On October 21st, chef Kanji Nakatani took a small group of the OPEN crew on a trip to the Hokutei Fish Market to visit fish purveyor, Katsuhiro Sato. Apparently, Sato was kicked out of the main local fish market many years back and started his own small, maverick fish market, Hokutei Suisan. For thirteen years, Kanji has been buying fish from Hokutei twice a week for his restaurants, Soba Ro and Soba Ra. He says there is more variety than the other local markets, and the fish is fresher.

Kanji treated us to hot “Boss” coffee in cans from a convenience store and we ventured off. In the car he explained that fresh fish he buys for the restaurants can be used in sashimi for 3 days, and then is used for vinegar-cured shimesaba, or wrapped in kelp and salt-cured for kobujime. He also explained the process for karashishime, or fish cured with mustard flowers.

The market was in an unassuming building, in an unassuming neighborhood. Sato smoked a cigarette and amiably showed us around. Jerome photographed nearly every fish. Kanji had already purchased the fish for the OPEN dinner at Soba Ra planned for later that day, but when he saw the komochi ayu he bought a case of this seasonal specialty to add to the set menu.

We asked Sato if his customers were concerned about radiation. He said they were a little nervous, but they have continued to buy fish as usual.

The dinner at Soba Ra was exceptionally delicious. The sashimi platter was abundant with variety and color. Fresh soba, served on traditional woven wicker plates, was dipped in a woodsy broth rich with mushrooms and mizuna. In fall, ayu are pregnant with roe. They were served grilled and their bellies were fascinatingly bitter, but they were tasty, too. While eating the meal, I reflected on Kanji’s long relationship with his fish purveyor, and was sure I could taste his loyalty in the fish.

Kanji inspecting the fish:

Sylvan and Kanji:

The tuna case:

Whale meat, on sale for “research purposes”:

Kanji Nakatani and Katsuhiro Sato:

Sashimi platter at Soba Ra:

Grilled komochi ayu: