Sushi comes in a variety of styles. And to tell the difference, sometimes all you have to do is look at how sushi is written in Japanese. By far the most common is 寿司, a two-character phonetic representation of sushi that is all encompassing and can include dishes that aren’t necessarily fish such as california rolls. Your local mom-and-pop sushi shops, as well as high-volume, affordable kaiten-zushi chains will often use this form. Then there is the more traditional and singular 鮨. This kanji uses the radicals 魚 (sakana; fish) and 旨 (umai; delicious) and are often used by high-end sushi shops that command several hundred dollars per person. Then there is すし written in hiragana that connotes accessibility and affordability. Now, meet the katakana-written スシ, an innovative, Instagram-friendly neo-sushi that has seemingly emerged from a culinary collision of genres.
Sushi Ebisu (スシエビス)
Sushi Ebisu first opened in late 2020 in Tokyo’s Ebisu district. As food writer Manami Ohzeki points out, neo-sushi restaurants can often be defined by their contemporary and approachable interiors the blend sushi shops and izakaya bars with elements of pop culture. The menu is often inventive and eclectic, with dishes that similarly blend sushi with izakaya-style food. In an age of social media, the dishes often speak louder than advertisements. And with an emphasis on high-quality ingredients, Sushi Ebisu set the stage for a broader neo-sushi roll-out.
Shibuya-ku, Ebisu 4−9−5 (google map)
Hours: 4pm – 11pm M-F; 12pm – 11pm weekends & holidays
photos courtesy spice works
In July of 2021, Sushinjuku burst onto the scene. With neon lights, a pop noren curtain, outdoor dining (with salmon slab cushions!) shaped like a boat and a sushi-vending machine door that leads to the bathroom, the cleverly named Sushinjuku quickly became a local favorite. And the novelty extends to the menu as well, with creative and instagram-friendly dishes like Mt. Sushi, in which a mound of caviar pours over rolls but only after the casing holding it together is removed.
Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-2-2 (google map)
Hours: 11:30 am – 3:00 am
photo courtesy manami ohzeki
photo courtesy suwa shuichi
Mt. Sushi can be seen at the bottom-left corner of the photo above
one of Sushinjuku’s signature dishes is their maguro-zanmai don, which features a bowl of rice topped with tuna, topped with egg, topped with tuna, topped again with a raw egg that you squeeze out of the rubber hen
If Sushinjuku was a little too high-energy for you, Sanchamonika, which also opened during the summer of 2021, may be more your taste. The cozy spot is located in Sangenjaya (“Sancha” for short) and pairs sushi with wine, hence the clever name. Although pairing the two won’t automatically earn you the neo-sushi title, restaurateur Kyosuke Tsunashima adds an element of inventiveness to the sushi, as well as the side-dishes. The neon logo as you enter the restaurant is also a nice touch.
Setagaya-ku, Taishido 4-23-11, Gems Sangenjaya B1 (google map)
Hours: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm M-F; 1:00 pm – 11:00 pm weekends