A worthy match for Mother Nature’s mercurial moods, master sushi chef Norikazu Shibata of Sushi Kazu doesn’t just tweak his techniques according to season, but also takes the individual customer into consideration
With a slight tilt of the head, squint of the eyes, and dash of imagination, Sushi Kazu's logo can be said to resemble a hand and a mouth—one poised for action, the other open to receive. Could there be a more apt representation of the dynamic between a chef and his guests?
Turning food from fuel into a form of art, Norikazu Shibata can easily boast of having four decades worth of kitchen experience in Tokyo, Johannesburg and Hong Kong (hence his more than capable Cantonese), except he doesn't. The self-effacing chef, who is privy to the secrets of Edomae sushi, is a sight to behold behind Sushi Kazu's counter, his scintillating knife standing in stark contrast to his nikiri brush, which delivers soft, painterly strokes of soy sauce.
Contrary to the general opinion of omakase, which even the Michelin Guide has described as "formal" and "intimidating," a meal at Sushi Kazu is full of fun, curiosity and discovery. Happy to elevate dishes as humble as miso soup, Chef Kazu keeps his ears pricked to adhere to each customer’s price range—we challenge you to find a higher sense of hostmanship elsewhere. And because each experience is informed by the changing of seasons and the ticking of the clock, visit once, visit twice, and visit over and over again.
"Oishi" has infinite permutations.
More titillating than the sight of supermodels queued to strut their stuff on the catwalk, a comprehensive sushi course strategically begins with a neutral white fish such as seabass or grouper before segueing into different cuts of tuna, from unctuous ootoro to meaty akami.
Sweet and briny shellfish follow suit; Sushi Kazu’s precious haul might encompass akagai (arkshell clam), mirugai (Pacific geoduck), kaki (oysters) or uni (sea urchin)—a unanimous customer favourite.
A delicacy available only once a year, kawahagi or thread-sail filefish is made doubly decadent when Sushi Kazu presents the fish's pristine white flesh with its own iron-rich liver.
Bonito, on the other hand, can be relished in both Spring and Autumn, but note that the fish gets fattier towards the end of the year—all the better to protect itself 20 from dipping temperatures.
Some say that 50 per cent of cooking well is shopping smart; if this much is true, then Sushi Kazu's success can largely be attributed to Chef Kazu's relationship with suppliers, who in turn, have strong ties with fisherman and farmers.
Besides trawling the ocean for bounty, such artisans also forage the earth for tasty treasures. Growing algorithmically, mushrooms are a prized treat associated with Autumn.
400 years—depending on how you break it down, that’s four centuries or forty decades, which is definitely a long time to perfect wasabi cultivation. Not content to settle for second best, Sushi Kazu seeks out the said wasabi specialist in Shizuoka and grates the ground rhizome with shark's skin so as not to spoil its texture.
Equally precious is the Katsuobushi bonito which, to the untrained eye, might be mistaken for a block of wood. When Chef Kazu shaves the bonito block with carpenter-like precision, an umami aroma wafts through the air. Akin to truffles, dried bonito is most intense when shaved à la minute.
A veritable showstopper, Japan’s Snow Crab is best savoured in the fourth quarter of the year for unparalleled freshness. The secret to the crustacean’s succulence is to keep it alive up until its final moments, which Chef Kazu snuffs out with the utmost respect.