After Hours: Yutaka Zushi on Hirado Island, Japan
By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 10, 2014
When it comes to food, there is such a thing as too big and too much. When it comes to fish, there is no such thing as too fresh.
When the two collide, you are left with Yutaka Zushi, the sushi experience on Hirado Island preferred by Japanese bloggers and Internet foodies alike.
Located less than an hour from Sasebo, the island is not only home to beautiful beaches and untouched wilderness, perfect for day trips, but also some of the most talked about fishing grounds in the region. As a result, Yutaka Zushi offers huge portions of the island’s freshest fish, requiring patrons to conjure their inner Joey Chestnut just to complete a meal.
Yutaka Zushi is a sushi/sashimi restaurant in the traditional Japanese sense, a far cry from the sushi-go-rounds that feature frozen fish. Accompanied by the sounds of bubbling water and flanked by fish tanks, the master slices still-wriggling fish behind the counter with precision.
The restaurant offers a lunch and dinner menu. Lunches are very affordable and start as low as 600 yen (about $6) for a udon and sushi combination. Dinners are a bit more expensive but are substantially larger.
Yutaka Zushi serves various combination sets with multiple side dishes, such as one with sashimi and sukiyaki for 2,800 yen. Sukiyaki is basically a small pot of vegetables and meat with a sweet sauce.
A top-shelf sushi set features the best cut of tuna, called otoro; Japanese tiger prawn; abalone; sea urchin; fish eggs; squid; yellow tail as well as white and shellfish at a cost of 3,000 yen. It features pieces of fish that are so big they must be eaten in multiple bites (using your hands ensures it won’t fall apart). The otoro is divine and melts in your mouth. The abalone is an equally rare delicacy.
Should you want to substitute a certain thing that is more to your liking, the staff is generally willing to do so if it is of equal or lesser value. A substitute of salmon is a tasty recommendation.
Yutaka Zushi’s second-tier sushi set costs 2,000 yen and features maguro (regular cut of tuna), shrimp, squid, sea urchin, fish eggs, yellow tail, as well as white and shellfish.
The cheapest sushi set costs 1,500 yen and features yellow tail, shrimp, squid, octopus, sea urchin, conger eel as well as white and shellfish.
A maguro don, which is basically pieces of cut up raw tuna on top of rice with wasabi, costs just 600 yen and is a delicious starter.
A tempura set for 1,500 yen comes with more food than you could want, including soup, salad and multiple side dishes.
Yutaka Zushi also specializes in whale and offers various cuts for a range of prices. A whale don is 1,300 yen, whale sashimi is 1,300 yen and sushi is 1,800 yen.
Reservations are not required but are recommended as the restaurant is usually full. The menu has pictures of some items but is in Japanese.
Private dining rooms are also available.
With big portions and big-time freshness, Yutaka Zushi stands out as a giant among local sushi joints.
Where: Hirado, Japan. Google Map GPS coordinates: 33.365270, 129.552283
Phone: Reservations are not required but are suggested, at 0950-23-2017.
Cost: Lunch specials of udon and sushi start at just 600 yen. Dinner sets are more expensive but are more substantial.
Directions: Yutaka Zushi is located at 101 Shinmachi, Hirado-shi, Nagasaki-ken. To get there from Sasebo, jump on the highway and head toward Hirado. The highway ends at Saza. Follow the signs toward Hirado Island, taking 227 to 204, left onto 383. The restaurant is located off 383 in downtown Hirado. It’s easy to find with its unique exterior that includes a circular cutout in the wall.