Tokyo: Shimada (Sep. 2013)
Chef: Hirochi Shimada
September 17, 2013
I read about this restaurant while browsing around on Eater, and it became a must-try restaurant for me. The chef, Hirochi Shimada, used to be at Azabu Yukimura, a 3-star. He wanted to have his own restaurant and cook high-quality food for much more affordable prices, however. His solution to that was to open up a standing-only restaurant! There’s one main standing bar and a table that seats four.
The restaurant handles up to 14 at a time, and there’s one main standing counter and a table that seats four. There’s only a relatively small sign outside that says Shimada, and it’s a pretty hard-to-find restaurant. I can’t read any Japanese, so I kind of just walked around and opened the door, hoping that it would be the place hahaha. I got lucky, though, and found it on my first try (so maybe it’s not THAT hard to find)!
When I entered the restaurant, I realized that everyone spoke Japanese. They all kind of stared at me when I asked if there were any openings available. I got lucky in that someone there actually spoke English, though! He said that there was room, and I went to go stand next to him. His name was Jun, and he ended up helping me order for my entire meal. We ended up talking a lot during the meal, and we even shared a bunch of dishes. He even bought me dinner at the end (saying that it’s Japanese custom for the host to pay), and I have definitely got to buy him dinner next time!
Kinmedai sashimi and Hokkaido uni.
Both the kinmedai (splendid alfonsino / golden eye snapper) and uni (sea urchin) were fantastic. They were very fresh and complemented each other well. The dish is super simple, so the ingredients have to do a lot of the heavy-lifting—and they did!
Wagyu katsu (Gyū katsu).
This was fantastic. The Wagyu was flavorful and tender, and it was also very crispy on the outside. He managed to get the best parts of seared Wagyu and deep-fried katsu. I loved this so much I ordered a second helping hahaha.
(Karasumi is botargo/botarga/bottarga, or salt-cured mullet roe.)
This was actually my first time having karasumi soba. I’m glad I tried it! It’s apparently supposed to be amazing here. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that this was my first time trying it… Anyway, I loved it. The flavors were very intense, and it let me wanting more.
Grilled sake (salmon) with sansho pepper sauce.
This was done very well, and it was technically great. It just didn’t blow my mind like the other courses did. Solid salmon and solid sauce; however, it wasn’t spectacular.
Wagyu katsu (Gyū katsu).
(I had to have more! It was just so good…)
Hamo anago with karashi (a type of mustard).
This was my least favorite dish. I’m still trying to get used to the taste of hamo anago (pike conger eel). I liked it, but I think I prefer the taste of marinated anago (especially as part of nigiri) more. Jun said that this was supposed to be really good, but I couldn’t quite appreciate it. Maybe I need to spend more time trying different variations of hamo anago.
Sliced tomato with a citrus sauce in the middle.
This actually served as a dessert. It may have been the sweetest tomato I’ve ever had.
This was an amazing experience, and I’m glad I went. The food was pretty affordable (especially for the quality), and it was also amazing food. The dishes weren’t super complex or intricate—they were mostly solid dishes and great flavor combinations using high-quality ingredients. The result is that each dish is great and worth trying. Order as much as you can when you’re there!