Japan (Tokyo) Nov 2019: Harutaka** - Sushi Served by Jiro’s Favorite Apprentice

During this past trip to Japan, wife couldn’t eat full meals of raw fish, so I had one hall pass for a sushi meal. I had really enjoyed Jiro-styled sushi before (Mizutani, Harutaka, and Masuda). Of those three, two are now closed, and I didn’t want to deal with the pain in getting a Jiro Honten reservation, nor have I heard good things about Jiro Roppongi, so back to Harutaka it was.

Harutaka San is in stands in the corner of the L shaped bar. His apprentices (I counted three out serving in addition to the kitchen staff and the waitress) cut and serve the otsumami. Once the nigiri comes though, Harutaka-San finishes each piece of nigiri himself and brings them to each customer.

One random comment - the behavior of customers (both foreign and japanese) has gotten “worse” each time I’ve come to Japan. To my left, the couple spent the entire night taking selfies with the fish. To my right, the pair was asking for specific pieces and not waiting for the omakase to play out, and one of them was shopping for shoes on her phone all night.

While the otsumami was so-so, the nigiri absolutely met my expectations and left me immensely satisfied.

Shirako - this was the only otsumami that wow’d me - a really delicate presentation of this seasonal dish

Poached tako

Hirame and Kue sashimi

Amadai with lotus root

Smoked and grilled sawara

Nodoguro

At this point, I was a bit worried that my only sushi meal in Japan was going less than spectacularly, but the nigiri line up was coming up.

Those of you who are familiar with the Jiro style know it for its distinctive elements - strong sharp komezu, a focus on premium ingredients, and fairly large sized pieces. On his Tableall profile, Harutaka-San even alludes to the current popularity of akazu-styled nigiri, but says the komezu is his style, and he’s sticking with it.

One we got to the nigiri- order was restorer, and the pieces were fantastic. My favorites on this trip were probably the kuruma-ebi, the katsuo, and akame. I’ve read online reviews that criticize the shari here for being overly salty. I didn’t think it was any more salty than the other Jiro places, and the shari had a nice punch.

Ginger

Sumi ika

Kasugo

Akami

Chu toro

O toro

Kohada

Ikura

Aji

Kuruma Ebi

Katsuo Marvelous as mentioned above

Bafun Uni from Hokkaido

Anago

Tamago

The omakase was done at this point, and they asked if I wanted any additional pieces.

Kobashira

Kanpyo Maki Friggin fantastic - ordering this elicited another statement of approval from the sushi chef in front of me

I went with carafes of Kokuryu and then Tedorigawa daiginjo for my meal.

In my buzzed state, I ended up ordering a carafe (Of the Tedorigawa) for all the chefs. I was nervous doing so in Japan because I wasn’t sure if it would seem presumptuous (I do this all the time I’m the US). They were quite appreciative, and Harutaka San thanked me twice, so it seemed to have gone over well :slight_smile:

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Nice move.

damn that returning fatty katsuo looks mighty fine, but i was under the impression that it happens in autumn?

I think I was on the cusp of autumn and winter, because I had Katsuo at Harutaka as well as at a couple Kaiseki places. Also, it was matsutake season still and not crab season (with one exception) when we went.

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May I ask how much the full course with otsumami was? Also, do they still offer a nigiri-only option, and if so, do you happen to know the current price? Thinking about a visit soon.

Also, are you sure the katsuo wasn’t mayoi Katsuo (迷鰹 - the famed “lost” katsuo)? If your meal was in late November, it might be. It certainly looks fatty enough to be in the photo.

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I booked through Tableall (I know you’re not a fan…) and the price was 44k JPY including service and taxes, though not drinks. I saw other customers come in and eat nigiri-only meals, so it looks like that’s available. Unfortunately, don’t know the “normal” prices for either option - apologies I couldn’t be of more help.

Thanks! I had not heard of this before, but it explains why the Katsuo was so rich and flat-out delicious. It’s likely this was it, because my pieces at Harutaka and other places were quite fatty - I remember thinking it might be the best katsuo I had eaten, but I chalked that up to recency bias.

When I went to Sushi Fukumoto back in February, a Japanese couple next to me (not young at all in age) were chatting away. They let a piece of sushi sit there for almost 20 mins when the chef placed another piece next to it. So bad there are diners behaving badly and running amok these days…

Kudos for ordering sake. If you glance at social media, most people just want to drink wine or champagne. Next time at any sushi omakase place, ask for recommended pours of Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, generally far more effective and versatile for pairings. For example digging into social media I see Harutaka carries Junmai like these:

Kunimare Tokubetsu Junmai (Hokkaido), Sawaya Matsumoto Junmai (Kyoto), and the third one I’ve never seen before but it’s from Iwate prefecture (Tokubetsu Junmai Miyamanishiki)

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NP, and thank you very much for the reply.