Japan’s Delicious “Ayu” Grilled Fish! Our Ginza Kojyu Three Michelin-Star Tokyo Food Feast!

Tokyo Ayu fish

Behold The Majesty Of A Grilled “Ayu!”

This is a plate of delicious grilled Ayu. I know what you are thinking: so what exactly IS an “Ayu?”

First, here it is again, presented beautiful on a plate, grilled to perfection…

grilled ayu

japanese fisherman ayu

The Story Of The “Ayu!”

There is a little fish that swims in the rivers of Japan. It is slim, with silvery grey scales and little flecks of gold. It is small, about three inches in length. It’s part of the salmon family and thrives in central and southern Japan….how do I know all this? Because I have bitten down hard on them, and they are delicious!

Tokyo famous grilled AYU fish

According to a website:

“the “Ayu” fish is deeply connected with the Japanese culture. Ayu, also known as Sweetfish, has been likened to the cherry blossom, heralding the arrival of summer just as cherry blossoms signify spring – or just as grilled hot dogs and hamburgers spell summer in the US.”

Ayu fish

The “Ayu” Is Very Limited!

The “Ayu” are born in autumn, head out to sea in winter, then swim upstream in spring. They bulk up in the summer and then spawn in the fall…their entire life cycle is one year…which makes our trip to Tokyo in July so special: as we were treated to “Ayu” many times in a single delicious week!

Three Michelin-star Kojyu Tokyo

Three Star Kojyu!

My wife Alex and son Jeff were part of this adventure, as we went into the three Michelin-starred restaurant Kojyu, located in the Ginza district of Tokyo.

It is owned and operated by sushi chef Toru Okuda.

Kojyu Chef Toru Okuda

Ginza Kojyu’s Three Star Experience!

Chef Okuda oversees a sushi counter that seats nine people, and for almost three hours, you sit expectantly for whatever incredible piece of food he sets in front of you, “Kaiseki” style – meaning a collection of dishes designed to showcase the food of Japan…

Tokyo 3-Michelin star restaurant Kojyu

Ginza Kojyu grilled Ayu

Here is how Chef Okuda explains his love of “Ayu”, according to his restaurant’s website:

“It became the specialties of small ten,
Broiled seasonal grilled and natural Daiunagi of Wakaayu were we doing.

Skewered the alive was ayu from customers is coming to the store,
You’ll burn in charcoal over slowly and carefully time.
Head and crispy as fried chicken, liver is bittersweet and sweet, followed as it is to the taste of the meat. There is no need to pull out the bone, you can enjoy everything from head to tail.

In addition, natural Daiunagi is carefully in charcoal without steamed baked, we will finish the broiled while paint carefully the homemade sauce.

Of course, but because it is a natural product and may not be available for reasons such as weather, I think that you certainly relish this opportunity.”

GRilled Ayu at Kojyu

Turning Up The Heat!

While Chef Okuda performs his culinary magic in front of us, his apprentices are taking care of grilling the Ayu – literally over in the corner of the sushi bar, and you can smell the flavorful grilling as it is underway in front of you!

Ginza Kojyu grilled Ayu fish recipe

Tokyo grilled Ayu fish Ginza Kojyu

Tokyo Ayu fish

Chef Okuda Ginza Kojyu Tokyo


The Chef Demonstrates!

After the fish were grilled, approved by Chef and presented to us, Chef Okuda took a moment to show us all how easy “Ayu” were to enjoy!

This was a terrific experience – just nine of us having the meal of our lives…captured by Alex for Instagram!

Ayu night at Ginza Kojyu

The Park Hyatt Celebrates The Ayu!

Next, we ate at The Park Hyatt Hotel, where we were staying – yes, the “Lost In Translation” hotel!

Park Hyatt ayu fish at restaurant

As part of our Kaiseki meal, the Park Hyatt Chefs presented us each with an “Ayu” to enjoy – delicious!

Park Hyatt restaruant Ayu fish

Michelin Three Star “Ishikawa” Grills Up The “Ayu” As Well!

Yes, virtually every great restaurant we went to offered us some grilled “Ayu”.

“Kagurazaka Ishikawa” is a Michelin 3-star sushi restaurant in the Shinjuku district. It is owned and operated by sushi Chef Hideki Ishikawa.

Here we are with outside of his restaurant – he greeted us when we arrived and also took us outside afterwards to help us get our cab!

Chef Hideki Ishikawa

I will post a story about this Chef’s entire meal, which was phenomenal, and worthy of all of the acclaim. On this night, he had one of his Assistants bring us two grilled Ayu to enjoy.

We love how so many of our meals included this delicacy!

Ishikaya grilled Ayu

grilled ayu fish in tokyo

In fact, we were served it a half dozen times, including as a special added part of a tradition kaiseki meal – this time coming with the head and tail removed – presented to us on the side – but I would have eaten them once again as well!

grilled Ayu fish bones

Grilled Ayu fish

As much as we loved our “grilled Ayu” experience, it was just one of many magical Tokyo food adventures…

Alex and her musical bento box

We ate Bento boxes, that were served by the Chefs who then proceeded to perform a musical set for us!

See this unique musical lunch by clicking here:

https://johnrieber.com/2016/07/07/tokyo-food-musical-bento-boxes-sea-urchin-tempura-biting-down-hard-in-japan/

Some of our food adventure involved buying food that was actually made of plastic!

unique cheeseburger products plasticised in Tokyo

Yes, Tokyo’s legendary Kappabashi district sells Tokyo restaurants all of their plastic food – click here to find out why!

https://johnrieber.com/2016/07/09/tokyos-got-my-wagyu-beef-burger-amazing-kappabashi-plastic-food-burger-shirts-tokyo-rules/

We also hit some of Tokyo’s smallest bars in Golden Gai – 275 bars all holding less than ten people!

Golden Gai bar district Tokyo

My son Jeff made friends with one of the staffers at one such bar, and he proceeded to perform live music for us one night!

Golden Gai bar music

Click here to see this terrific live performance!

https://johnrieber.com/2016/07/22/late-night-tokyo-live-music-potatoes-and-bacon-a-golden-gai-tokyo-adventure/

Let me know if you’ve ever had “Ayu!”

Tokyo Ayu fish



Categories: Art, Awards, Books / Media, cookbooks, Exotic Travel, Food, food blog, Food Review, Japan, Memoirs, Music, Obscure Music, Recipes, Restaurants, Tokyo!, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir, Uncategorized, Wacky Food

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3 replies

  1. Three Michelin stars! I am suitably impressed, John. Not too sure about that fish though, as I have a thing about eating bones. (Aside from Whitebait, which are tiny of course.)
    Best wishes, Pete.

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