The Dancing Sushi Chef, Nakameguro
Don’t get startled when entering this small sushi-ya on the pedestrian shopping street of Nakameguro. The welcoming there is ear-battering. Staff will not just greet you with a bow and the well known “Irashaimase,“ they shout their welcome out loud - It’s almost as if they were singing a song. Everyone. The waiter, the Sushi chef, and even some of the guests join in with the tune! The good vibe here is contagious.
The best though is still to come: When sushi chef Shuichi Watanabe starts preparing your dish you can do nothing but stare at him. Don’t bother chatting with your neighbor, watch chef Watanabe doing the sushi. While in most restaurants sushi chefs do so in a rather stoic way, at Restaurant Uoichi your dish is prepared by performing a little dance: He moves to the right, grabs a teaspoon of rice in one hand, theatrically adds some vinegar, then slides to the left, catches a slice of tuna with the other hand, expertly and rhythmically adds the wasabi, and voilà: within the blink of an eye, there it is – the most perfect sushi dish, done in a shuffle!
I always go for the ¥1,000 lunch set which includes twelve pieces of sushi, miso soup and Japanese egg pudding. Service is impeccable, throughout your meal you will be offered green tea and your sushi is served with a smiley “thank you for waiting“ – might be important to mention that you wait a maximum of five minutes after having ordered.
Shuichi Watanabe buys fresh fish every morning at Tsukiji fish market. He learned the art of making sushi 20 years ago in Osaka, and for the last four years he has been running Restaurant Uoichi (‘uoichiba’ means fish market). The food is delicious, no wonder the place is always packed with local salarymen at lunchtime.
The restaurant itself is tiny. You have to squeeze in to get to your table. Try to be seated at the counter though in order to admire Shuichi Watanabe’s performance. He dances for a quite pragmatic reason: “I need it to keep the rhythm while preparing the sushi”, he explains. But don’t hesitate to talk with him, this man is a multi-tasker and happy to tell you about his time in Los Angeles where he had been teaching sushi to fellow chefs.
Restaurant Uoichi is also open for dinner. “That’s when we serve more Sashimi and Tempura – and Sake”, says Watanabe with a smile. Knowing the high quality of the fish there I am sure that the Sashimi would be outstanding. Go for a sushi plate though, you do not want to miss the dance, do you?
Address: 2-12-10 Kamimeguro, Meguro, 153-0051 Tokyo
Open: lunch from 11am until 3pm, dinner from 5pm until 11pm (sunday until 10.30pm)