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Watanabe Miroshi Deba 210mm(8.25")
Japanese Kitchen Knife Review

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Watanabe Miroshi 210mm(8.25")

This is one of those knives I got purely out of curiosity and collectors itch. Official justification, which I didn't really need, was pretty much lifted from Miroshi deba definition. I've decided that Hon-Deba and Ryodeba I already had, simply were not enough, (even though I cut fish about three times that year), and that I needed thinner, longer and lighter deba knife. That is what Miroshi definition is, and placed an order with Shinichi Watanabe for a 210.00mm(8.27") long, Aogami I steel miroshi deba. Aside from that, I convinced myself that if I had Miroshi deba, then somehow that'd motivate me to prepare the fish more frequently and thus learn the proper filleting techniques. I can tell you right now, that part didn't really work out, even after getting second miroshi and sakekiri, which is yet another type of deba. :)

General

- I've asked Shinichi to make my Miroshi deba somewhere in the beginning of the March 2009. The knife was ready in approximately three weeks and shipping from Japan to me was 2 more days. All in all, this is real fast for custom made knives. Although, on that one, YMMV, it really depends on many factors. Anyway, back to the knife itself. As usual, it came in the nice box with Watanabe logo on it. I didn't order a saya with it, as the plan was to use it mainly in my kitchen, and I wasn't planning on taking it to remote locations. The blade was secured to the box from the inside, to prevent sliding and most likely resulting tip breakage. Fit and finish were up to Watanabe standard. Very good in other words. Out of the box sharpness was very high and the edge was highly polished with almost perfectly even bevel.

As for the general description of the knife. Well, it might be defined as a thinner deba, but on its own it is a pretty hefty knife, especially if you are used to Japanese kitchen knives. 6.25m thick blade at 210mm length, is no joke, even for the relatively thick western kitchen knives. Consequently, the blade weighed 278.00g(9.4oz) with the original, ho wood handle, and once I've installed the custom Handle went up to 320.00g(10.82oz). Obviously, despite rather long, 140mm handle Miroshi is blade, or forward heavy. Given the design purpose of this knife, it is a desired feature.

Blade

- Watanabe Miroshi deba has rather typical deba blade geometry, except being a miroshi deba, it is longer and more slender compared to Kobayashi Hontan Seikon Dojo Deba, which is shorter, but 8.35m thick. The miroshi blade is a single grind edge, standard for most of the Japanese kitchen knives. More often than not, Japanese single ground blades also feature an Urasuki, concave back side that is. Urasuki does prevent excessive sticking to the blade, but also makes wedging problem more pronounced ;) Although, that is nothing one couldn't deal with, given a little practice.

One thing I like about Watanabe blades, and this miroshi is no exception, is how straight and even the back sides are on his knives. You can easily tell that by the width of the sharpened bevels on the back side, it's not flat, but concave remember? They're perfectly even width throughout the whole perimeter of the blade. I know that's not a simple task for hard blades, and even harder for longer blades. As mentioned above, initial edge was very sharp and sharpening job was also really good. Mirror polished, razor sharp edge. Although, stropping on 0.25µm diamond loaded strop first and then on a plain leather strop did improve sharpness and the polish level.

As for the steel, the one used in this knife is Hitachi YSS Aogami (Blue) 1 steel. As usual, or typically Watanabe would use another steel from the Blue family, Aogami 2 steel. It has slightly better toughness and less edge retention compared to Aogami 1 steel, but I opted for Aogami 1, because I figured increased edge retention on the thin edge, even for relatively harsh use miroshi deba was better for me. That is the beauty and the trouble with the custom knives :) You can have them made exactly to your specs, and if you screw up, it's just you. Well, if you pick something entirely stupid, good, honest maker will warn you and try to prevent or refuse it altogether.

Handle

- The original handle on the knife was Ho Wood, as it is a standard option for all Watanabe knives. Well, if he likes a knife enough he might install a better handle, as he did for my 330mm Kintaro Ame Kensaki yanagiba. Anyway, this miroshi was just an ordinary pro-line miroshi deba from his lineup. I said in many other reviews, I don't like neither the color, not the texture of the ho wood. However, this is my personal take on the subject, and generally there is nothing wrong with ho wood. It's been in use for hundreds of years and served its purpose well. Anyway, the moment I saw the knife I knew I was gonna keep it and I've asked my usual handlemaker, Stefan Keller to make one for me. Since it was part of the rather large, 7 handle batch order, it took few months to make, but in the end I got it. The design and execution, are both Stefan's. Even though as usual I prefer black or very dark tones, I liked this one enough to pick it for my miroshi. Of course I never remember neither the wood nor other details, unless it's ebony. Well, as my notes show it is Koa wood with sterling silver buttcap. One of the reasons, I don't like ho wood is its density, or lack of it. As usual custom handles I get are much denser, and thus noticeably heavier. So was the new handle for the Miroshi deba. Its weight went up, from 278.00g(9.4oz) with the original handle, to 320.00g(10.82oz) with the custom one. Given that the Miroshi itself is a pretty blade heavy knife, heavier handle made it a little more balanced, although that aspect was never of real significance to me, at least not until the knife weight goes over 1lbs.

Usage

- I think I mentioned few times in other reviews that I am not really big on the fish. I just got that knife because I liked it and I wanted to learn fish cleaning skills. Which, as I found out later is rather messy, stinky and not very exciting exercise. Another complication in all that ordeal was my own laziness, and the sad fact that the nearest food place where I shop, which happens to be Whole Foods Market, doesn't have a whole lot of the raw, unprocessed fish for sale. There is another store few blocks down, with a lot bigger variety of the raw fish, and I keep promising myself to go there one day, but given the fact that just like any other guy I hate shopping for pretty much anything except knives and hi-tech gadgets, that never happened so far, and chances for it happening don't look too good in a near future. So, having said all that, I think I have already explained why I have cleaned only two fish with this miroshi and both were if I am not mistaken, well I guess I am, some kind of rock fish, as I remember. It was around 12", few pounds, kindda pinkish color. It was pretty tasty when cooked. That's all about the cutting medium ;)

As for the process, as in my other fish filleting exercises I was guided mainly by Nozaki's book. The task was to cut the fish belly, get the intestines out, make corresponding cuts on the spine, decapitate fish somewhere along the lines, cut the fillets and finally skin them. The last one, skinning is a breeze with the miroshi, or any similar knife, that is with the single grind edge knife with urasuki, or a concave back. Debas and yanagibas do really good on that. So did this Miroshi deba. Cutting the belly itself was real easy with this razor sharp blade, but getting those stinky guts out was not fun. At least I've learned to put them away in a plastic bad and work with running water. Both are highly advised, if you try the feat btw. Incisions along the spine are also easy. Harder is to slide the blade inside, i.e. insert the knife perpendicular to the body and cut the fillet part in one fluid motion. That is without hitting spinal cord and whatever else inside. Miroshi being quite wide and having considerable weight made that part relatively easy compared to the much lighter Watanabe Sakekiri Deba. The fact that miroshi is longer knife also helped. Well, sakekiri is designed for a smaller fish to begin with, so once again, pick the right tool for the job. Overall, like I said I've filleted two fish, both the same kind. The plan is to do more, for more variety in my diet and of course to raise the skill level. So, hopefully Whole Foods will have more variety of the fish for me to mess with. Although, they do look at me with a surprised look when I ask for the whole fish and most of the time they have to get it from the back.

Conclusions

- For now I am very happy with Watanabe Miroshi deba. Yeah, my fish prep skills are not as good as I want, but that is my problem, not the knife. As far as knife goes, it performs very well. Edge holding is really good no chipping or bending on the edge was observed so far, despite of the inexperienced operator(yours truly here) hitting the bones few times here and there. Like I said, it works very well for skinning too. One more use for the Miroshi, which was a hint from the knifeforums kitchen knives crew, using the miroshi for chicken preparation, especially for the removal of the thighs. Given the need miroshi deba can be used as a heavy gyuto or a chef's knife as well. Except, heavy guyto does not mean to use it in a role of the meat cleaver. This is still a thin deba and not designed for chopping through thicker bones. That would definitely constitute a knife abuse. And as usual, as more use commences, updates will follow.

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Specifications:

  • Blade - 210.00mm(8.27")
  • Thickness - 6.25mm
  • OAL - 350.00mm(13.78")
  • Steel - Aogami 2 steel 63-65HRC
  • Handle - Ho Wood
  • Weight - Original - 278.00g(9.4oz), Custom Handle - 320.00g(10.82oz)
  • Acquired - 03/2009 Price - 313.00$

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Last updated - 09/01/11