Hashiguchi was, a few years back, my first experience of the world of fancy sushi. It will always have a special place for me. I remember that on the day of my first visit I was anxious to get the “etiquette” right, having read so much about the severe environment and rigid rules of Tokyo sushi restaurants.
Looking back now I can laugh. First of all, despite what you read online, anyone with even a moderate amount of self-awareness will be just fine in a Tokyo sushi restaurant. All that you need is to be respectful, willing to eat what is put in front of you, and open to having a good time and there is nothing at all to worry about.
Second, Hashiguchi is maybe the last sushi shop where you would get a frosty reception. The vibe is calm and understated in the extreme, almost sleepy, which I really don’t at all mean as a criticism. The pace of things inside the restaurant a notch slower than in the real world outside, and the husband-and-wife team are truly lovely and quick with smiles and laughs. The counter here is relatively spacious, and unlike shops that serve a regimented two full seatings a night, here there is one seating per night and starting times are staggered. This makes things a bit more personal and tailored, as is the case at Sushi Take. Photography is not allowed: this is between you and the chef, not the outside world! With such a welcoming environment, I couldn’t have asked for a kinder, gentler introduction to the cuisine that immediately got me completely hooked.
Comparing the sushi itself to other restaurants, the taste of the sushi matches the demeanor of chef Hashiguchi perfectly. You will be asked at the start of the meal whether you want a sashimi and sushi course, or just sushi. Either is good—when I’ve had the sashimi course, it included some fantastic shellfish like mirugai that the sushi course did not feature, and when I’ve had the sushi course only I got a couple of really outstanding maki rolls at the end since I was still a bit hungry after the nigiri sequence. If I had to pick I would say go for the full set with sashimi to take full advantage of the day’s produce.
Those nigiri, by the way, are large in size, with a simple, clean flavor on the shari that lets you taste the ingredients in a direct, unfussy way. Other shops favor shari with a more noticeable and intense vinegar flavor, and that is delicious too, but the taste here matches the humble nature of the restaurant and really has its hooks in my memory. I’ve found the hikarimono nigiri particularly good here: iwashi, kohada, and aji all stand out, the subtle oily nature of those fish really framed perfectly by the understated shari. The big difference that choices like these make to the overall impression of the meal is something I find really cool about sushi.
Popular opinion has this as one of the most highly regarded sushi restaurants in town, an impressive feat considering that it is not a place chasing hype or with an Instagram hashtag churning out photos of the food. Reservations are difficult. However, the “secrecy” here is, refreshingly, not about elitism or creating some mystique, but rather just about keeping things relaxed and simple. It’s simply a great meal in a cozy environment, to be enjoyed without worrying about anything else.
Hashiguchi 1 Chome-5-20 Motoakasaka, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0051, Japan