Photo courtesy of Ishin
Ishin’s Mitte location is, appropriately, a nerve-centre of activity (its name means "from the heart"). With its functional furniture and minimal decoration, the large dining area feels more like a design Kantine than a restaurant. And there are some benefits to this no-nonsense approach: Ishin offers unlimited green tea (or coffee) refills and quick service (the waiters’ digital order-pads make it all extremely streamlined). In fact, this is the ideal spot for an efficient, i.e. simple and satisfying meal – or a no-frills feast!
The hefty menu can be a bit daunting, but go straight past the sushi to the cey-ros (€4.20-9.20) - bamboo steamers with soft, warm rice, vegetables and cooked fish - your best bet for a filling winter meal. The don rice bowls (€5.50- 8.60) are mainly composed of veggies and raw fish; there is also an intriguing variety of small fish plates and side dishes.
On weeknights, Ishin attracts a fair crowd – after-work businessmen, homesick Asians, moms taking their kids out for a treat – but it takes a lot to fill this place. We tried a rich miso soup (€2, served with or without mushrooms), which more than made up for some underwhelming gyoza. Within minutes, our main course arrived. It was an Ishin Cey-Ro, a delicious smorgasbord of warm seafood: a savory cut of salmon, a delicate clam, salmon roe, and portions of mackerel and mussels, both boasting a complex sweetness. With six traditional desserts - from an ooey-gooey concoction made from carmelized soy sauce and sugar, then poured over solid rice dumplings ("Mitarashi Dango"), to cooked sweet potatoes in a honey-sesame sauce ("Daigaku Imo") - the selection of ‘afters’ (€1.60-4.60) is much larger and more tempting than at most Japanese restaurants. No wonder Ishin has so many regulars…