As I write this review of Sushi Kai, I wonder how many “gaijin” will ever make it there. This exceptional local sushi restaurant is located in Todoroki, which I’m sure does not ring a bell to most foreigners the way Shibuya, Shinjuku or Roppongi does. Indeed, by train, you’ll have to make some transfers to get to this residential neighborhood in Western Tokyo, but it is so worth it! A friend’s mother took us there, eager to share her sushi find with the Cheng Sisters, and I immediately understood why. This is a neighborhood sushi restaurant of extremely high quality, but without any of the stuffiness of the sushi restaurants closer to the center of town that take themselves too seriously.
The restaurant is mainly one long sushi bar that seats around 14. I enjoyed everything from white shrimp rolls paired with hamo (conger eel) served with plum sisho paste to shirako (cod milt) baked with rice. Even the fresh vegetables, hand-picked from different regions around Japan, spoke for themselves. For a palate cleanser, we asked to taste the tomato, which the sushi chef meticulously skinned and sliced into thin pieces for us. With nothing more than a sprinkle of salt, it was probably the tastiest tomato I’ve ever had.
One of the joys of eating at sushi restaurants is conversing with the chefs. At Sushi Kai, the chefs are all so congenial and good conversationalists, asking about your travels or telling you about the origins of the fish you’re eating. The experience is completely relaxed and there is no pressure between pauses before asking for the next piece of sushi. Watching the sushi chefs make takeout trays for neighborhood deliveries made me so jealous of the local Todoroki residents. Though it’s slightly out of the way, I know I will be returning to Sushi Kai on my next Tokyo visit.