This is not Texas or landlocked Indiana. Here in Tokyo, sushi is abundant. There may be as many sushi bars as vending machines. In other words, you don’t have to walk far for what you want. Even the smallest neighborhoods have their sushi shops and sometimes it is even hard to distinguish the chains from the mom and pop stand-alones. Cherry-tree lined, glitzy Omotesando has its own very visible sushi joint–Heiroku Sushi is one of those chains with its own vibe, character, menu, and sushi-loving population.
This is the first of my sushi-chain posts. I’ve be eating my share of fish this season and I couldn’t be happier. All in the name of research, friends.
The area: If you’ve ever taken visitors to Oriental Bazaar, Omotesando’s mecca of souvenirs and antiques, you know the area. Heiroku Sushi is the Oriental Bazaar of sushi spots: good value, good fun, and lots of choices in one place. Here, you can finish your natto-quail egg sushi, or a seared tara/cod roll, and realize that English is being spoken all around you. (To be honest, I sometimes suddenly become very shy, knowing that EVERYONE can understand me). Even so, there are many Japanese families dining, as well. Everyone appreciates not having to throw down the big bills for delicious sushi.
Thinking back to the many friends and family members I’ve taken on Omotesando/Harajuku tours, it’s a wonder and a shame we didn’t swarm into Heiroku’s sushi spot. Well, now I know.
Heiroku Sushi is just across the street from the gorgeous, temple-of-a-mall, Omotesando Hills. While Heiroku has the look of a new, reformed restaurant, it has some history, like the area in which it is situated. For over 35 years, Heiroku has been turning-out fresh Edomae, or Edo-style sushi.
Prices & Language: Sushi starts at 130 yen (27 choices in that category), then climbs to 160 yen (19 choices), 220 yen (12 varieties), 280 yen (9 choices), and 480 yen (3 choices). So you can see, one can eat lots of variety and stay in the low range. It can be quite a feeling to take from the conveyor belt whatever pieces call out to you. Let the plates stack. If there is any confusion over what a plate costs, they have even mounted the actual plates to the wall for a more concrete approach to the color-coded menu. Friendly hostesses and waitresses also help with any questions, such as, “What is this roll?” in Japanese, or English. Many of the sushi chefs also speak English and add, “Thank you very much!” to their, “Domo arigato gozaimashita.” You may even hear a chef ask you in plain English if you’d like anything specially prepared for you.
Specialties:This kaiten zushi joint, or conveyor-belt sushi restaurant is different in that they serve many mixed plates. There may be 3 or 4 pieces of sushi on a plate; maybe you’ve tried half of them before. Maybe you know you adore all of them, but there is one piece you’ve always been curious about. Now is your chance to try. Plus, with their low-prices, you have some breathing room. Take the plate. It’ll be good. Heiroku Sushi prepares additional seasonal items. For 590 yen, reach-out and take the 4-piece tuna/maguro, which gives you varying levels of fat, bright color, and taste. One chopped, fatty tuna piece sits atop a fresh shiso/perilla leaf.
Currently, they have an 8-piece set for 500 yen. There are many more fall specials currently being served. The sanma, or Pacific saury, is also quite fantastic. Two pieces, as you can see below, go for 130 yen. It’s a deal.
Kids: Also on the fall menu is a kids-set for 280. For that low price, kids receive 5 pieces: salmon, tuna, shrimp, fatty tuna, and ikura/those bright salmon eggs that go “pop”, with a slice of cucumber wedged next to the ikura.
What else is different: Heiroko, in addition to providing the staples of sushi, also serves a vegetarian roll, massive dragon roll, hamburger roll, and variations of flavor, thanks to the different toppings such as lemon, grated daikon/horseradish, other herbs, greens, and even sauces, on some sushi. Orange wedges, annin dofu-desserts, and various sushi salads come around the track.
Soup: In lieu of the traditional miso-shiru/soup, Heiroku offers three other soup selections, all large: asari/clam soup, sanma tsumi/fish-ball soup, and the kind of catch-all fish soup, allagiru with heaps of salmon and veggies. All soups are 220 yen. Could be perfect to warm you on a chilly day.
Gee, what else? The tuna-cutting show! Just as I was leaving, one of Heiroku’s sushi chefs took his spot at the front door, and began ringing a bell, announcing the start of their tuna-cutting show.
Drinks: Heiroku pours sours for 300 yen a glass. Beer is 315 yen a glass, or 514 yen for the big -boy or girl glass/jo-uki-size. Besides that, 4 kinds of bubbly soda are on tap. The quintessential powdered green tea/ocha is at the sushi bar, as is black tea.
Desserts also pass-by on the conveyor belt. You may also order a dessert from the menu, straight from the chef.
I’d rather take my fill on sushi, though. Your favorite sushi pieces can be a beautiful dessert.