Sushi at 15 Months

What does Connor think of Japan’s most famous culinary art?

Follow the adventure: The Tokyo Toddler

When seeing the big sights of Tokyo, you also need a big lunch. So our guide made sure to whisk us to the special upstairs room of her favorite sushi restaurant, where reminders of cultural differences awaited.

“My mom found this place a few years ago,” Brooke explained, “and she is very loyal.”

¥4000 later (about US$41), I could understand why.

To find our secret sushi spot, you must find the right side street off the ever-packed main drag of Tokyo’s Ameyayokocho street shopping area.

Like most of the world’s truly great and memorable restaurants, Kappa Sushi is rather unassuming from the outside. Even if Ameyayokocho’s teeming streets were empty, I doubt I could find the place on my own. (It’s unassuming from the Internet too; if they have a homepage, I haven’t found it yet.) Brooke was also quick to note that her place was not the same as the chain of conveyor belt sushi restaurants of the same name.

“It’s the hipster Kappa Sushi,” she said with a laugh.

The line stretching outside Kappa Sushi certainly reminded me of hipsters queued up at trendy Portland brunch joints on a Sunday morning. We were all ready for a meal and a sit, and I began to wonder how Connor was going to weather the long wait. A hungry toddler cannot live on rice-and-sesame crackers alone.

But Brooke just smiled. “It’s okay,” she said. “The wait is for the lower level. Since we have at least three people, we skip the line and go to the upstairs room.”

Within moments we were settled in and drooling over the menu.

You are reading that correctly. From the time they open until 8 p.m., all sushi menu is 2 for the price of 1. No mention made of the wheelbarrow needed to escort out sushi-coma Westerners, however.

One glance at the menu revealed another reason Brooke had brought us here: until 8 p.m., all the sushi on Kappa’s menu is 2 pieces for the price of 1. Which in Anthony-and-Jodie terms pretty much rings out to, “order everything!”

With Brooke’s help we prepared a massive order of sushi: sea urchin, fatty tuna, salmon, roe, octopus, more tuna, pickled daikon radish, egg, mackeral, barbecued eel and a bit more tuna. Hot oolong tea and savory, refreshing miso soup perked us up for the meal ahead, and restored us from the sightseeing rigors of the day so far.

Now, I will not get into the specifics of whether or not to feed raw seafood to your 15-month-old toddler. The main reason I won’t is because there aren’t specific recommendations one way or another. Jodie researched this topic quite extensively, and I will summarize her conclusions thusly: your guess is as good as mine.

One rule of thumb says 2 years. Another said 8 years. Some resources reminded to minimize fish such as tuna, which tend to contain more mercury than other sushi fish. Some said to go for it, just be wary of the possible (though improbable) risk of parasites.

What did we do? We did decide to play it safe for now, but mainly for reasons of texture, not rawness. Connor is still working on getting his molars in—1 down, 3 on the march (just in time for this trip). Gumming raw seafood struck us as more of a choking concern than anything else. So we kept Connor to the egg sushi and rolls of pickled daikon radish, which he munched up with toddler glee.

Kappa Sushi has 2 levels. There was a huge queue for the lower level. Parties of 3 or more, however, are whisked upstairs for immediate sushi bliss.

The Japanese are a wonderful people. The trains run on time. You can buy hot, decently tasting coffee from a vending machine for ¥100 (about a buck). Sushi is edible art.

However, the Japanese have not quite sorted out the whole smoking in public thing. Granted, we live in Eugene, Oregon, where smoking hasn’t been allowed inside restaurants and bars for years. One whiff in our upstairs sushi haven, though, reminded us that different places do things different ways.

“They’re working on it,” Brooke said. You can’t smoke on trains, and outside there are often designated smoking areas and places you can’t smoke. But they haven’t yet banned smoking inside restaurants.

Oh well. Sure, there are some Yanks who may have made a scene, and furthered that oh-so-lovely reputation Americans have for being overbearing demanding wankers. But I just don’t see it as my place to tell someone else what to do in their own country. So Connor was getting a bit of exposure to secondhand smoke? He’d be okay. And no, it’s not the aroma I prefer to savor over miso soup and sushi. But it wasn’t going to kill us, and really, it wasn’t too bad.

Besides, we had a feast to enjoy.

3 adults and 1 toddler only just polished off these 2 massive platters of sushi. A few delectables of note include the sea urchin (yellow stuff on left plate), unagi (to left of urchin; different eel used from what we know from Oregon), roe (to right of urchin; salty, briny goodness), pickled daikon radish (the 12 nori-wrapped pieces on the right plate; crunchy and just-right piquancy).

Ages later, we staggered out of Kappa Sushi, full, sushi-blissed and ready for the next part of our Japan adventure. In fact, this was the only sushi we ate in Japan, but it is a meal I will always remember with finger-licking fondness.

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