COMPACT and unassuming, Chiharu Sushi in Kutchan is packed full of one-time and regular customers grazing on platters of fresh Hokkaido seafood.
CHIHARU Sushi is just one of Kutchan’s great hideaway dining locations and the kind of place that makes you really feel like you’ve stumbled upon something typically Japanese.
Stepping in from the cold snow-covered streets in Kutchan’s bar and restaurant district, a warm and jovial face greets us. Maeda-san looks proud of his restaurant and asks us to find a seat, of which there is only a small four-top table remaining on the floor, for four foreign-sized bodies.
This restaurant fits about 25 people in total and has been here for 27 years. Each table setting has a clear view of Maeda-san at work as he works diligently behind the counter. WIth his head down, Maeda-san glances up only to smile, take orders, grate fresh wasabi, and pluck fresh abalone, shellfish, clams and scallops from the bubbling tank on the counter. Maeda-san’s wife weaves through the tables and delivers the delicious platters of sushi and sashimi. She is relaxed and happy, and together, they create a convivial feeling that’s often lost in the sleek composition of Japanese dining.
Whilst contemplating the menu, Maeda-san calls over the ambient chatter and asks us if we want sushi or sashimi – we want both, but he offers us a “Sashimi Scramble”, as in a mixed selection of sushi. As we sip on glasses of beer, a plate arrives with deliciously fresh sashimi prawns, abalone, scallops, yellow tail, salmon, squid, tuna and octopus. Having just skied all day, we are famished and this plate disappears before we have a chance to finish our drinks.
For our sushi selection we opt for sea urchin, salmon, eel and mackerel. The sea urchin should be eaten first so that it’s as fresh as possible. It’s creamy, delicious and something that should be tried while in Japan; admittedly it’s not to everyone’s liking. Both the salmon and tuna shine under the lights; their orange and deep pink colour glistens. Best described as ‘fishy’, the mackerel is also a personal favourite with its oily texture and sharp taste.
Also on offer are sets of sushi rolls or ‘maki’ and hand-shaped rolls, as well as various rice bowls such as uni-don (sea urchin with rice), ikura-don (salmon roe with rice) and tekka-don (tuna with rice).
Best of all, Chiharu Sushi is a place where everyone is welcome – Maeda-san will make sure you have the best sushi experience at his restaurant. It’s definitely a winning mix of casual atmosphere, some of the freshest local seafood around and ambient surroundings.
T. 0136 22 5477
Location: Nishi 1 chome, Kita 1 jyo, Kutchan-cho,
Times: 12:00 pm to 12:00 am
Lunch and dinner