What makes Japan’s culinary world amazing is that you are never short of savoring your next best meal. And in majority of cases, the most memorable eateries are usually located in the places you least expect. Sushi Kyotatsu serving its phenomenal sushi at Narita Airport is an excellent example. Save all the “Gosh, airport sushi?!” comments. Or go ahead and write them down below if that makes you feel better because the place I am going to write about can put many sushi restaurants to shame.
Early morning flight called for breakfast at the airport and my mind was set on eating something local before departure. Narita Airport has wide array of eateries to choose from and making a choice can be a bit daunting. I hate settling for a mediocre food when I can eat something great. Thus, I have long gotten into a habit of referring to the power of Google to try and find the best of the lot. Fortunately, my research didn’t disappoint me this time either and thanks to the recommendations of fellow travelers I quickly went through the passport control and headed to Gate 34 (coincidentally, my gate!) to savor allegedly one of the best sushi in Tokyo. I won’t lie, I was intrigued and excited.
Finding the place is not difficult as it is located between Gate 34 and a fancy duty-free souvenir shop. English signs attract visitors with posters of colorful nigiri. The restaurant was still closed when I arrived at 8:20 a.m.. Thankfully, they had extremely friendly English speaking female assistant who informed me that they would be open in 10 minutes. I set down on the bench by the glass double doors and patiently waited while watching Chefs and servers frantically prep to receive guests.
Once the doors were open, I was ushered in and offered a seat with a characteristic Japanese courtesy. The interior at this traditional old-Tokyo style sushi shop is unpretentious: L-shaped room offers sitting at a bar and, on the left, a row of seats by a window that looks out on a runway. I opted to sit by the bar because I am always fascinated to observe the precision and skill with which chefs craft their food.
I was offered the main menu as well as The Best of the Day selection. My mind immediately is drawn to 8000 yen Omakase meal consisting of appetizer, a soup and a selection of nigiri and sashimi chosen by the chef. Unfortunately, I was told they did not have yet prepared all the ingredients for this particular meal. Since I had only one hour to spare I had no other choice but to opt for a regular menu item instead which was highly recommended by the chef.I also ordered a bowl of miso soup, my little weakness. Simple yet flavorful broth with seaweed and tofu was soul-warming yet light appetizer. Soon enough, the chef brings out my first serving – five pieces of carefully crafted nigiri. From right to left: wild blue fin fatty tuna, flatfish, lean tuna, yellowtail, abalone. I savor each bite in the same order. My Bluefin was a beautiful crimson color that bordered on maroon. I am struck by the freshness of fish, with smooth melt in your mouth texture. Perfectly plump Japanese short grain rice – an equally important component of nigiri – formed a pellet with just the right amount of stickiness and flavors from rice vinegar, salt and sugar. As you continue to savor the bite a refreshing flavor of wasabi captivates your nostrils. Unlike many restaurants in US and elsewhere, here a delicate smear of wasabi is applied directly onto the rice and a sliver of fish is placed on top.
Already blown away, I am looking forward to my next course. Meanwhile, I take advantage of a very nice English speaking female Chef’s apprentice (huge rarity in Japan!) who was making rolls right in front of me and try to strike a casual conversation with her. She shared that their tuna arrives daily from Ishiji Store, one of the best in Tsukiji Market. Soon, the Chef brings three more nigiri for me to enjoy: salmon roe, herring roe, and shrimp. Shrimp was so fresh it felt like it was alive; salmon roe which provided characteristic burst of umami; and a herring roe, something I had never tasted before. It had pleasant crunchy texture and a briny taste that packed umami flavor. I mentioned this was my first time sampling the herring roe so the chef’s apprentice also shared a little backstory to go with it. Turns out, for centuries Japanese have been eating it during New Year celebrations as it is considered to be a symbol of fertility. It was a real treat to interact with her and find out all those intricate cultural details about the food I was served. Usually that is a part Mr. B and I miss out on due to lack of Japanese language skills. I was then served my last part of the meal: unagi and two tamagos, egg omelets. The moment I bit into that caramel-color piece of eel my taste buds exploded with excitement. Velvety soft, with a perfect balance of sweetness and umami – it was a sensational bite! I couldn’t contain my enjoyment and immediately ordered one more. Last but not least, I indulged in my two pieces of tamago. Tender and spongy with just the right amount of sweetness. Simple, yes. Yet it’s the simplest things that are the most difficult to prepare perfectly since they cannot be manipulated.
I regret only one thing – not trying their salmon sashimi and my all-time favorite uni nigiri. However, there is always a next time and I surely will make a point to come back here and bring Mr. B!
By the time I left, the place had been packed with visitors. Everyone sitting in a little sushi nirvana, silently savoring their fresh cuts of fish.
Have you ever had a surprisingly good meal at the airport???
If you do not have time to dine inside, you can still enjoy their scrumptious sushi by buying one of the take-out bento boxes offered via a small window at the entrance.
The place does everything in its power to cater to tourists. They have English menu, chefs and servers speak some English, they take credit cards as well as cash in YEN AND USD!
Location: Terminal 1, No.3 Satellite, 3rd Floor