The Fine Dining Omakase
Tucked away on Petchaburi Road inside the building with no prominent sign to flag its presence, Sushi Ichizu is happy to remain hidden to the casual passer-by. With its wooden Japanese-style sliding door, this fine dining omakase sushi restaurant is pure modern sushi-ya, a concept based on the philosophical notion that the culture of “sushi" should not be restricted to only Japanese and a top grade sushi-ya need not have a Tokyo or Ginza postcode anymore.
Passing through the short hallway, I am greeted by Chef Riku Toda whose his talents were honed by sushi master Hachiro Mizutani, the owner of the famous three Michelin-starred Sushi Mizutani. After this restaurant closed down due to the retirement of the eponymous Hachiro, Chef Toda moved to join one of the top 3 current Tokyo sushi masters, Chef Takaaki Sugita. Sushi Sugita hit the ground running and was received Michelin Star status in its very first year, renowned locally as one of the most difficult sushi restaurants to get into. Serving only 8 diners a night in two sitting ( 6.00 pm and 8.30pm), online reservations are full up to 2 months in advance, and it is recommended to plan that far ahead. Suffice to say, Chef Toda learnt his craft from the best.
Escorted to a seat on the beautiful L-shaped counter I am necessary excited about what the evening will bring. There is nothing to disappoint. Everything at Suchi Ichizu is perfectly thought out, from the stone, glass and porcelain tableware to the bamboo toothpicks. Ingredients are sourced from the land of the Rising Sun. All fish and seafood comes uniquely from the Tsukiji shijo, the world famous central Tokyo fish market, offering a quality of produce rivalling any available locally in Nippon. As Chef Toda starts to work diners get to inspect the raw ingredients, and in such an intimate setting you get to witness up close his artistry and craft.
Before he serve us the first sushi , he presents us a beautiful piece of bluefin tuna, the Hokkaido hairy crab and plump abalone which will be the star of the omakase menu tonight. An edamame amuse bouche is swiftly followed by botan ebi (shrimp) with shiokara sauce. The ebi are seashore fresh and the sauce compliments the natural sweetness of the shrimp. Next up is the abalone, poached for 8 hours and served with a sauce that made from stewed abalone liver. I first try a piece without the sauce. It is cooked perfectly. The sauce, again, is exquisite. After you finishing the abalone, Chef Toda offers guests a luscious bite of sushi rice, soaked in the sauce so it takes the aspect of risotto. The taste of the rice combined with the sauce brings out a velvety creaminess underwritten by umami . It is grin-makingly gorgeous. His abalone dishes, however, are the “stand out “pieces. I wish I could ask for more but this is just the start and there is much more to come.
The omakase at Ichizu varied from night to night, but is likely to include at least some of the beautiful bites we enjoyed. Among these one should mention the grilled nodoguro (rosy seabass) that smells so good with fatty tender meat that tastes just wonderful, as well as the myriad nigiri ; shinko (the youngest fish under 5 cm), kohada (the slightly more mature fish around 10 cm), shinika (small octopus) , kasugo tai ( baby seabream), kuruma ebi ( tiger prawn) , kinmedai ( golden eye snapper), akami (lean tuna) and o- toro. Alongside the nigiri, Chef Toda serves chawanmushi ; a Japanese style steamed egg, prepared here with shark’s fin.
Next up is uni (sea urchin) and this is worth explaining. Uni, at any distance from the beach, can be a challenge. That those served at Sushi Ichizu match the best available anywhere is testament to the care taken to the source, treat and honour the ingredients. The Hokkaido hairy crab is further evidence of this. It looks like it only just emerged from the sea. Though between its initial appearance and entry to the menu it has gained a beautiful rice topped shell, adorned with bafun uni (the edible orange lobes of the sea urchins). Along with this come Asari (clam soup) that soothes my throat a perfect hearty way to finish. To clean the palate before dessert, Chef Toda offers seaweed rolls (using top quality seaweed from the Ariake Sea) and a spongy, cheese cake-like tamago (grilled egg). Dessert consists of a freshly prepared warabi mochi topped with korumitsu syrup (sugar syrup similar to molasses but thinner and milder). It is a surprisingly sweet note to end the night and Chef Toda makes me crave this dessert, so I shall definitely have to come back again soon.
Sushi at this level approaches an art form, and Chef Toda is an artisan who has dedicated his life to his craft. The greatest testimony to this is that sat just off Petchaburi Road in Bangkok, one could be mistaken from thinking one were dining with Poseidon; and with quality so exquisite, the experience at Sushi Ichizu certainly, exceeds the price. In short, I recommend you cancel that ticket to Tokyo, and book seats at Suchi Ichizu. With the Michelin Guide coming to Thailand, this sushi restaurant is certain to raise the culinary game in Bangkok.