Arriving at Sushi Gyoten for the first time feels a bit like slipping back in time. The weathered bamboo fence, carefully positioned ornamental rocks and narrow, stone-paved path curving out of sight: this could be the portal to some well-entrenched decades-old ryōtei (high-end traditional restaurant). In fact, you are about to dine at the counter of one of Fukuoka's best and most in-demand young sushi masters.

In the dining room, the look is much the same: the lighting is muted; the packed mud walls and handcrafted accents would not be out of place in a tea ceremony cottage; and a beautiful strip of mottled bamboo runs the length of the counter in front of the open kitchen. You are a world away from the bright, crisply unadorned style of sushi restaurants so prevalent in Tokyo.

This is the domain of chef Kenji Gyoten. Invariably, he sports a plain, dark brown kimono, which he wears with the sleeves tied back so they don't interfere with his hands and knifework. Sharply focused and serious in demeanor, he is at the top of his game. With such gravitas, it seems hard to believe he is not yet 35, and has only been here for four years.