You may know Tokyo as the city with the most number of Michelin-star rated restaurants, but did you know that Tokyo also accounts for approximately one-fifth of the total number of sushi restaurants (more affectionately known as sushi-ya’s) in Japan?
This week, forget the mediocre conveyor belt-quality sushi and delve into a more intimate ‘haute sushi’ experience. Most of you have probably already heard of the legendary Sukiyabashi Jiro from the film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, but he’s far from the only premier sushi chef in town. We tackle the hard task of narrowing down the top five sushi-ya’s in the city of neon lights so that you won’t have to.
A word of advice: premium sushi-ya’s are typically very expensive, relatively hard to locate, and notoriously difficult to bag a reservation, so be prepared to book months in advance. The experience however, will probably change your perception of sushi forever.
Here are the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo:
Listed as number 27 on Asia’s Top 50 Best Restaurants in 2013, the ten-seater restaurant leans on the more traditional side with its plain, barely-decorated interior. The main feature is the long wooden counter over which Mr. Mizutani presents his sushi.
Helmed by him and his wife, expect a quiet atmosphere; but really there’s no need for talk when you can watch Mr. Mizutani’s skilled hands masterfully crafting each creation. The abalone nigiri and fatty blue fin tuna is the standout creation.
Juno Ginza Seiwa Building 9F, 8-7-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, +81 3 3573 5258; Open Mon – Sat 11.30 am – 1.30 pm and 5 pm – 9.30 pm.
For a more informal atmosphere and a place where you can order ala-carte dishes, Kyubey Sushi is our top pick. It’s extremely popular, as evidenced by its expansion throughout the years, but the quality of fish has not been compromised at all. Most importantly, their prices (while still expensive) are not as exorbitant as other premium sushi-ya’s.
They’re also said to be the pioneer of gunkan-maki; seaweed-wrapped rice with seafood such as roe and sea urchin on top. Try their relatively affordable omakase lunch, which features the chef’s choice set menu.
8-7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku +81 3-3571-6523.
Tucked away in a carpark in Akasaka with only six seats, this is probably as tiny and exclusive a sushi-ya as you can get. Chef Takashi Saito experiments with stronger flavoured shari (rice) by adding more salt and red vinegar, and he is also one of the friendlier, English-speaking sushi masters around, creating a very relaxed atmosphere. His restaurant is ranked number one on Tablelog, the leading Japanese restaurant guide, and one of the three sushi restaurants holding three Michelin stars (the other two belonging to Sushi Mizutani and Sukiyabashi Jiro) in Tokyo. Standouts on the menu include the otoro nigiri and uni nigiri.
Sushi Saito, 1-9-15 Akasaka, Minato-ku; +81 (0) 3 3589 4412; Open Mon – Sat noon – 2 pm and 5 pm -11 pm, closed on Sundays and some national holidays.
The best and freshest fish in Tokyo comes from the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market, so there is certainly no lack of sushi restaurants there. But the one with the longest lines is Sushi Dai, where waiting times can reach up to three hours.
This is one of the rare few sushi-ya’s that don’t work based on reservations, and it’s a great spot for breakfast, albeit an extremely early one. It may not possess the same finesse as the higher-end restaurants, but you still get exceptional quality for a fraction of the cost.
Sushi Dai, 6-21-2 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku; +81 (0) 3 3541 3738; Open Mon-Sat 10:30 am -5 am, Sunday and holidays 11 am -10 pm.
Sawada is often mentioned along with the three Michelin star heavyweights, and with good reason. His sushi is just as exquisite. He’s also notably more creative with the art of sushi and personally handpicks the fish every morning at Tsujiki Fish Market.
His specialty lies in cooking fish by holding charcoal stones over them rather than placing them on a gas-lit grill, so look out for the lightly smoked toro. It’s an added bonus that the husband and wife team are welcoming and warm.
MC Blg, 3/F, 5-9-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, +81 (0) 3 3571 4711.