At Tokyo’s Sushi Bar Yasuda, a chef returns home

Chef Yasuda, for the most part, does not care what you think.

More specifically, he does not care about what you think of other vaunted sushi chefs, Michelin starred restaurants and top critics’ picks from the USA to Japan. A longtime friend of the late Anthony Bourdain who possesses an equally brash personality, Naomichi Yasuda worked at his namesake restaurant, Sushi Yasuda, in New York for a number of years until a severe falling out resulted in his seeking refuge – as a self-proclaimed recluse dependent on his reputation acquired abroad – back in Japan. (The New York restaurant still bears his name but he has no involvement with it at all.)

Now 60 years old, semi-retirement is a basement in a quiet part of Tokyo, working solo and serving his personal style of omakase (whatever you want, however you want it) to an English-speaking crowd. His philosophy for a drama-free life?  No stars, no assistants and “no friends.”

 

 

He doesn’t mind it at all. He also doesn’t mind bashing more traditional sushi chefs who go by the book, whether he has heard of them or not. Interpretation when applied to sushi omakase can only be as far-reaching as, similarly, one can respectfully interpret classical music.  So the spectrum is limited in one sense. But on the other hand, what a spectrum. Oysters that melt in your mouth. Super dark, richly flavored sea urchin. Secret preparations that he vows to take to his grave.

 

Actually, Chef Yasuda does care about one thing: whether you like his work. There is no need to placate the master as an attempt to absorb the blows from his bold talk; he not only backs it up, but he demonstrates why he amassed the following that he did in New York for several decades. This is top quality, in-your-face flavor that purists may scoff at, but those craving a flavorful twist on tradition will most definitely marvel at.

Sushi Bar Yasuda is located at 4 chome 2-6 Minamiaoyama Bldg 426, B1, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan (東京都港区南青山4丁目2−6 南青山426 フロアーB1), Tel: +81 3.6447.0232. There are two options on the menu: a “Sushi Assortment” consisting of 14 pieces+ and a roll for ¥9,300 (two tuna, two whitefish, salmon, blue skin fish, shrimp, clam, squid, anago eel , sea urchin, salmon roe, omelet, scallion sprout, half roll).  However, most go for the YASUDA Style Omakase, where the total price (¥600-900 per piece+81 3.6447.0232, minimum of 15) depends on what you want to eat.  If there is a type of fish or ingredient that you do not consume, Chef Yasuda will work around your preferences.  Reservations are accepted online at http://www.sushibaryasuda.com/contact_e.html.

Photos: Sushi Bar Yasuda, Tokyo, Japan
all photos by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine