Ah… the dreaded layover. That frustratingly awkward period of time that stands between you and your final destination. The layover is an annoyance shared by all travelers; even those luxury first class passengers aren’t immune (though they do have their swanky lounges.) I have always found layovers particularly irritating, not just because I’m impatient when eagerly awaiting a new destination, but rather, more often than not, here I am in a new country and I’m stuck within the confines of an airport, completely unable to enjoy it! So I got to thinking… is there a way to actually enjoy an airport layover and perhaps – dare I say it – get a taste of local culture?
On my recent trip to Thailand, I found myself with a four hour layover in Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. I have always wanted to go to Japan. The food alone is enough to draw me to the destination so I found this particular layover especially irritating. I suddenly remembered an article I read a while back about the best airports in the world. It highlighted all the crazy amenities some airports offer, but one detail stuck out: there are airports out there with GOOD restaurants. So I turned to google. As it turns out, there is one restaurant in Narita International Airport that not only came up in many a comment thread but a restaurant that was actually reviewed by Conde Nast and the like! AND it was a sushi restaurant. Mind. Blown.
As we landed in Tokyo, I briefed Andrew on our game plan. Book it to Terminal 1, straight to Sushi Kyotatsu. No bathroom breaks, no dawdling. There was uni to be had.
We arrived at a seemingly average store front that was swarming with customers. The host managed to squeeze us in at the end of the bar within minutes. It was 4am local time in New York, but that didn’t stop us from ordering a feast. After reading countless reviews, I knew this was my best shot at authentic sushi on Japanese soil. Who knows when I would be back?
We ordered a sushi and sashimi sampler with a few extra pieces of fish we knew we loved and two hot sakes for good measure. What arrived was… magic. Perfectly prepared fish – simply prepared, allowing the quality of fish to speak for itself. The uni was like butter, the squid – spot on. This isn’t fancy sushi by any means. There are no bells or whistles – it’s straight and to the point. We hit the layover jackpot.
The best part? The price didn’t break the bank! It was on par with a light dinner at a neighborhood Manhattan sushi joint. My only qualm? The portions were on the small side though maybe that is just my American belly talking. We ate as slowly as our excitement would allow and made it back to our gate with only 30 minutes until boarding. Talk about perfect timing.
Is Sushi Kyotatsu the best sushi in Japan? Absolutely not – but it certainly offers an authentic taste of the country’s most celebrated delicacy. If anything… it sure as hell beats McDonalds.