Tairyo Sushi Bar - New Tumon Eatery Serves Awesome
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
[Editor's Note: The special mentioned in this review was applicable at the time of the review, 12/2001 and is no longer available.]
"Oishii!" must have been repeated a hundred times! "Delicious!" That's what this brand new Tumon sushi bar should be called! If you love sushi, then this is a restaurant where you will appreciate it's culinary appeal as well as enjoy a freshness that will astonish you.
Open since November, Tairyo Sushi is located in the Blue Lagoon Plaza, that relatively new complex located across San Vitores from Stanlee's, just a short distance behind the 7-11 on the center's corner. Serving lunch (11:30 am - 1:30 pm) and dinner (5:00 pm - 9:30 pm) daily, this clean, smoke-free rotary sushi restaurant is already growing in popularity. Their Christmas Special (December 1 through 31) is offering a sushi plate (2 pcs) for $2.00, regardless of type of seafood! Tairyo serves what's called Edomae-Sushi, which is the traditional style in Tokyo. There are over 40 types of sushi available on the menu. This price will revert to the regular price of $3.00/plate in January.
The word "Tairyo" loosely translates into "big fish harvest," and that's really what you are getting here at Tairyo Sushi Bar. The operating company, Gyoren Guam, Inc, is affiliated with the Japanese Fishery Association, similar to Guam's Fisherman's Co-Op, in that it serves as a clearing house for fresh fish caught by many fishermen. In Japan, this is a major business and is run with an amazing efficiency and speed that assures a high standard of quality. The freshness you taste with each bite of Tairyo's sushi can be attributed to this organization's fierce devotion to maintaining quality at all levels of handling.
I was accompanied on a lunch visit by two remarkable ladies, Nanae Ishizeki and Toshie Ito, of Ko Ko Master Planning, a local training and marketing company. Aside from their being splendid company, they proved an invaluable educational resource, explaining details about the sushi types, its quality, and the Japanese fishing industry that enhanced both my awareness of and knowledge about sushi.
Tairyo's General Manager, Noboru Ishimori, was introduced and he explained how hard they work to keep the products fresh and that they use only the highest quality ingredients. He brought a sheet of "nori" (dried seaweed), which is imported from Saga Prefecture in Kyushu. We tasted it, remarking on its crispness and freshness...it was obvious that this was one of the key differences to their product...bringing in a "nori" from a region known for its quality.
Tairyo has five lunch specials that are $10.00 ea, which include miso soup, and Iced or Hot Tea. The A set has 10 pcs of sushi; the B set is 7 pieces of sushi with a California Roll; the C set is Chirashi (assorted); D is Tuna and Salmon Roe; and E is 6 pieces of Deep Fried Shrimp. This last item is good for those who may not like sushi, but who dine with someone who does.
Tairyo's logo signage has the word "Super" in it, and when I asked Ishimori-san about it, he said it was the name of the conveyor machine that rotated the sushi plates around the bar. This rotary sushi establishment (for those who are unfamiliar) has covered plates moving atop a conveyor belt from which you can pick your selection. When you are finished, you simply stack your plates in front of you. They are counted at the end of the meal and placed on your bill. For $2.00/plate (during December) you can certainly eat a lot of sushi!
One of the highlights for this meal was the "Uni" (sea urchin). This was my first time, and I enjoyed its rich buttery flavor and soft texture, with a slightly salty taste. The sea urchin sushi is served in a style of sushi called "gunkan maki," with "gunkan" meaning "like a carrier (as in an aircraft carrier)." The nori is wrapped around the sides of the rice (like a ship's hull), leaving a "deck" atop the rice where the "uni" is placed. This style is different from the more common "nigiri" sushi, wherein the seafood is placed directly atop the rice. Other "gunkan maki" sushi that were served were the Salmon Roe and Tobikko.
Another extraordinary experience was when we were served fresh "Tamago" (omelette). I have had this many times before, but never have I had it hot, just cooked, and it was divine. Toshie explained that this is one way to judge the proficiency of the sushi chef, by how well they make tamago. The key is to use the best choice of eggs, the best type of soy sauce, a high quality sake, sugar or honey, and the preparation of a good fish stock for the broth. The right combination of these ingredients mixed by a skilled chef will result in a top quality tamago. This tamago was "oiishi!"
Another sushi type I tried was the "shimei-saba," which is a vinegar mackeral. This does have a fishy taste, so I don't recommend it to anyone sensitive to that distinct flavor. However, it is considered a delicacy, and again requires a special skill in its preparation, since the vinegar drenching is used to wash away certain bacteria. This is one of nature's balancing acts.
We were introduced to Tairyo's manager, Satoshi "Mike" Morikami, who explained to us how many foreigners are afraid to eat sushi due to concerns about bacteria that may be in the fish. He explained that there are four safeguards against bacteria, composed of ingredients that kill bacteria. When you make sushi rice, you add vinegar; then you put some vinegar on the fish; the "gari" (pink sliced ginger) also has more vinegar in it, which goes into your stomach along with the sushi; and finally, the wasabi (spicy green horseradish) that's added to most nigiri sushi, kills bacteria. That's a lot of defense and protection which I've always taken for granted in my lifelong enjoyment of sushi.
Another great treat was the "Ama ebi" (sweet shrimp). That was truly good, as was the salmon, which was superior. The crab sushi was something that we all relished, and we were brought out a rarity - "Engawa" (sole), which was a very rich piece of meat from the sides of the fish - very expensive in Japan. This is not a regular item served on their rotary belt since it is quite rare. The Yellowtail we had was brought in from Kagoshima...it was interesting knowing where some of these fish came from...bet they didn't know they'd end up on Guam!
The "unagi" (broiled eel) sushi was a treat...there really is no way to describe the taste and flavor. Suffice it to say, this delicacy is an acquired taste and many Westerners have to get over the thought that it's an eel...after all, what has an eel ever done to you?
I have to confess that I returned that evening to take a friend who is very knowledgeable about sushi and knows the difference between good and excellent sushi. She was very impressed with Tairyo Sushi's freshness, and couldn't believe the value (the $2.00/plate December Promotion). Among the dishes we sampled were the scallops...this was my first time eating them raw like this and they were outstanding. We asked the sushi cook to make us a California Maki...he prepared the single rolled up type that's served almost as a cone, and the fresh avocado, baby shrimp, rice, and cucumber were just terrific! We also had a bowl of edamame (boiled soy beans), a chicken cutlet dish (which was a good cooked menu item), and also a mixed Poki-like tuna plate, which had a pika spiciness to it. She was so impressed she's going to have her staff come to Tairyo. Take out is available, and you can call in your order at 647-8877.
Tairyo Sushi Bar has a Happy Hour from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm, and they are offering (would you believe?) "1 Free Drink" (any beverage)! I think that's a great idea to get customers in, but I tell you that local sushi lovers won't be going there to drink...they'll be going there for the sushi - which is what Tairyo Sushi is all about - "Awesome 'Super-Fresh' Sushi!"