You have a choice of having your prawns raw (nama) or quickly boiled at Kyubey, and we’d chosen the former. The live prawn is filleted with the speed and efficiency that only comes from refining the technique over decades; the grey flesh glistened on the pad of warm rice while the rest of the body was still in motion. Kyubey is one of those high-end sushi bars where you take a seat at one of the fifteen spots around a counter and watch four itamae work with the precision of open heart surgeons. Our chef spoke good English, useful in distinguishing the o-toro from the maguro, among other things. Most of the meals here are nigiri sets, graded by size and price. Whatever you order, you’ll get a front row seat to see every detail, such as the chef grating yuzu peel, then using a little bamboo brush to flick the garnish from the grater over the cooked unagi.
Most of our fellow diners at lunchtime were well-to-do, older Tokyoites; Ginza folk, in other words, who appreciate washoku done well. The freshness of the seafood requires little embellishment; the garnishes and dressings complement rather than overpower. This is the sushi bar of fantasies, where it’s not merely the itamae’s craft that is well-honed. Paying the bill is done discreetly and swiftly on departure by the kimono-clad waitresses; perfect for business entertaining and special treats. Considering the air of exclusivity the place embodies, we were surprised to find our set lunch cost under ¥6,000, which is outstanding value for both sushi and ambience of this impeccable standard.