“Sumimasen, photo déjà vu desu?” – I ask in my clumsy Japanese in an effort to politely receive permission for taking photos. He gives me the warmest smile, which came with a hint of shyness, and a nod. I take only a couple, not to intrude too much into his swift yet deft process. You can see he is in a zone, focused and sharp like his knife. His hands, as wrinkled and old as they are, perform every movement with calculated precision of a 20-year-old. These hands have prepared sushi so many times, he could probably do it with his eyes closed – pressing and molding the rice, slicing the fish, smudging wasabi on one side and then bringing the two together to form a divine marriage – a delectable buttery piece of otoro (fatty tuna) nigiri. Uoriki Kaisen is tucked away in Shibuya, under the busiest crossing in the world. To find this little ten-seat sushi-ya go down to the B1 level of Tokyu Department Store and head to the back of the buzzing Tokyu Food Show depachika. Most probably you’ll have to stand in a line before you’re seated, but it is well worth the wait. The menu offers reasonably priced sushi sets and highly praised chirashi-don which is bowl of rice filled to the brim with large chunks of sashimi. My partner in crime and I ordered the sazanami platter which came with a side of miso soup (a little underwhelming, to be honest). I thoroughly enjoyed my fresh morsels of fish among which the mashed tuna maki, pacific saury, sea bream and scallop nigiris particularly stood out. Each of them melted in my mouth way too soon and, unable to contain myself, I ordered another portion of dreamy otoro and delightful uni – so sweet and so creamy, the taste lingered on my palate for a while. As if that wasn’t enough, our chef surprised me with a tiny plate dotted with miniature sushi that he took an effort to make especially for me. I don’t know when we made a connection, or how I deserved it, but the Japanese hospitality and effort to go the extra mile to please customers never cease to warm my heart. Apparently, Uoriki Kaisen supplies supermarkets and department stores with fresh seafood directly from Tsukiji Fish Market, thus having direct access to the best fish on a daily basis. And no, it doesn’t match the sophisticated standards of the likes of Sukiyabashi Jiro or Sushi Saito, but the most important things are there – the quality of fish and a sincere ichi-go ichi-e (cherishing every encounter as a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence) hospitality.
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