When googling for cheap sushi and/or cheap lunch options in Ginza (one of the most expensive districts in the world) – Sushi Ishijima pops up.
This place is slightly under-the-radar. I first found out about Sushi Ishijima from Instagram and noted that they serve a 1500 JPY (around SGD 18) lunch set. This is pretty ‘cheap’ for Ginza dining standards. Further read comments that the quality and taste is just as good, if not better than Sushi Dai / Daiwa. So it got on to my “must-try” list during the last 3rd of my trip in Tokyo.
And since I opted to visit the Tsukiji Outer Market, decided that lunch at Sushi Ishijima would be perfect after my market visit. Which also means I did not take any sushi / chirashi don whilst at the outer market. Based on google maps, the 12 to 15 min walk seems straightforward enough. And google maps once again decided to lead me sideways as I find myself zig-zagging across various small lanes within the neighbourhood before eventually getting to the restaurant proper (which faces a small park). There was already a quene when I reached at 1120 Hrs (official opening hour is 1130 Hrs).
Which means to say its a place many local Japanese go to in spite of it being located in a quieter part of Ginza.
I had originally intended to have their 1500 JPY yen nigiri sushi lunch set. But since the 10 seater counter had already filled up, and I was 2nd/3rd in the queue for the next seating. As they had the other option of the 4000 JPY omakase lunch set, I decided to switch to that for lunch instead. At the back of my mind, I was thinking might as well do so since I had to wait another 20 to 30 min for the next seating anyway. In any case, 4000 JPY for omakase lunch is still pretty decent value for money for Ginza standards.
Having the omakase lunch also meant that I’m seated right inside the corner where the chef prepares the meal right in front of me. Felt hesitant to take photos until the chef said ok and so the above are the photos of my omakase lunch – 8 pieces of sushi + tamago + 1 miso soup + free flow green tea.
As I’m writing this a good 3+ months later (after the meal) – I don’t quite remember the japanese names of the all the fish anymore (my bad). There was of course my favourite maguro – chutoro and bluefin otoro. It was also my first time having a shirasu sushi (sidenote: shirasu is a whitebait fish that originated from the island of Enoshima that I visited back in 2015) – albeit the only sushi in the entire set that was served Gunkanmaki style (with a nori wrapped around its perimeter).
And yes, true to my belief, the omakase set had more exquisite ingredients as there was uni/sea urchin (which I believe the regular 1500 JPY lunch set does not have) as well as a more premium tamagoyaki (not a fan of omelette type of eggs but this one was much sweeter and texture wise, was more like a light sponge cake).
What you can’t see from the pictures – the rice and the miso soup. First, on the rice. I find quite interesting that the chef actually applies a seasoning (googled and read that it was red vinegar) to the rice. So the rice looks brown, and not white in colour. This is probably the first sushi place I’ve been to that seasons the rice this way. I also noted minimal use of wasabi on the fish – which to me is good as the seasoned rice brings out the freshness of the fish a lot better.
No pictures of the miso soup but simply, it is one of the best non-seafood based miso soups that I had ever had. Previously, when I dined at Sushi Daiwa (old Tsukiji Inner Market) and Sushi Endo (Osaka) – their miso soups were more ‘heavy’ tasting. For Sushi Ishijima’s version – it looked very normal with a lot of leek. But it was good to the point that it was not overpowering – which also helps one to experience the freshness of the sushi better.
Most important, being in a renovated old residence, it is nice, cosy and very Japanese. Just the type of intimate experience you would love. So I was glad that I opted for the omakase lunch set after all. And after this dining experience, it has changed the way I eat sushi. I’m more motivated now to learn the names of the various fish/seafood + check out more sushi places in the future.
Sushi Ishijima 鮨 石島
1-24-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061
Opening Hours – Monday To Friday 1130 to 1400 Hrs (Lunch), 1800 to 2300 Hrs (Dinner) Saturday 1730 to 2230 Hrs (Dinner)
Website – http://sushi-ishijima.com/index.html