The restaurant scene in Stavanger is very exciting these days. The addition of Sabi Omakase, a high-end sushi restaurant with only nine seats, justifies a visit to the city alone. From my experience, Sabi Omakase is as close to an authentic Tokyo sushi-ya (sushi shop) as you can possibly get outside of Japan. I have never eaten sushi in Japan. However, I recently dined at JIN in Paris together with LuxEat. She’s been to some of the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo and told me that JIN was almost identical in style. In turn, I found Sabi Omakase to be very close to the performance at JIN.
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Roger Asakil Joya is the head chef at Sabi Omakase. He is originally from the Philippines but came to Norway as an 18-year-old. Roger is trained and certified as a sushi chef in Japan. In August last year, he finished 4th in the Sushi World Cup. That makes him the best non-Japanese sushi chef in the world! Obviously, that may be an exaggeration as I am sure a lot of the old Japanese veterans don’t even compete. Still, it’s a huge merit for a Europe based chef.
Roger is co-owner of Sabi Sushi and has developed what he calls a Norwegian Edo Style Sushi. Edo is the old name of Tokyo, and Edomae refers to a style that originates from the fast food businesses of that city. In other words: Roger follows the 200-year-old Tokyo sushi traditions but uses fresh, Norwegian seafood, caught in our wonderful cold waters. The show began with Roger showcasing the fresh catch. I had no idea just how impressive the performance we had ahead of us would be.
Returning to my visit at JIN, briefly, where one of the most memorable parts of that meal was simply watching the chef work. He was a Japanese chef, who spoke neither French nor English. LuxEat, together with Hungary’s biggest food writer, Andras Jokuti, and me were all taking pictures. The chef at JIN didn’t like that much. Back to Sabi Omakase, Roger, on the other hand, did not seem to mind at all. Still, he was as focused as only a Japanese sushi chef can be. It was like watching a well-choreographed dance take place in front of us. If I wanted to photograph a specific movement he did, I could just focus my camera at that point in the air, and soon Roger would repeat the action at the exact same spot for me to capture. He was fast, though! My sharpest picture is seen below.
Sabi Omakase is the fine dining version and the most authentic sushi restaurant by Sabi Sushi. Two days ago I wrote about their Dinner Club concept. Once again Njål had invited the winemakers Nic Weis and Kai Schätzel, and they presented a few of their finest wines for us to go with Roger’s creations. We also enjoyed an amazing sparkling sake from Nøgne Ø. The first to be produced in Europe! Luckily it’s available at the wine monopoly. In addition, we had several different glasses of Champagne, which paired well with the corresponding dishes that Roger served.
Omakase means I trust you, or more commonly trust the chef. There is no weekly menu here. What is served depends on which seasonal produce the chef got hold of that day, and what he wants to present to you as a guest. A total of seventeen dishes were served to us this night. My friend and I were joined by Njål and his beautiful wife Triin, the two winemakers, and a sushi restaurant owner from Fyn in Denmark. Sabi Omakase has a maximum capacity of nine guests on regular days.
With nine limited seats, a restaurant is very vulnerable to cancellations. Imagine, Roger prepares the meal for those specific nine guests every day. If two or more does not show up, that’s a huge ingredient cost wasted. Even worse, suppose that a booking of nine is canceled, which actually happened a few days prior to our visit. No wonder Njål is considering options to secure a booking for the restaurant. This is not uncommon for similar exclusive concepts like Fäviken Magasinet, where you actually have to pay in advance. Many US restaurants are even selling tickets to their show, rather than using a regular booking system.
I’ll gladly admit I had to read up on the history of sushi and look up names and ingredients. I did not feel competent enough about Japanese food culture before my visit, and I still don’t. I realize I’ll have to get myself to Tokyo sooner rather than later. A good start, though, was to read about the visit to Sabi Omakase by LondonEater. He also has a bunch of great restaurant tips in London and Tokyo!
Through LuxEat I found an even more extensive introduction to the sushi in Japan. Just check this guide by Kayoubi Desu! What a remarkable restaurant culture that exists in Japan. I am so happy that we can get a feel of it in Stavanger now. The meal will rid you with 2500 NOK for the food and wine altogether. That is great value for money considering the heavenly flavors, the wonderful aromas and the extraordinary show you get.
What is your best sushi experience outside of Japan?