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Mar 6, 2011 04:33 PM

Sushi In Tokyo

My wife and I are traveling to Tokyo this June and are looking for some recommendations for sushi restaurants. We live in San Francisco and have eaten at all the "high end" places etc. That's not what we're looking for. We're looking for the best traditional sushi / omakase experience in Tokyo. Doesn't need to be anything fancy, famous or michelin starred. Just really really good fish. Basically we like all shell fish, tuna, salmon & anything else you tell us is good. Would be cool to find a place that has great Sake too. Not worried about price but am more concerned with the experience. In other words if someone came to visit us in SF we wouldn't send them to Fisherman's Wharf if that makes sense. Also going to Kyoto but can address that in a separate post.

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  1. Suggest perusing the board and using the search function with date range up to last 5 years. We've covered sushi A LOT. You're certainly not the first looking for best, traditional experience in Tokyo. Suggest having an idea of price and part of the city. You can post your research results and get fine tuned advice- similar to what you did for cocktails..... Sake is not a traditional or particularly popular accompaniment to sushi, so many places do not serve it or only have a nominal selection. I would suggest removing that from your sushi restaurant parameters.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Silverjay

      Ok good feedback. I'm not worried about price. I just don't want to end up at the biggest tourist spots in Tokyo. I know in SF the places I'd recommend are the hole in the walls where you can belly up to the bar and talk to the chefs. We're staying in Shibuya so around there would be fine. Although I don't mind traveling to another area if it's that good. No problem taking the Sake out of the equation. I'm sure I'll find somewhere else to get my sake fix.

      Thanks Silverjay!

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. ok, i'm in much the same boat as the original poster. first trip to tokyo(or japan for that matter), don't speak japanese (even tho my mother was japanese), and high-end sushi experience is limited to a trip to sushi yasuda in NYC. from researching this board, and a few dining blogs, i think we're going to tsukiji market for a sushi breakfast, a set lunch at sushi saito (tuna is my wife's favorite) and another meal at a top (michelin rated or not) sushi restaurant so we can compare. have looked at usual suspects from this board, sawada (leaning towards), daisan harumi, mizutani (squid is one of my favorites), and kyubei. any advice? is it worth the stretch to do a set dinner instead of another set lunch? while i'm asking for help, i may as well go all in and get feedback on our choices so far: seigetsu; nodaiwa (unagi- my favorite); narutomi/honmura an; menya kissou. need a yakatori rec, preferably a small hole-in-the-wall locals place that is somewhat gaijin friendly(reasonably priced is a bonus) - assuming that's not birdland? any other cheap but good eating/drinking recs for dinner would also be appreciated. thanks

        8 Replies
        1. re: yosh1

          For yakitori, Fuku is very cheap, good quality and gaijin friendly as it has an English language menu. It is located in yoyogi-uehara on the Chiyoda line; if you type "Fuku", "Tokyo" and "review" into google, you will find plenty of reviews and address details.

          In addition to beer, the staple with yakitori, they have some decent sake. They only do five sakes, but all five are very good and extremely cheap for what they are (e.g., the Kamoshibitokuheiji is around 750 yen for 1-go (180 ml), but costs between 1,200 - 2,000 yen for the same amount at other restaurants). The five sakes are all quite different from each other, they range from very dry and fairly ricey to quite fruity, viscous and sweetish.

          1. re: yosh1

            If you manage to secure a lunchtime spot at Sushi Saito, I would suggest you go for the full dinner menu - something FourSeasons recommended I do and I am very grateful to him for that.

            The lunchtime deal is good (I think 7,000 yen), but I went for the dinner menu even though it was lunchtime. It was more than worth it, because the best items at Saito were all sashimi, served before the sushi part of proceedings (the lunch deal only includes sushi). Incredible uni (two types), shirako (which i normally don't like), shiro-ebi with yuzu flakes, ankimo, karasumi - all of them world class, most of them probably the best of their type I have ever had. The sushi itself is very good, but not necessarily better than at other top sushi places.

            The price difference is big - 7,000 (or so) for lunch and 20,000 for the dinner course, but if you are visiting for the first time and presumably won't be back every month, I think it is worth spending the extra money for a unique experience.

            1. re: Asomaniac

              Fuku was on my list (i saw it on Bento and it sounded great, as did tatsukichi) but it's always reassuring to have a second positive review. as far as our sushi dining goes, we are budgeting for one high-end lunch for sure, and would like to try one other top sushi place as well, wether its for lunch or dinner kind of depends on if we were to go to an expensive kaiseki restaurant for dinner or not (tho i'm thinking that on our next visit to japan it will be to kyoto and we might wait to do that there) or perhaps something like aronia de takazawa? we are also curious about lunch at l'osier or tapas molecular bar (not sure my wife will eat japanese food for 7 days in a row lol) any thoughts? thanks

              1. re: yosh1

                You can probably cross L'Osier off your list - they are closing down on 26 March for three years, and even if you are coming to Japan before that, I would be surprised if they still have any spots left to book - they tend to be booked out 2 months in advance (though that applies to dinner - I assume lunch is the same but never tried to book lunch myself).

                Aronia is a very interesting place and I am a big fan. But if this is your first time here, consider if you don't want to use it for something properly Japanese every night. Then again, as you say, your wife may not want Japanese only, and Aronia certainly is a great alternative: it is original, does have lots of Japanese elements to it (lots of the ingredients favoured by the chef are purely japanese), and they have by a very long margin the best japanese wine selection I have ever seen. You need to understand that this means a lot more than in other countries: really good japanese wine is rare, and the vast majority of top wines are not commercially available, at least not in stores. The wine maker sells his best stuff to one or two restaurants as volumes are tiny; one of the best chardonnays I have ever had at Aronia was only produced to a volume of 800 bottles. Others have volumes of 1000-1500 tops - that is not a lot of wine for one vintage! The wine makers stay alive by producing crappy wines in bulk for, let's say, 2000-3000 yen a bottle that you can buy in wine shops, but the great stuff is rarely available. Also, back vintages tend to not be available at all. Chef Takazawa buys new vintages and ages the wines for a few years before he offers them to customers. Volumes are so low that the wine makers do not keep anything back that they sell at any point in time. they sell the whole lot when it is released to one or two buyers and may keep a few bottles back for themselves.

                Chef Takazawa has very good relationships with many wine makers. He even organised a trip for my wife's birthday to our favourite Japanese wine maker (who does not normally do tours or similar for visitors).

                To avoid a nasty surprise, do bear in mind that Aronia is expensive . The three courses they do are 16K, 20K and 24K, and they also add 5% consumption tax to that, plus 10% service charge. The wines are also expensive at 10K-20K. Many are world class (especially the chardonnays; the koshus are hit and miss while there are some excellent reds (Merlot does particularly well here)), but many of the reds are a bit weak and overall not worth the price tag - stick to chardonnay (unless you hate the grape variety) as it does better here than any other grape varieties (with the exception of the nearly-indigenous koshu grape - it originally came from China, but that is many centuries ago, it is obviously suited relatively well to local growing conditions, at least in comparison to other grape varieties, but it does produce many very disappoining wines).

                Tapas Molecular bar - I am always hesitant about this one. I doubt it is in any way different from similar type places anywhere in the world so personally, that would not be one of my choices if I was in japan for the first time. But it is an interesting place, so if that sort of thing is something you are keen to try, why not? They do not do lunch as far as i know; they do two sittings at dinner, one at 6:30 (or maybe 6?) and one at 8:30. My information may be outdated though, perhaps they have started doing lunch. In any event, seating is very limited (it was 7 seats when i went a few years ago), so book early.

                A cheap but top quality sushi alternative is the often-mentioned Daisan Harumi on Saturdays. Many top sushi restaurants do cheap lunch options, but it is very rare that there is a cheap dinner option as well - DSH does Saturday dinner for 7,000 yen (or 10,000 if you go for more pieces). That is unusual.

                1. re: Asomaniac

                  we are arriving on march 28th so i guess l'osier is not happening. as far as tapas molecular bar, we had a reservation for easter sunday at alinea, and while that is going to have to be pushed back due to our japan trip, we are going to go there so i see your point about choosing more "japan-specific". i've read a bit about daisan harumi on this board, but most of the praise seems to be for mr nagayama during the week. so if you were me, and you had to pick any two sushi restaurants considering anything at this level is going to be leagues better than i've experienced before, either both for lunch or one lunch and one dinner, what would you choose, factoring in being able to get a reservation within 3 weeks and a 20000 yen pp limit on the dinner (less so for the lunch)?
                  PS sorry to be such a pain but this is something my wife and i really want to experience. we've eaten at 3* french restaurants in france and the US (we're Canadian), but there seems to be something almost elemental about sushi, satisfying like an exemplary steak but with much more subtlety. without completely overblowing the whole thing, which unfortunately i probably have, this is a chance for us to experience something under normal circumstances we can't and since there are lots of other places to visit(and foods to try), aren't sure when we'll get a chance to again.

                  1. re: yosh1


                    Any sushi place you refer in your original post is better than Sushi Yasuda in NYC. They are all very highly regarded in Tokyo.

                    Each high end sushi chef has his own style. You need to tell us what your preference is. Focus more on fish? Rice? Varieties? Traditional? Modern? What is your maximum budget?

                    Sorry to tell you this but if you have not made any reservation yet for March 28-31, you are unlikely to get any seat at Saitou, Sawada and Mizutani. These 3 places are hard to book, and your only chance is if some guests made cancellation. If you are still in Tokyo on April 1st, please quickly place a booking on March 1st, the first day for bookiing on April for Saitou and Sawada. Mizutani is usually booked 2 months in advanced. Good luck!

                    1. re: yosh1

                      Saito has seven seats total. You will only get a reservation if someone drops out. Ditto, as FourSeasons says, for Mizutani (who has around 10 seats total).

                      I would wager than Daisan Harumi on a Saturday will probably be far superior to Sushi Yasuda. If you have not been through top end sushi experiences before, do you think that you could taste much of a difference between DSH on a Saturday and Mizutani on a weekday? I have taken a number of first time guests to Japan to DSH on a Saturday; without exception, they thought it was the best sushi they had ever had. Maybe they would feel differently about individual items if they had had the benefit of many comparisons with other top places, but they had not, and it was a lot better than anything they had had outside of Japan.

                      In the end DSH on a Saturday may be your only option among the group you have identified anyway, because they might all be fully booked.

                      BTW, quite a few people seem to think that Kyubei is overrated and -priced. I have no opinion on this as I have not been, but maybe something to bear in mind.

                      1. re: yosh1

                        Note if you dont speak Japanese that Mizutani and Sawada only accept reservations through Japanese hotel/ concierge services. So calling them directly is of little value.

              2. I lived in Tokyo for a year and if you want a great yakitori experience, I suggest heading over to Ginza, on the south side, under the train tracks, in a tunnel, close to the Godzilla statue, there is a great hole in the wall (or hole under the train track in a tunnel) yakitori place! Maybe someone can provide more details, I don't remember the name or exact location but I could find it drunk. :) It is on the right hand side of the tunnel as you are walking under the train tracks heading east. Small tables and stools, lively group, always crowded and a bit rowdy. Ice cold beer. Very friendly!

                You could also head to "Piss Alley" just south and sort of attached to Shinjuku station. It was the inspiration for Blade Runner street scenes and full of yakitori bars.

                "Shomben Yokocho ("Piss Alley") -
                Not as the name suggests, "Piss Alley" is in fact a collection of ramshackle huts and restaurants located between the train tracks and the side of the Odakyu Department store. In 1999 when a fire broke out in a ramen shop, the area was almost completely destroyed. Now however it's been re-built, and as the character has been retained, at night it still remains one of the city's most atmospheric places to wander."

                Have fun! I miss Japan SO much.

                2 Replies
                1. re: blueclaw666

                  ...though you go to Piss Alley for the atmosphere, but not for the quality of the yakitori.

                  The same applies to most under the track places, though the one you refer to might be an exception - I have not been to such places in Ginza. In Yurakucho (very close to Ginza), there are maybe 40 places under the tracks, it's a little yakitori under-track town, the atmosphere is great (if you are willing to have little personal space and chat with your drunk neighbour you have just met - I think it's great fun but it's not necessarily everyone's thing). However, the yakitori quality ranges from very poor to barely average. (There may be a few exceptions I have not tried, but on the whole, that's the picture.)

                  1. re: Asomaniac

                    one of the guide books mentions grills under the tracks and we're all over that kind of thing (although they didn't refer to it as "piss alley "). since it doesn't look like i'm going to get in to one of the higher-end sushi places barring a last-minute cancellation, can anyone recommend somewhere memorable to go that we'd actually be able to get in to? i've e-mailed aronia with no response yet so i don't have a lot of hope there, and i'm going to guess ryugin is probably going to be just as difficult...and while joel robuchon was the best restaurant i've ever been too, just about every world-class city has a corresponding world-class french restaurant, we'd like this to be "an only in japan" event. Thoughts?

                2. How lucky you are. Getting back to your original question - sushi in Tokyo - I can recommend two places I consider very very good, where I have eaten on many occasions. I was introduced to them by professional japanese cooks.

                  UMI is owned and run by Mitsuyasu Nagano. Booking for June should still be easy. Make sure somebody makes the call for you. 03-3401 3368. It seats ten at the counter and two very very narrow tables. They do dinner only and offer just a fixed choice - before drinks this will be 22.000 yen per person. (Do not be fooled by fashion or received wisdom: it is fine to drink cold sake with the starters. As soon as rice is served you switch to bear or tea.) What sets this place apart from the rest is the selection of the fish and the seasoning of the rice.
                  Getting there is easy with

                  KARAKU in Ginza is very good too. It is a little less expensive simply because it has no Michelin rating - yet? English is spoken here, they do lunch but the full sequence is what you want for dinner. They have a counter and a private room.
                  Not easy to find as it is in a basement of the high fashion district. Directions are here

                  The other notable sushi-ya's in this post are all reputable and high class, but very few, I believe, justify the extra 10 to 15.000 yen they will cost per person.

                  Have a nice trip.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: hblnk

                    I've always wanted to try Umi, especially since I used to live five minutes down the road from it, but the forbidding black door and no sign outside has always sent the wrong vibes. But next on my list.