[Tokyo] Harutaka 青空 - 1 Michelin Star Sushi Nightmare
Very rarely have I been disappointed with restaurants in Tokyo but the sushi dinner I had at the 1* Harutaka was probably the worst experience to date. I was really looking forward to the meal too since I've heard great things about it from several people that I know. It has a pretty high score on Tabelog and apparently frequented by many chefs in Tokyo. The chef at Harutaka is a disciple of Jiro and his style of shari (rice) is known to be heavily seasoned with both vinegar and salt. The problem was that our shari was so salty, I couldn't taste the neta (fish) at all! And I'm not talking about a little salty - I'm talking about a full-on assault on the tongue which cringed every time I put a piece of sushi in my mouth. My tongue was so parched I had to keep downing drinks and water afterward. Halfway through the meal we were hoping that this would be a one-off mistake but when the chef received a new bowl of rice, it was still the same. I'm not really sure if the taste of the shari was normal but I've never wanted a sushi meal to end this badly. We seriously thought about saying something about the rice but couldn't really think of a way to say it without insulting the chef so we didn't.
To be honest, when I first stepped into Harutaka, I thought I went to the wrong restaurant. The sushi counter was big with 12 seats which felt a bit commercialized and factory-like. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that but it's just so unlike the other sushi-yas we've been to which seats 6-8 with a more intimate setting. When you're paying so much for a meal I guess you want to feel like you have the attention of the sushi chef and not like you're sitting at a conveyor belt sushi place. Personally I just didn't really like the vibe of the restaurant especially when they segregate the locals and foreigners on opposite ends of the counter (and of course the chef chose to stand closer to the locals' corner).
To add insult to injury, the meal cost ¥34,000 per person which was pretty expensive relative to other sushi restaurants we've tried in Tokyo (most dinner start at ¥20,000 like Sushi-ya and Sushi Sho). I just don't know why they charge so much when it neither provided the quantity that Sushi Sho Masa did with close to 50 courses or the premium quality of ingredients that Sawada did.
We started with the tsumami (appetizers) which in general were pretty underwhelming - the hirama was bland and even the shirako tasted better at Esquisse where we visited earlier in the trip.
Kue with Ponzu
Shirako with Yuzu
Amadai with Hamaguri Soup
Sawara and Komatsu
We then moved on to the nigiri part of the course and besides the issue I mentioned above regarding the saltiness of the rice, it was also rather warm and mushy for my taste. It would be inconsistent too with some pieces being much warmer than others. I couldn't really enjoy the flavors of the fish for the most part but even I could tell that the kohada felt off as it was way too sour - this is the fish that is most often used to gauge the skill of a sushi chef so either our taste buds were thrown off by the shari or maybe something went wrong with the kitchen that day.
Sayori no Kobujime
Tamago - the egg is supposed to be outstanding here but it was too wet and almost soggy.
I'm not sure if we just happened to be there on an "off" day but there may be some consistency issues as they just regained 1* in the 2017 Michelin Guide after losing 2* on and off over the past few years. I know that sushi can be all about personal preference but based on my experience, Harutaka is just not a restaurant I would recommended given the quality and value for money with so many other better sushi restaurants in Tokyo.
6/F, 8-3-1 Ginza Chuo, Tokyo
東京都 中央区 銀座 8-3-1 銀座時傳ビル 6F
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