The formula for the very best sushi is a simple equation: quality neta (the fish and other toppings) plus perfect shari (vinegared sushi rice), multiplied by the expertise with which it’s prepared and put together.

That’s what you expect from any top Tokyo sushi chef. But how essential to the experience are the setting and the service? Does great sushi taste just as excellent without the plush counter seats and other trappings? Over the pandemic years, some new sushiya (sushi shops) have begun answering that question — or at least provoking some reflection.

Where to start? Head to the nondescript backstreets of Shimbashi’s salaryman carousing district, take a deep breath and head down a steep flight of stairs to the cramped basement that conceals Tachigui-sushi Akira.