The workhorse no one told me about: Sukenari ZDP

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salemj
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The workhorse no one told me about: Sukenari ZDP

Post by salemj »

This is a "first impressions" review of the Sukenari ZDP-189 240mm Hairline Gyuto.

I have this habit that I think others share. When I get a gyuto I really love, I stop using it. By that, I mean that I “save” it, using it less often, and more carefully, to make it a lifetime gyuto.

Recently, I’ve started to appreciate my Konosuke MM Ginsan in this way. And that (among other things) made me decide that I wanted another, similar gyuto that was mostly stainless to use for heavy duties to “save” my Ginsan.

When I thought about what I was looking for in this circumstance (a no-nonsense, mostly stainless daily driver that was about 230x50), the ZDP was an obvious choice.

This is probably the first knife I’ve used that I would call a high-performing “workhorse” in every sense. Everything about this knife feels high-end without feeling precious, while at the same time screaming: “If you know how to use a Japanese knife, I can do almost anything you want.” While the knife hesitates in delicate cuts from time to time, it also provides feedback that encourages you to just try harder if you want more performance. Not graceful through an onion? Be more aggressive. Not whippy through a cuke? Cut faster. Not effortless with a mince? Uh…you must not know how to use a knife. The knife is hard, sturdy, and responsive. It isn’t always fast, but it sure isn’t slow. Sometimes, it feels more German than German knives in how it is engineered.

The edge is crisp, confident, and sharp. It has great penetration and follow-through. At the same time, the edge it not too thin, and the blade is robust—not just the spine, but the blade itself. What I mean is that the blade is thick through the height of the neck, but still has a gentle taper and tall grind below that. It is a unique combination that reminds me of T-Fs in a lot of ways. It is not a low grind, but it also carries real weight through the blade from heel to tip that gives it massive cutting power without having massive weight.

Full disclosure: I remember when a certain exclusive, one-off Sukenari (not this knife) was circulated and responses were…equivocal. My impression was that this knife, which is a standard in their lineup and frequently sold-out, would not have issues with performance. I can tell you with confidence that this knife performs.

That said, this is an expensive knife. It does not cut as well as other knives I have in a similar price range. Many cuts feel “above average” but not “special.” The tip is durable and thin, but not too thin and not nearly as good as some others. But knives that provide special experiences are often more delicate, more precious, carbon, and are nowhere near as careless. If there is one major negative about the Sukenari, it is that the extra weight and grind don’t always result in better food release than a thinner (or thicker), better performing knife. But the release is still decent…very good with some ingredients…and unlike most higher performing knives, this thing holds a very crisp edge while still being able to mince garlic or herbs or whatever without issue...and can I stress again that it is essentially stainless if you care for your knives at all?

On that front, the profile is terrific: flat enough for chopping, and smart enough for Western cuts of all types. The handle is also a great pairing with the blade and reduces any need of an upgrade to a vanity option.

And, btw, when I say “extra weight,” I’m talking balance in the cut. Mine weights 192 grams. But I swear that it uses every gram of that weight, which means you get power without fatigue. I feels more like a middle weight than any of my 200+ gram Fujiyamas.

Honestly, using this knife makes me feel like I’ve discovered a secret. I feel like there must be dozens of professional chefs who only buy and recommend these things, but that keep their mouth shut about it to avoid causing a rush. I will repeat again that this is not the best knife I own, nor my favourite knife, nor an exceptional knife. But it is a very good knife that seems to be exactly what a lot of people on the forum probably dream about. Like most such things, it costs more than anyone wants to pay, even though it is actually closer to what everyone actually wants.

One major caveat: I have not sharpened it yet, but the edge has also only very barely given off any of that fresh-off-the-stones feeling. I have very high hopes for this ZDP treatment, and I am loving it so far.

This probably isn’t the knife for you. It has not turned into a “save it” gyuto for me. But I can say with confidence that, as someone who owns too many gyutos, this one will continue to get used more often than my “saved” gyutos, and I will enjoy every minute of it without hesitation while the more temperamental babies are saved for more delicate tasks. Then again, I bought a stainless KS not to long ago and love that, too. Yeah, it cost me a ridiculous sum. But it is exactly what is reports to be, and there really isn't anything else that has quite the same trusted and true engineering.

Who knew? A great workhorse was there all along. It just costs more than worse options for no immediately justifiable reason other than, well, it is just damn convenient, reliable, and predictable. Sometimes you don’t get what you pay for, but you pay for what you know you’ll get.
~Joe

Comments: I'm short, a home cook, prefer lighter, thinner blades, and own mostly Konosukes but have used over a dozen brands.
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Re: The workhorse no one told me about: Sukenari ZDP

Post by mauichef »

Hi Joe.
Mahalo for a great review. Erudite and fact filled as usual.
I have soft spot for the knives of Mr. Minaki and own a honyaki yanagiba of his. But no gyuto.
One of the best knives I've used, that came through on a pass round, was a Sukenari Ginsan 240. I fell in love. But never proposed!
So it's funny that you are using yours as a Kono MM Ginsan stand-in. Like you...one of my all time faves...and, like you, I don't use as much as I should.
It seems like a while since I was reading and writing reviews like we use to. Thanks for this one. :D
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Re: The workhorse no one told me about: Sukenari ZDP

Post by Nochop! »

I own 2 Sukenari. An AS hairline, and an SG2 dammy. I agree wholeheartedly with your experience. I will say my 270 AS is a totally different knife with a light thinning session. I have yet to thin the SG2 as the dammy will prove to be more of a chore to refinish.
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Re: The workhorse no one told me about: Sukenari ZDP

Post by salemj »

Nochop! wrote: Tue Jan 12, 2021 9:11 am I own 2 Sukenari. An AS hairline, and an SG2 dammy. I agree wholeheartedly with your experience. I will say my 270 AS is a totally different knife with a light thinning session. I have yet to thin the SG2 as the dammy will prove to be more of a chore to refinish.
Thanks, Nochop. One thing I like about this knife is that it has room to grow, and by that I mean exactly what you say: it is thin enough, but it feels like it could handle thinning by the user if someone wanted a touch more performance, and that this could be done rather easily given the grind design (in that it seems easy to hit behind the edge on the bevel, which is not the case for all knives).
~Joe

Comments: I'm short, a home cook, prefer lighter, thinner blades, and own mostly Konosukes but have used over a dozen brands.
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Re: The workhorse no one told me about: Sukenari ZDP

Post by lsboogy »

great read Joe -
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Re: The workhorse no one told me about: Sukenari ZDP

Post by Bob Z »

salemj wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:03 pm
I have this habit that I think others share. When I get a gyuto I really love, I stop using it. By that, I mean that I “save” it, using it less often, and more carefully, to make it a lifetime gyuto.
Thanks Joe, you hit the proverbial nail on the head here! I wondered if I was the only one and thought it was a bit embarrassing buying a nice knife then not using it..Maybe its time for a new topic: Gyutos that you save.
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Re: The workhorse no one told me about: Sukenari ZDP

Post by gladius »

Bob Z wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 2:05 pm
salemj wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:03 pm
I have this habit that I think others share. When I get a gyuto I really love, I stop using it. By that, I mean that I “save” it, using it less often, and more carefully, to make it a lifetime gyuto.
Thanks Joe, you hit the proverbial nail on the head here! I wondered if I was the only one and thought it was a bit embarrassing buying a nice knife then not using it..Maybe its time for a new topic: Gyutos that you save.
---
I am opposite...if I love it I will use it often.

If you use that Sukenari to prep every meal you eat for the rest of your days, it will be good for beyond your lifetime!
Use it! Enjoy it!
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Re: The workhorse no one told me about: Sukenari ZDP

Post by salemj »

To the points above: I'd add that there are different ways and reasons for "saving" a knife. In most cases (for me), it is that I discover a knife is really good at some specific things, and not great at some others. If the knife also happens to be more delicate (a norm for my collection since I like thin edges), this means I can start to "save" knives in that I use them for specific (and often more delicate) tasks that they really excel at rather than as daily drivers. I still keep them out, and I still use them, but they become a bit more task-specific.

The irony is when I buy a knife like the Kono MM Ginsan precisely to be a daily driver, only to discover that it has special qualities that make me want to "save" it for more specific tasks. This is especially true given that the thinner and more special an edge grind, the faster it wears and the more impossible it is to "thin" to the same geometry down the road.

Other knives, like the Sukenari, have different edges. I have to agree with Gladius that this is a knife that feels like it could be use a lot, and quite hard, and still last a good long while. In contrast, I have a strong sense that a number of other knives begin to lose that feeling after 3-5 years of moderate home use, and while thinning helps, it can always only subtract from the knife...it cannot not really replace what has been lost, as it were.

Is a lot of this psychological? You bet! But it is also just a matter of me wanting some knives to always have specific, tailored edges at the go for more delicate things, and not messing those edges up in the meantime by using them as daily drivers. That is very real, but also very preferential. I guess it isn't all that different than the Japanese tradition of having specialized knives for everything...it just so happens that most of these are the same pattern of knife (a gyuto), but that I treat them as good for different things.
~Joe

Comments: I'm short, a home cook, prefer lighter, thinner blades, and own mostly Konosukes but have used over a dozen brands.
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Re: The workhorse no one told me about: Sukenari ZDP

Post by gladius »

salemj wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 4:02 pm Other knives, like the Sukenari, have different edges. I have to agree with Gladius that this is a knife that feels like it could be use a lot, and quite hard, and still last a good long while. In contrast, I have a strong sense that a number of other knives begin to lose that feeling after 3-5 years of moderate home use, and while thinning helps, it can always only subtract from the knife...it cannot not really replace what has been lost, as it were...I guess it isn't all that different than the Japanese tradition of having specialized knives for everything...it just so happens that most of these are the same pattern of knife (a gyuto), but that I treat them as good for different things.
---
Doubtful ZDP will ever look like Morimoto's knives do, which get sharpened and handle sanded before very meal!
Worst case is in time, your gyuto may eventually become a nice petty! :)

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Re: The workhorse no one told me about: Sukenari ZDP

Post by cliff »

salemj wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 4:02 pm To the points above: I'd add that there are different ways and reasons for "saving" a knife. In most cases (for me), it is that I discover a knife is really good at some specific things, and not great at some others. If the knife also happens to be more delicate (a norm for my collection since I like thin edges), this means I can start to "save" knives in that I use them for specific (and often more delicate) tasks that they really excel at rather than as daily drivers. I still keep them out, and I still use them, but they become a bit more task-specific.

The irony is when I buy a knife like the Kono MM Ginsan precisely to be a daily driver, only to discover that it has special qualities that make me want to "save" it for more specific tasks. This is especially true given that the thinner and more special an edge grind, the faster it wears and the more impossible it is to "thin" to the same geometry down the road.

...
I'm curious what you save your MM for? I like my B2 MM for its versatility. It's not the thinnest, or most delicate, but it is pretty thin behind the edge. I guess I feel like mine shines on onions, to a strange degree. I never would have guessed it by looking at the profile.

I tend to reserve my Takeda for foods where release is an issue -- like potatoes -- even if plenty of knives would work. I like big, convex blades for cabbage and heavy prep sessions. My HD2 comes out for smaller jobs and delicate precision.

That said, I don't hesitate to use a 270 Watanabe on shallots if that's what I have out.
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