A good man is hard to find. Good sushi is even harder. At least that seems the case in this fair land of Albion. Supermarket and takeaway interpretations are the rankest imagineable (just ask Richard Vines and Jun Tanaka) and restaurant versions are often no better.
But Japan invented sushi, so you'd expect that their stuff would knock the socks of anything we'd come up with. Surprisingly though, the sushi I had for breakfast at Tsukiji market, the sushi world's El Dorado, was a bit of a let-down and also left me feeling a tad ropey.
In the end, the best sushi I've ever had was at a tiny kaiten-zushi bar in Ueno, Tokyo. I've no idea what it was called, but as every plate cost 126 yen, to me it's the 126 Yen Sushi Bar (edited on July 2014: apparently it's called Oedo and it's now 130 Yen!).
The first time we ate there the exchange rate was 220 yen to the pound, meaning each plate cost a measly 57p, but even with the economy being in the state it is, this time around it was still only 84p a dish. And what fantastic dishes!
The sushi chefs were constantly working, skilfully moulding plate after plate after plate of nigiri, but far from becoming stale, each dish trundled along for only a few seconds before being swiped off the conveyor belt by a hungry punter.
I began stockpiling the ones I liked the look of for fear of someone beating me to the punch.
There were lashings of wasabi, ginger and soy to pimp our snacks, but the fish was all so fresh and dazzling and the rice so pearly and more-ish, that it was almost a travesty to add any.
Free tea was provided as well, though a kindly neighbour had to show us how to mix the matcha powder with the scorching hot water on tap.
Maguro and tororo (grated yama-imo)
Such was my greed that I got cocky and started to shout out special orders like the rest of the customers.
Thankfully, the sushi chef understood my half-baked Japanese and rewarded me with some delicious, briny uni (sea urchin), some ikura (salmon roe) and my favourite tobiko (flying fish roe - like savoury popping candy).
Enough blathering from me, just feast your eyes.
Tiny eels (?) with ginger
Uni (sea urchin)
Both times we went there, I damn near consumed my body weight in sushi (did you hear me? 84 pence a dish! One lousy dollar!). I strongly urge you to do the same.
Though they have a Romaji / English sushi menu in the window, there's no such menu inside, but because I'm such a nice (greedy) person, I took a photo of it for posterity and you can print out the large version and use it to order like a local.
Oh and here's some poor directions (look man, I can't read the language and I can barely speak it so you're not getting street names):
As you come out of the Central Gate exit of Ueno JR station, you'll see a zebra crossing ahead of you and on the other side is a big yellow toy shop called Yamashiroya. Cross over to it and then go down the street that's on the left of Yamishiroya and it's at the end of the first block.
Oedo - 130 Yen Sushi Bar
Nr Ueno JR Station
And here's a picture of the outside from Raddy at Style Zeitgeist - if anyone can read Japanese, please could you tell me what the place is actually called?
EDITED TO ADD: Kind readers have told me below that this sushi bar is called Oedo and as of April 2014, the price has gone up to 130 Yen (but it's still a brilliant bargain).
Directions make absolute sense and I will definitely go stuff myself on all that's available if/when I manage to make it to Tokyo!
Great post Meemalee, keep 'em coming. All this Japanophilia is feeding my wanderlust
@Bribedwithfood - If you do, take lots of pictures to make me wish I was back there myself :)
@Signe - Cheers me dear!
Oh, that's fantastic! I'm so glad you liked it :)