Lunch in the Sushi Capital of the World

I recently visited the sushi capital of Japan, which by definition must be the sushi capital of the world. The town of Shiogama 塩竈 in Miyagi Prefecture has the highest density of sushi shops in all of Japan. The reason for this, according to local sushi association is that Shiogama fishermen bring in a huge variety of seafood, including more tuna than any other port in Japan.

I was there on (non-sushi) business, with just a short time for lunch. So before I left home I searched on Tabelog, a national gourmet ranking site, and decided on a place called Sushi Tetsu. It was the highest ranking shop near the station, which is where I had to be. But I got delayed by an adventure (I’ll save that story for another time) so by the time I arrived at Sushi Tetsu there was a line out the door. When I asked the man manning the door to recommend someplace else, he pointed down the alley. “Go there. Our brother runs that place.”

That’s how I ended up at Sushi Shirahata 鮨しらはた. I ordered the “Tokujō” (bestest) lunch which was served on a beautiful Arita pottery platter. For 3,125 yen, I got two kinds of locally-landed tuna, Matsushima conger eel, komochi konbu, sea urchin, salmon roe, shrimp, tamagoyaki and some seasonal fish. It looked sort of like this (and tasted even better).

A woman on my left leaned over and asked very quietly if I came to this shop by chance. “If so, you’re very lucky. We think Shirahata is the best in town.”

I never drink before 5 pm, but I eavesdropped when the couple on my right ordered local sake. The chef recommended a sake from Uragasumi, which just happened to be my next appointment. My ears perked up when he said this particular sake, Kura no Hana 蔵の華, isn’t sold outside of the prefecture. As it happened, I was in the middle of writing about kura storehouses! Coincidence? I think not! You bet I bought a bottle when I was at the brewery. It’s made from a rice variety (Kura no hana) developed in Miyagi Prefecture specifically for sake production. A really terrific sake.

My hosts in Shiogama have posted a short video of my (non-sushi) stops here. It’s almost all in Japanese, but the pictures tell most of the story.

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