Japanese food started becoming popular in Hanoi around 10 years ago, and a succession of restaurants has since opened to cash in on the trend, but few possess the discipline and quality that makes for a real sushi experience.
Kisu Sushi was opened nine months ago by Master Dinh, a Vietnamese-born sushi master with 26 years of experience, who learnt the art of sushi making in West Berlin from the acclaimed Japanese sushi master Yoya Matsumoto.
The philosophy at Kisu is to serve the real sushi experience in its traditional form. All of the fish used here is imported daily from the famous Tsukiji market in Tokyo. The rice is grown especially in Japan for sushi preparation, and the wasabi is not the usual power mixed with water concoction, but real, fresh wasabi. To put it in black and white, this may be the closest you’ll get to Tokyo without leaving Hanoi.
The design of the restaurant is an elegant Japanese style, simple and bold with dominant reds and blacks over dark wood flooring and tables. Upstairs is a private area with tables in separate booths able to serve between four and 14 diners, the privacy making it an inviting setting for a corporate party or a reunion with close friends. The first floor offers a more casual setting.
For starters, I try the gyouza (VND89,000), dumplings made of wheat and egg filled with minced pork and a light onion. This is a traditional Japanese dish and is cooked to perfection; the balance of flavour is spot on.
The first main on the table is the sashimi deluxe. At VND2.49 million, it’s certainly not the cheapest option on the menu, but the evident quality of each sashimi piece quickly makes up for it. The dish includes the highly prized blue fin tuna stomach, shrimp, sea urchin, salmon and flying fish caviar. Most of the pieces melt on the tongue, while the tuna belly takes a little more work from the jaw.
Alongside this dish I have a Name of the Samurai cocktail (VND130,000) — a mix of Japanese whisky, amaretto, lime and pineapple, topped off with a chilli kick. The cocktail menu is divided into two sections, for men and for women, each with five Japanese-inspired drinks to choose from.
Contrary to popular belief, sushi originated in China during the 2nd century, not Japan. It was introduced in Japan at the end of the 18th century and has since been evolving as sushi masters create their own interpretations of the art. Master Dinh is no exception to this, and his own invention, Kisu ura-maki is included in the second dish that I try.
The sushi (Set 3) is a mix of nigiri, maki and roe — caviar — and costs VND559,000. Each bite of the sushi sends you into a light daze of euphoria, exaggerated afterwards by a glass of imported sake. A light dip of soy sauce on the fish, and a small dab of wasabi midway through eating it will unlock a combination of flavours that you won’t soon forget.
After refreshing my palate with some fresh ginger, and accepting an invite to another glass of sake, I order the matcha ice cream for dessert, it’s the perfect finish to the experience, and is complimented by the waiting staff’s attentiveness throughout the meal.
Kisu ticks all the boxes for a great sushi restaurant. The fish is fresh from Japan, the preparation is exactly what you’d expect to find in a quality establishment, and the service leaves you feeling a lot like royalty.
Kisu Sushi is located at 65C Tran Quoc Toan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Photos by Julie Vola