While most itamae (sushi chefs) wield a 27cm-long yanagi ba (sushi knife), chef Yuji Sato’s weapon of choice is a sustained 32cm. “Those (with shorter knives) are junior chefs,” explains the clean-shaven Hokkaido native who has 20 years of experience under his belt. The shellfish master flashes a humble smile before he proceeds to slice peak-season sakura dai (cherry blossom sea bream) in one long, graceful motion.
Each mesmerising motion spans from the knife’s ago (heel) to the kisaki (tip). Sato does this with at least 12 different seasonal catch, at one point deftly unfurling a singular sucker from the octopus tentacle that arrived from Japan in the morning. He admits, a longer knife is better for use, and then slices the tentacle meat with the same motion before throwing the slice of tako hard on the wooden cutting board.
It’s a show, and he’s the veteran director: the meat seizes up exactly the way he wants it, gaining a little ruffle on its edges. He places this course of textural depth in a simple silver-dappled bowl with wakame (seaweed) and shiso flowers, and offers it to us over the seamlessly positioned sushi counter. This is merely the fourth offering in our double-digit omakase meal, and we’ve already been through a series of heightened emotions.
The course that preceded this included one of Hashida’s signatures, stewed ankimo (monkfish liver). The delicate but robust- flavoured morsel was presented as a cube of gamey custard with a veneer of caramelised sugar. It was warm, sweet, two perfect bites, served next to tender abalone-in-the-shell, Hokkaido hairy crab, firefly squid, bamboo shoots, mountain vegetables and miso paste. We would have been equally happy for the ankimo to stand alone.
The interaction here is warm and accommodating, and service well-paced. Transitions between courses are seamless, and the waitresses are cheery and polished. The markings of a good restaurant can be seen in how it is set up to tell its story. At Hashida Sushi, its good bones are evident: skills and heritage are displayed in more than just the elegantly vinegared rice and nikiri (soya-based sushi sauce to brush over the sushi) which was made using chef-owner Kenjiro Hashida’s 135-year-old family recipe.
The fine cypress wood counter had also been set up so that our plates are the same height as the chef’s cutting board. There are no barriers holding the team back. Neither should the diner.
HASHIDA SUSHI SINGAPORE
#04-16 Mandarin Gallery, S(238897)