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Oct 1, 2008 09:25 AM

3 star sushi in Tokyo-worth it?

We are going to be in Tokyo next month adn are looking at doing at least one top end sushi meal. Options being considered are; Sukibayashi Jiro, Sawada, Sushi Mizutani. Anyone have opinions as to whether they are sufficiently better than the shops at the fish market to warrant spending the bucks? I'm definitely not averse to spending for good food and a unique experience, but don't care to waste it just for the cachet of saying I was there. Also, if anyone has been recently, what can I expect in the way of cost for omakase at any of these? thanks for all input.

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  1. It is worth the money, but if you are coming next month, you should make your reservation quickly. Dinner may already be booked out. To give you an indication, I tried to book Mizutani lunch on 1 September for 25 October (a Saturday). It was already booked out. I settled for a lunch on a weekday in October.

    Mizutani does the same lunch as dinner (and is there himself at all times), I am not sure about the others. Omakase will probably cost you around 20,000 Yen. I think someone has written a detailed review of Mizutani here on chowhound. Just search for "Mizutani" and take a look. It will give you an idea of how much sushi you will get in your omakase, and what people thought of the quality.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Asomaniac

      asomaniac.. i would like to know what do people usually drink with their sushi in high end sushi ya's... is it appropriate to drink just o cha alone?? do they have different grades of tea??

      1. re: Lucil


        If you want something non-alcoholic, go for the ocha. I don't think they tend to have any different grades, but I may be wrong. Whenever I went with people who ordered ocha, they never got asked what grade they wanted, but were simply served normal green tea.

        Alcohol-wise, the best drink by far is sake. My preference is something really pure, like a junmai daiginjoushu (if you are not that familiar with sake: junmai means that it is only made of rice, water and koji mould (yeast mixture), nothing else added, daiginjoushu implies more than 40% of the rice having been polished away (i.e., less than 60% is left)).

        It is by no means necessary to have that sort of type though (and in any event, depending on who made the sake, a less 'pure' sake may actually taste a lot purer than some nominally 'pure' sake). Any good cold sake is better in my view than any other alcohol.

        Beer does not work well, even though many people seem to order it with sushi. Other posters here may disagree with me on the beer front. I personally - though I do love beer - think that it destroys some of the flavours of the fish.

        An alternative is wine. The best wine with sushi is, as far as I am concerned, champagne (blanc de blancs as opposed to any champagne containing Pinot Noir). Unoaked chardonnay (something minerally like a Chablis for example) is also good. Other dry, unoaked wines might qualify also, although I would strongly recommend not to drink Riesling with sushi. With simple maguro, a subtle Pinot Noir would be OK (but not with chuutoro and ootoro, and also not with white fleshed fish).

        The whole wine thing is a relatively recent fashion (at least that is my impression; there are now some high end sushi places where you can get the chef to match your sushi with wine, which I believe did not use to be the case). I think a lot of sushi chefs would still disapprove, and in any event, sake is a far better match. Having said that, a lot of foreign guests just do not like the flavour of sake, and if you don't, but still want an alcoholic drink rather than just ocha, champagne or an appropriate white wine is a good bet if it is available. Some other people might recommend beer to you. As I said, that would not be my choice, but clearly it works for many others.

        1. re: Asomaniac

          Beer is the perfect accompaniment to sushi and I'm confident, the overwhelmingly most popular in Japan. Crisp, cold, refreshing, slight bitterness to wash across the palate. I don't buy that "destroys the flavor of fish" stuff. People throw that expression around on this site all the time. Wine or champagne somehow makes it across the palate without destroying the flavor of fish? If it's your personal preference fine, but the question is what do people usually drink at high end sushi places and it's not unoaked chardonnay.

          Although served at sushi shops, sake is traditionally NOT actually drunk WITH sushi or other rice dishes. This is precisely because it is made from rice. It's not a hard and fast rule like red wine with meat/ white with fish, but it carries a similar cultural conventional wisdom. People usually drink sake with sashimi appetizer or after the sushi. Many high end places will not have anything more than a nominal sake selection. Again, not a hard and fast rule. Regardless, sipping sake between nigiri may draw the disdain of a grumpy itamae. I've had friends talked out of ordering sake by itamae because of this.

          When I was at Mizutani this summer, I was the only male in the place not quaffing down beer or shochu. I just drank chilled mugi-cha.

          1. re: Silverjay

            As yuo can see if you read my post, I didn't say people drink unoaked chardonnay at high end places. Lots of sushi chefs would not like it (and more importantly, not even sell it so the option would not arise, although some places now do offer it which didn't use to be the case).

            I have also said that many people will not agree with me on the beer front and many do order beer, but I personally do not like it because it does destroy the flavour of the fish in my view (of some fish - fine with fattier fish, but the hops attack the delicate fish; I don't think the bitterness and sometimes slightly metallic flavour works with all fish).

            Champagne and unoaked, subtle chardonnay to me works better than the bitterness of the beer (if I was forced to choose between the two - since I am not, I choose sake) with things like ika or white fleshed fish.

            When I was at Mizutani last week, the couple next to us had sake, a single business man had beer, two or three people had tea and I didn't catch what everyone on the other length of the counter had. It was a weekday lunch; I don't know if more people tend to have alcohol in the evening as I have have never been then.

            1. re: Asomaniac

              The hop profile of Japanese beer is mild and most are characterized by their maltiness and /or refreshingness. Japanese beers smell like hops more than they taste like hops. I share the popular sentiment in Japan that beer goes GREAT with sushi and sashimi. I don't really find the idea of sake/ wine pairing with individual sushi items appealing and I'm skeptical that it will take in Japan over the long run. It sounds like psuedo-connaisseurship. Though, clearly, wine is experiencing a boom in Japan these days. But I'm disappointed that my experience at sushi places hasn't afforded me the opportunity to witness people trying to order unoaked, subtle chardonnay, diet coke, just tamago-yaki, or sushi to go. I love those awkward, wacky cultural juxtaposition moments and the reactions of these stoic artisan old-timer sushi chefs.

              1. re: Silverjay

                I'm not a big fan of beer in general but really really really enjoy Echigo beer from Niigata (using Koshihikari rice) for being such a light and refreshing tasting brew (the least amount of bitterness I've had, then again compared to the likes of Tsing Tao, German drafts and commercial US watered down smelly brewskis etc) and would imagine the Echigo would go well with a good sushi meal, although I'd probably hit the gari and tea during the white fish portions first before diving into the beer, or alternate.

                1. re: K K

                  I've never had Echigo, but know of it. I just find it interesting that the bitterness of beer would be an issue considering both green tea and oolong tea are many times more bitter than Japanese macro-brews. I've never heard anyone in Japan tip-toeing around each sushi item making sure they don't wash it down with the wrong beverage. You order a beer, you eat . You achieve bliss. That said, I'll never forget a question from a Japanese co-worker many years ago. She asked, already starting to giggle- Is it true that Americans drink coke when they eat sushi? To which, feeling slightly defensive, I replied- Is it true Japanese put mayonnaise on pizza? "Yeah, what's wrong with that?!? she blurted back.

                  1. re: K K

                    Hi K K,

                    Koshihikari Echigo is one of my favorites as well! :) Wonderful beer, and still pretty rare in the States.

              2. re: Silverjay

                Beer does not work well? Perhaps Asomaniac means he doesn't like beer. Siverjay knows what he is talking about here, beer works best with the flavors involved, some people drink sake in spite of the rice on rice stigma, and wine; well you can match wine with sushi, but it's the same as a poodle walking on its hind legs, it can be done; but not very well.

        2. Just go here:
          It's Sushi Dai in Tsukiji. None of the Michelin star things. But it is the best in Tsukiji and expect to stand in line for 3 hours if you go around 9am on a weekend. Even when I went there at 8am on a Friday morning, i was in line for 1 hour. They open at 5am and I've been told people stand in line for the open. No Michelin stars, but does a shitty restaurant have a 3 hour wait consistently? The omakase here is about 3500 yen. Cant remember the exact price. But it is around there.

          1 Reply
          1. re: juunbug25

            we are clearly not talking of the same league here...
            if you want to know what a real sushi is, go to one of the 3 mentioned.

          2. Unless you're fluent in Japanese I'd strongly recommend looking for a place where they speak English. (Perhaps ask your concierge, or try a hotel branch of one of the famous sushi shops, or the Roppongi branch of Sukiyabashi Jiro.) A big part of the experience at a high-end sushi shop is simply talking with the chef and listening as he talks and jokes with the other customers.

            1. We've removed the contentious exchanges in this discussion. Please post and let post, allowing others to have their say. Rate the chow, not the Chowhound. This is supposed to be fun!

              Thanks, everyone.

              1. Hi, Jiro is a no-go from what I heard : it is probably good but I don't see how one can appreciate a sushi in 30 minutes time. I went to the branch they have in Roppongi Hills, and it was clearly of highest quality, but I actually prefered Sawada.

                Mizutani has a long waiting list, and you should make sure a japanese person reserves for you. I did not go myself but heard only good thing.

                Now Sawada I completely recommend. It is a terrfic place. Forget about what you think you know about sushi : that is sushi. the fish are not just "fresh" but grown to maturity, the meal is a true feast. Sawada is also booked in advance (>1month) and is quite expensive (i think 400usd), but worth it I think.

                Another place of excellent quality is Hatsune-zushi, aussi 2 etoiles michelin.
                Not being in Ginza, there is less affluence and prices are more reasonnable (150usd).
                The quality is definitey here though, just like in the 3 others : all of them have fantastic quality.

                My advice is to go to all of them, so that you can compare and tell us what you think !

                1 Reply
                1. re: nrolland

                  Sukiyabashi Jiro, as I understand, it is a alternative sequence. They are present on the moment. I did already my sushi monopoly a bit... and still on it.