Thanks to a November trip a few years ago, I was recently able to enjoy the famous crab course, which is justly celebrated but seasonal, at Sushidokoro Mekumi in Nonoichi, near Kanazawa. This was perhaps the most memorable meal of the trip since it’s quite a bit different than the usual sushi meal. The amaebi nigiri here made me laugh out loud and was probably my single favorite bite of food of the many meals I enjoyed that month. Thank goodness, since I’d planned the trip to Kanazawa, and the trek from Kanazawa to the anonymous suburban neighborhood where Mekumi is located, in large part to eat here. I’d heard interesting things about the eccentric, workaholic, self-taught, food-science obsessed chef and his particular style of sushi, and I’m very glad I was able to experience it.

Often the Michelin-y feel from a Michelin restaurants is something I find unwelcome and cloying, but I thought that Mekumi really brought out the ways in which aiming for that kind of service, atmosphere, and integrated experience can enhance rather than detract from the meal. There was a slightly larger staff than is typical in a sushi restaurant. The course relies on real-time prep to what seems like a larger extent than straight-up edomae sushi, and the well-practiced coordination between chef Yamaguchi and the rest of the kitchen staff was great to see. The dedicated drinks server was also top class.

The nihonshu selected here was a true pairing, with small (though refillable!) pours microtargeted to dishes during the otsumami course, followed by a specific, larger, refillable pairing for the nigiri course. I generally take a dim view of this kind of specific pairing not just for sushi meals but for any cuisine, but if they were all as electric as this one I would happily revise that opinion. It felt like I was able to taste some remarkable bottles in their best light with no fuss. The selection leaned towards more new-school sake: bright, effervescent, fruit flavor dominant, and a wonderful match for the richness of the parade of crabs and the satisfying sushi that followed. Ishikawa prefecture sake is truly a marvel.

Kanazawa in general has a lovely vibe. There’s a famous garden, Kenroku-en, a fantastic contemporary art museum, great stores, great bars… but I think that this outstanding meal at Mekumi colored my whole weekend visit to the city. The charm, serenity, and quality of the experience here really put a spring in my step, and I would not hesitate to make the train journey out from Tokyo again to visit again if I have the chance.

Mekumi Nonoichi, Shimobayashi, 4 Chome-48

Try: don’t pass up the drink pairing!

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