Hakkoku

Hakkoku is a cool place. The interior of the restaurant is spacious, airy, and mellow, with three six-seat sushi counters, spacious and separated by shoji screens, and kind of new-agey ambient music playing in the background. The decor is elegant and classy. It’s almost like an exclusive spa in some ways—which feels weird to say, but there we are!

The food, by the way, is remarkable. The course here is (notoriously) fully thirty nigiri with some palate cleansers mixed in—no otsumami here. It’s kind of relentless, but in a good way that I really enjoyed. So many of the nigiri are unusual, or surprising, or simply more delicious than I’m used to, but there isn’t too much time to reflect before it’s on to the next. Despite that I didn’t find it overwhelming though, but instead an amazing crescendo that swept me along in a memorable way. It had the effect of harnessing everything to the beautiful shari that keeps the whole course together and is more than delicious enough to support it.

Mushiawabi, botan ebi, and ankimo were among the ingredients that took on a new profile for me as nigiri rather than their more common guise of otsumami. On the drinks side, I left sake selections up to my hosts, and was rewarded with several great glasses. All around, this was a very satisfying meal that I would happily eat again and again.

The fact that there are three counters makes this restaurant perhaps a bit more accessible than other places in town. I sat with Chef Hiroyuki Sato at the first counter—he is a great host, open-minded and wryly funny with a calm demeanor that fits the vibe perfectly. His Instagram account is a fun one as he is often traveling on his so-called “world tour” to bring Hakkoku’s sushi to far-flung corners of the world, and sometimes posts live video from the Toyosu fish market for a fun behind-the-scenes look at the world of Tokyo sushi.

I think the things that make Hakkoku a little different are exactly the things that make it worth visiting—I found the ethos to be clear, consistent, and self-justifying, with nothing done simply for its own sake. The quality and ambition are second to none, and that’s a very impressive thing indeed!

Hakkoku 3F, 6-7-6, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Last visited: Summer 2019

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