Japan (Tokyo) Nov 2018: Sushi Nanba in Hibiya

On CH, I used to read from other posters about their frequent forays to a sushiya that was in the outskirts of Tokyo, where the one could dine at world-class sushi that rivaled the Ginza locations at half the price. That was Sushi Nanba, in the original Asagaya location. Well it turns out that Nanba-san has decided he wants to be in the big leagues, so he moved to a more central location in Hibiya Midtown. The original location is still staffed by one of his trusted apprentices. I’ve never been to the Asagaya location, so I can’t compare to that. But given all that’s been written, I had high expectations, and the meal lived up to them.

Let’s get straight to the food pics…

So when we first entered, we sat down at the left side of the bar, in front of the apprentice. He was really friendly, spoke good English, and helped translate some of Nanba-san’s statements to us. Also, please note that our friendly apprentice has some thin translucent white sheets of what can only be squid, and is starting to slice them.

The first appetizer botan ebi with mizo and some paste made of innards and miso - the sweet shrimp flavors complemented the nutty paste

Shirako - tasted like the most amazing seafood chowder

Kinki in broth - an amazing version comparable to the very best fish in broth I’ve had

Meanwhile, the apprentice is still slicing the ika…

Tako - this was the first miss of the meal - the texture was like pulled pork, I’ve had better

Iwashi-maki with shiso leaf

Ankimo - this was simple, but it was the bomb! Maybe the best ankimo I’ve ever had? Amazing flavor while still being delicate, with the complementary sauce.

“Shizumono” (hope I didn’t butcher the Japanese term) - crab broth - clear, simple, and delicious

At this point, the apprentice is finished slicing the ika; he has spent the entire time that we’ve been eating the otsumami slicing that ika (~45 mins to an hour?)…which he sliced into hundreds of tiny strips

On to the nigiri! So they send out a menu, and Nanba is known for matching exact temperatures of the neta with the shari:

We finally see the fruits of the apprentice’s labor - a piece of shiro ika. Each piece has over 40+ slices of shiro ika, and the texture was exquisite. This is the level of detail and dedication you get in restaurants like this.





Kawahagi with kimo and green onions (our 2nd time this trip!)

Now it’s tuna time!



Kohada with ebi flakes (a touch of sweetness)


Buri with salt


Ikura with rice - this dish was out of this world - the apprentice explained that it was basically heated and cooked into some rice up to 66 degrees C, and mixed with truffle. So you didn’t see any overt signs of Ikura.

Kinmedai zuke (my first time everhaving Kinmedai prepared this way) - loved it

Uni from Santa Barbara (!!) - Nanba-san spoke to us in Japanese, and I didn’t really understand it, but I inferred that he was saying at the moment that the SB uni he found was better than the Kyushi and Hokkaido uni he had seen


Tamago with some shrimp paste mixed in

At this point, we were done with the meal, and they asked if we were full. It turns out that, randomly, the chef from Tominokoji Yamagishi (a kappo restaurant in Kyoto) happened to be eating lunch at Nanba that day. I heard him order a kanpyo maki, so I got one for myself. I didn’t understand why, but they made a chu-tori maki and akame-maki as well. No complaints here!

Just for @beefnoguy This was the selection of sake, served in order!

Nanba’s shari was strong, made with akasu and a great deal of salt. While I was eating the meal, I thought the salty shari really highlighted the flavors in the nigiri. After the meal though, I did get this sense that I had consumed too much salt. My dining partner told me that they would probably not return due to the saltiness of the shari. My favorite nigiri pieces were probably a succession of the three above where I had sayori, sawara, and katsuo, but many pieces were excellent and among the best I’ve had. For me, Nanba definitely lived up to its reputation, but some might want to be wary of the salt levels in the shari.


Thanks for the report!

I went in September as well! I’ll put my review up at some point. Very lucky to have scored a reservation as difficult as it is. It was not my favorite of the trip, but I really enjoyed his otsumami far more than the sushi.

I am not sure if the temperature of the rice vs fish made a huge difference for me, and most of us won’t be able to tell very small differences between say 32 degrees rice vs 36 degrees, although when you get to fairly drastic temperature differences between colder fish and warmer rice, then it does help where it works.

I can only imagine how much painstaking work the apprentice has to do to do all those super thinly slices of shiro ika to have them layered. It does yield a softer mouth feel, but some purists really prefer some softness in addition to a nice chew, which this “mille-feuille” style would not allow as much of the latter.

I was told that the botan ebi with miso appetizer, the miso is mixed with not just miso and innards, but grounded shrimp shells. The flavors were ridiculously intense for that.

The kinki you had I believe is from the absolute best area in Hokkaido (supposedly Abashiri). My piece was done sakamushi style (steamed in sake) and when I asked Namba san and used the word sakamushi, he did nod so. The skin and the fat were seamlessly integrated and was one of my top favorite small dishes of the meal!

The iwashi maki was ok for me. If I remember correctly it also had myoga and ginger inside for additional texture.

It looks like he switched out some signatures for your meal, no grilled anago or a preview bluefin handroll.

The broth I had before the sushi was shijimi (a type of clam) with salt. Interesting he switched it with crab.

Namba san didn’t present the bluefin catch certificate unlike at other restaurants. Though he will tell you if you ask. I think mine was either Aomori prefecture Minmaya or Oma (likely Oma).

As far as Sushi Namba Hibiya’s sake selection: I tried asking in Japanese for a sake menu but got a reply instead of sheet of paper, so my guess is that their stocks rotate. However your first and third sake I noted other customers had, and I stopped at sake #3. For my visit, I have no idea if there were VIPs to my right but I lucked out with two unicorn sake pours.

The sake you had in order were:

  1. Kokuryu Tokusen (although it is actually TokuGin) 50, Fukui prefecture. This bottle is actually exported to the US and also available in LA/NY/SF. It’s a Ginjo polished to 50% (that’s Daiginjo level), and has distilled alcohol added in. It’s quite perfect with sashimi and shellfish. In LA this would be perfect with Aburiya Raku’s sashimi, or Northern California’s Kiraku (Berkeley) sashimi and it would probably do a good job cutting through good ikura as well.

  2. Bijofu (Kochi prefecture) - going to venture a guess and from searching around and the fact that the top part of the bottle label is missing from the picture, that yours is a Junmai Super Dry. Never had this myself, but apparently Bijofu’s yuzu liqueur is very addicting. There are select Bijofu sake available in the US but they don’t seem to sell very well.

  3. Isojiman Daiginjo “Suikyoka” (Shizuoka prefecture) - first time I’ve ever seen it and it was at Namba. Did not have this myself since it would have been four sake pours and it was only lunchtime. Not available in the US, although there are exported versions of Isojiman Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo available in NY (was told they pale in comparison with Japan domestic counterparts).

  4. Taking a stab at this one based on searching and the label…I think I found it. Gikyo Haruka Junmai Yamada Nishiki, Aichi prefecture. It’s also brewed with special A region Yamada Nishiki from Hyogo prefecture (where the best Yamada Nishiki rice fields are located, also used by the likes of Tatsuriki, Isojiman, and Dassai to an extent). No Gikyo sake are exported to US.


That kinki looks incredible.

Were you able to gather any intel about how much local sushi-yas were impacted (if at all) from the Tsukiji Market relocation to Toyosu?

Excellent quality pics and report!