Fukuoka: Sushi Yamanaka Honten

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Since I was quite determined not to leave Japan without having *one* good sushi meal, A was game enough to let me take advantage of his birthday dinner to splash out on some handcrafted bite-sized goodness. Sushi-yas in Tokyo are notoriously hard to book. Besides, I find it hard to believe that that’s the only city atop this volcanic island chain that can serve up some mean sushi.

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Sushi Yamanaka Honten sits somewhere at the edges of the Yakuin food enclave, in a minimalist building designed by Arata Isozaki, who also has his aesthetic stamped on many other buildings in Kyushu. So it boasts a really clean, sleek interior, appointed with gorgeous ikebana arrangements. We actually decided that what made the place look “so Japanese” was more the colours, chairs and low sushi bar running lengthwise along one side of the restaurant. It could easily have a Scandinavian flair otherwise.

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We got a kaiseki course and sushi course – here’s half of my sushi course. It’s really just 12 pieces of hand-pressed sushi, and my favourites were the tai and vegetable maki. Oh and anago of course! It’s spring, eel season, I’m a happy camper.

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The kaiseki course includes a mean trio of absolutely delicious cooked dishes, sashimi, and 6 pieces of sushi. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted pumpkin that sweet, and the above has just cemented my belief that miso and eggplant (nasu) go supremely well together, and are one of those couples made for each other. “Like ketchup and eggs”, A adds.

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Can I also express my heartbreak over the number of tableware I have to leave behind? So many things that are simply impossible to bring back that would look wonderful on my dining table. I’ve already sent back Hagi pottery to Mom the last trip, but the Japanese sensibility for good-looking small things is something I can’t bear to part with. I can’t decide which is more attractive, the mini uni and ikura donburi or the gold vessel cradling it..

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A sushi you won’t find elsewhere – the Kuruma Ebi that Kyushu’s waters are famous for. Very sweet, and not overly mushy (like a good Valentine’s card ha ha). I quite liked it. Spot the ootoro in the background, by the way.

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Happy birthday A! Here’s to growing up and out together 🙂

Sushi Yamanaka Honten 鮨と日本料理 やま中 本店 
2-8-8 Watanabe-dori, Chuo-ku, (81-92) 731-7771

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