushi, Jiyugaoka (鮨どころ佐治)

Jiyugaoka is a nice place. Have you noticed that? Perhaps you've seen it featured in every magazine and food/shopping TV show in Japan? No? Then I recommend it. Lots of fun little shops, quiet backstreets, restaurants. Really good.

Waaaaay down the road (walking) from the station, the feeling of being in town dies out. In the dark, I could easily fool myself into thinking I was on the shopping street of a small town out in the countryside. Houses mixed with small stores, and the occasional restaurant. Quiet. Quiet. The charming sushi place on the right side wasn't Saji, but the charming sushi place on the left side was. [4/26/14: I took this picture today. First time I've walked by Saji since having dinner there.]

Is it a characteristic of sushi places that the master remembers your name? Or just good sushi places? In this case it was 5 years since the last visit (not for me) but the master clearly remembered. Despite being quite young, Saji's master has created a sort of timeless appeal in his place - slightly worn around the edges but in a way that lets you know it's from constant cleaning, not neglect. The long counter is the primary attraction (it's sushi!), and is backed by several tables. I'm not sure about the relationship between the young master and the older one who works the far end; it would be strange for the young guy to be in charge, wouldn't it?

How does one review sushi? It took me a looong time to recognize differences beyond the obvious (this flounder is bad!) and come up with my own preferences. Saji does a good job with the variety, the freshness and the preparation. There are some things you don't always see, like ankimou and shiitake. The only thing I could fault was the rice - a little small, a little soft. There's an ideal size and balance to these things; this was clearly within the limits of acceptability, but not exactly to my preference.

Relaxing and tasty local sushi, no pretense, no excessive bill. Maybe you don't want to make the trip, but if you live nearby it could be your new local.

Nice web site! They'll make osechi too, if you get your orders in soon.

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