I finally made it to Daisan Harumi Sushi! This restaurant has been on my "to try" list for years. It's a perennial Tabelog Tokyo top 20 (currently ranked as the 16th best sushi shop in Tokyo with a very respectable 4.25 score) and it is helmed by a legendary, 3rd generation sushi chef, Nazuo Nagayama, who is highly respected for his encyclopedic knowledge of sushi. He has written a number of books on the subject (including a bilingual one that I highly recommend) and maintains a web site that is absolutely chockfull of sushi information (sadly, in Japanese only).
Nagayama-san is known to be an obsessive shokunin. He takes over an hour every day to carefully handwrite a menu which lists the provenance of each sushi-dane being served, the size and weight of each fish, the waters it was caught in, sometimes down to the currents and water temperature! He's most definitely passionate about his craft, a trait that I find very inspiring.
So, how was my experience at Daisan Harumi? Well, I had a great time eating at Nagayama-san's counter. The chef is serious but also very personable and friendly. The atmosphere at his shop is pretty easy going, with a counter that is filled with regulars. This is Shimbashi, after all, not Ginza! I really enjoyed the few otsumami dishes (appetizers or small plates served before the nigiri) on offer at the beginning of the meal, especially the awabi and katsuo - both were incredibly delicious.
Sadly, the nigiri is not particularly to my liking, due to the shari (sushi rice)'s lack of vinegar flavor. I was a little apprehensive because I'd heard that the rice at Daisan Harumi was very sweet, especially by Tokyo standards. His rice is definitely not sweet, it is just very mild and "neutral" tasting and, in my opinion, a bit bland. I personally prefer strong shari with a sour vinegar kick. The shari was cooked well, with good consistency and served at perfect temperature, but overall I found the nigiri to lack balance due to the inordinately mild rice seasoning.
The neta was of good quality across the board, with the hikarimono (silver skinned fish) being particularly delicious. The saba was fantastic and I really wish that the shari would have paired better with it. It should be noted that the nigiri's presentation is a little sloppy, as this very much a neighborhood restaurant without any pretense. Sourcing and preparing quality ingredients is obviously important to the chef, but the presentation of the food is not the main focus. Personally, I don't really care much, but if you want sushi that is really pretty to look at (or photograph), this is not the place for you. Instagram foodie scenesters beware!
Even though I'm not a huge fan of the rice at Daisan Harumi, I would still unconditionally recommend dining here. There are dozens of highly skilled sushi chefs throughout the city who all offer their own unique take on Edomae-zushi. This diversity is one of the great things about eating sushi in Tokyo. Nagayama-san, over the course of over 50 years in the trade, has developed his own style, his own way of doing things, his own distinct flavor. The chance to interact with a legendary chef who has devoted his entire adult life to the craft, and to get to experience his personal take on Edomae sushi, is something that is to be cherished.
Below you will find a couple of photos taken during the meal, along with some additional comments.
I really enjoyed Nagayama-san's hikarimono. Here's a shot of the kohada - served on plates made by Nagayama-san himself!
Kuruma-ebi - one of my favorites. Notice the rather sloppy presentation.
Daisan Harumi Sushi 1-17-7 Shinbashi, Minato, Tokyo https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1301/A130103/13002140/