Mr Sato reckons this hand-rolled sushi joint is perfect for international visitors.

In amongst the crepe stalls and youth-oriented sweets stores of Harajuku, it can be hard to find a place to eat good Japanese food. It’s a problem Mr Sato has come up against time and time again, but now he’s happy to say he’s finally found a restaurant that has become his go-to, and he reckons it’s a great place for everyone to try out, including foreign tourists.

▼ The restaurant is called Gonpachi Nori-Temaki, and it’s just a five-minute walk from Harajuku Station.

If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s part of the Gonpachi chain of restaurants, and as fans of Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino will know, the Gonpachi restaurant in Tokyo’s Nishi-Azabu inspired the “House of Blue Leaves” in Tarantino’s 2004 film, Kill Bill.

Gonpachi specialises in Japanese food that’s pleasing to a wide variety of palates, so you can’t go wrong at any of their branches, but this one in Harajuku is slightly different to the others, as it specialises in temakizushi, or hand-rolled sushi.

▼ There are 25 different types of temakizushi on the menu, and there’s even the option to swap the rice for low-carb cauliflower “rice” instead.

On weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., you can grab a Temaki Lunch Set for 1,500 yen (US$11.21), which is a good deal that includes five different temakizushi, as well as some sides, a salad, and miso soup.

The restaurant itself has a relaxed vibe that makes it feel more like a high-class bar than a sushi joint, and once you’re seated, staff will serve you your small sides to enjoy while you wait for the main meal.

When the main meal comes out, you’ll be impressed by the colourful array, although you might also be a bit puzzled about where to start and how to eat it. The five temakizushi on the platter below are: Omelette Nori, Toro and Takuan (Minced Tuna and Pickled Daikon Radish), Stewed BeefYam and Cod Roe, and Salmon Avocado.

▼ Each one sits beautifully on its own lettuce leaf which you simply wrap around the sushi filling before eating.

This is great for people who don’t like nori, the seaweed sheets that are normally used to wrap hand-rolled sushi, but those who do like nori will be pleased to know there are sheets on the side, and the below image shows how they should be used.

▼ The stiffness of the crunchy nori sheet makes it hard to fully wrap around both the lettuce and the filling, so it’s best to hold it like this.

Nori lovers will be impressed by the seaweed here, as it’s a brand called “Kontobi” from Maruyama Nori, which is also used by famous sushi restaurants. The incredibly tasty, high-quality nori is the first thing that excites the taste buds here, and because it’s hand-rolled by you just before eating, everything is noticeably crisp and fresh.

▼ Many people say the deliciousness of hand-rolled sushi lies in the seaweed, and that’s certainly the case here.

Because the seaweed is so high-quality, it enhances the flavour of every filling, making each bite delicious. In fact, the temakizushi was so good five weren’t enough for Mr Sato, and he ended up ordering an additional Salmon Roe for 495 yen…

…and a Prime Toro (fatty tuna) for 495 yen.

Not only did everything taste delicious, but it was fun to eat, and a great way to enjoy a bit of Japanese culture with lunch. Temakizushi are usually made at home, and not often offered at restaurants, so if you’d like to enjoy some great sushi with a side of culture in the heart of Harajuku, Gonpachi Nori-Maki is the place to go.

If you’re in the mood for a crazier type of sushi in Harajuku, though, then the sushi crepes at this joint are sure to tickle your fancy.

Restaurant information
Gonpachi Nori-Maki / 権八 Nori-Maki
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 6-35-3 Coop Olympia 1F
東京都渋谷区神宮前6-35-3 コープオリンピア1階
Open 11:30 a.m.-11:00 p.m.

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