ikina sushidokoro abe gives lunch its proper due

Tucked inside a dark doorway in an unmarked alleyway off Gaienhigashi-dori in Roppongi, Ikina Sushidokoro Abe is easy to miss, especially in an area that’s so heavily inundated with flashy restaurant signs. That’s a shame, because inside this unassuming storefront they’re plating some sushi options you really don’t want to miss out on.

The dark, unassuming alleyway exterior gives way to a light, calm, and sophisticated interior. In the front of the restaurant, a sizeable counter wraps around the sushi chefs’ station, while a couple tables in the corner provide chair seating for groups of four, and wooden partitions separate two sunken seating areas in the back for larger groups.

Abe is open for both lunch and dinner, but lunch is where this restaurant shines.

The lunch menu is concise. There are different sized sushi platters you can order, and, to the best of my Japanese understanding, the sushi that comes on the platter is basically chef’s choice (although you can make requests verbally for specific items to appear on your platter if you’re finnicky or have a real hankering for something in particular).

In addition to sushi platters, the lunch menu offers a few types of donburi. Donburi is a rice bowl that’s topped with various types of meat, vegetables, or fish. But at Abe, the donburi options are all fishy and, frankly, fabulous.

My favorite is the tekkadon (donburi topped with sashimi-style tuna). Served in a beautiful, large earthenware bowl, this dish features quality cuts of tuna amid sprouts, seaweed, cubes of cooked egg, and scraps of ginger. It comes with a raw egg yolk on the side, which, when mixed with the rice, gives the meal a sticky, sweet taste.

Along with the tekkadon, you get a hearty bowl of miso soup filled with cabbage and (occasionally) carrots, although the vegetable ratios in the soup vary from visit to visit, and a scalding mug of green tea.

Eat your tekkadon at the counter and you can watch the sushi chefs in their dark blue uniforms molding sashimi in their palms or painstakingly removing veins from cuts of fish. They work mainly in silence, but every once in a while they shout out an order in Japanese, jolting you out of your sushi reverie and back into the bustle of Tokyo.

The tekkadon meal is 1200 yen. For such high-quality sashimi, the size of the meal, and the sophisticated ambience of the restaurant, this price is a steal and is a large part of what makes the Abe Sushi lunch experience such a hidden gem.

Dinner at Abe is equally delicious, but its pricing method makes it less appealing. The dinner menu offers a wide selection of sushi to choose from (including sets or individual sashimi choices), as well as some tempura and tofu sides. The corn tempura, in particular, is a heavenly little ball of sweet kernels and airy breading.

As far as I can tell, the dinner menu doesn’t come with prices on it so it’s hard to tell how expensive your order is getting. Someone more versed in Japanese or less shy could probably get over this hurdle by simply asking for the prices, but I didn’t, and therefore experienced my only real sense of sticker shock I’ve experienced in Tokyo when I got the bill afterward.

Which means that, in my book, lunch is really the showstopper at Abe. If you’re looking for something traditionally Japanese for a mid-day break, on a modest price scale, and without the sweatiness or long lines of a ramen shop, Ikina Sushidokoro Abe is a great bet.

That is, if you can find it.


REVIEW AT A GLANCE:

The food: Overall, high quality sashimi. Order the tekkadon for a deeply satisfying lunch.

The experience: Calm and bright, treading a fine line between casual and up-scale.

The cost: For lunch, you’ll spend between 1100 yen to 2000 yen for most meals. Dinner pricing is anybody’s guess, as the prices are not listed on the menu. More expensive than lunch, certainly, but still probably a reasonably priced option if you’re looking for fancy sushi.

Bonus tip: Look for the alley between the EuroZGolf store and Ligne Rosset to find this hidden restaurant’s Roppongi location.


My review ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 5 sushis:

1 sushi — not very good, 2 sushis — okay, 3 sushis — good, 4 sushis — great, 5 sushis — beyond exceptional.