From the outside, Tatsushi looks unassuming — just another restaurant tucked in among the others on the lower stretch of Victoria Street. The patch is already known for awesome eating spots: Fisherman's Plate, WBC, the institution that is the Lido Cafe, but perhaps the loveliest experience is within Tatsushi, a traditional Japanese restaurant that's like stepping into a small family eatery in the heart of Tokyo. The linen noren in the entranceway, the sweet umeshu (plum wine) served over ice, the array of serving dishes and eating accoutrements that come with each dish make the meal a truly delightful time, no matter how many times you go.
The space is small, but fits a number of groups of businesspeople, families and couples on any given night. The first time, going with a friend, I felt like I'd been initiated into an experience not many of my peers knew about. Since that first time, I've taken many friends back there and introduced them to the Tatsushi way of eating. The specials are scrawled (neatly) onto a large chalkboard, and the long metal cooking chopsticks fly in the hands of the experienced chefs — manipulating fresh fish slices into flowers and fans for the sashimi plates, arranging all manner of dashi broths and tempura-battered portions into a staggered dinner that leaves you time to appreciate each little dish put before you.
For the uninitiated, dinner at Tatsushi is best approached in stages. I'd recommend starting with a plum wine (just because I love the taste, I'm not sure if it's meant to be a dessert wine) or any of the light beers on the menu. The fresh lemon sour shouchu is also excellent (a distilled liquor with fresh lemon and soda).
The sashimi is, I reckon one of the best plates at Tatsushi — they source the absolute freshest for the dish, and you can get up to five different species depending on availability (snapper, gurnard, John Dory, blue warehou, tuna, salmon, terakihi). The tempura is also always delicious. Each portion is usually portioned for two people to have a good taste of each dish.
On various visits I have also had the agedashi tofu, agedashi eggplant, the cucumber and sour plum sushi, the chicken karaage, and an amazing crispy chicken skin with ponzu sauce from the specials board that I hope they have for my next visit — all the dishes are full of flavour, perfectly balanced, with just the right accompaniment — whether it's a broth, a mayonnaise or a small dish of flavoured vinegar or soy sauce.
I love getting the seats in front of the kitchen on the high stools — something to watch while you digest your latest plate, think on the flavours and wait for the next dish to come. And I have to mention the people who work at Tatsushi — the absolute loveliest team I've ever encountered, anywhere.