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High End Sushi in Tokyo (or should I stick with Sawada?)

I am going to Tokyo again in February and I would like to know if anyone has any strong opinions about high-end Sushi. Last time I was there I had the privilege of eating at Sawada which was amazing. The husband and wife team, the food, the ambiance - everything was top notch.

I am interested in other places that compare (or ideally people think are better and why)... Any advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks!

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  1. In terms of quality, variety, and experience, it's tough to beat Sawada. Of the dozen or so high-end sushi places I've visited over my various trips to Tokyo, it's still tops. Heading to Tokyo in late Jan to early February and have Taku and Harutaka on the dining schedule. Will report back soon.

    1. Oh and hey there fellow Vancouverite.

      49 Replies
      1. re: BaronDestructo

        Sometimes you want to be surprised, you want to discover new taste, you want to have new food combinations... and sometimes you might crave to access some rare beauty pieces... Ephemera beauty pieces, for me, are to be found at sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza. I can 't recommend enough this place. 
        On looking back at your experiences, likes sushi Sawada, I would suggest you to try the new 3 star sushi Yoshitake in Ginza. Fair enough, the counter is small, and seating unfortunately tight. But the chef is very friendly, well connected to the other chefs, such as Ryugin's ... At Yoshitake, the sauce (Japanese sauce) are more complex that you would imagine. An I am not speaking only about the tsume. For ex., 'katuso' (=bonito) was smoked just at the last minute on 'wara' (=straw) with a home made ponsu sauce, reduction of 'kaori abura' (=oil marinated with ginger)... soo good. Amadai was served with a sauce made from bones of fishes, and reduction of irizake...
        Ok, it is more than sushi... first impression is that was really an appropriate context between the culinary and sushi.,

        1. re: Ninisix

          Thanks for the advice so far. I have heard great things about Sukiyabashi Jiro as well as Kyuubei (which is enticing because I understand that you can order A-la-Carte...

          So what would choose between Sawada and the two others mentioned above?

          1. re: talker32

            Sushi Kyubei in Ginza is a 5 floor sushi, big, business like. Other sushi-yasan refer it as ''ruled by the bank'.  Its style is too impersonal in my opinion. Well, for a lunch, it is ok, and it will be around 3000.-yens.
            Sushi Sawada, if I understand, you've liked it. It is a good and different image of sushi, not westerners image have of it. Menu omakase won't change a lot, but if you like to have the same thing because you are lost in all the details, that will be enjoyable...
            Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiroo Ginza, there is the 'in' if you can be humble and follow some of the rules (see below), and you will be 'out' if you can not enjoy it.. Only omakase, at 30,000.-yens (with tax31500), to be paid in cash, only nigiris, only one piece per piece tempo on time, only the watch... 
            After that, don't compare the price at Sawada, and Sukiyabashi Jiro, they are just the same. The quantity/price might be perceivably more at Sawada, but Sukiyabashi Jiro is not a sushi like the others, the key there is pieces full of savour.. But granted, it seems more difficult for some to enjoy..

            1. re: Ninisix

              After that, if you want some more affordable high-end sushi, say 14,000.-yens, try the sushi Taichi in Ginza or sushi Kozasa in Shibuya(from Shibuya take a taxi with a good GPS, it will cost 1000.-yens)... Hope to hear from you soon, as to respond better...

              1. re: Ninisix

                Thanks Ninsix. I also like the thought of doing something in terms of lower price but still nice and intimate. Does Taichi have only Omakase or can I order A La Carte?

                1. re: talker32

                  With the omakase at Sushi Taichi, the chef will at first serve you some fine sashimi, then, before proceeding, will ask what you dislike. So just tell him that you want more 'tsumami' than nigiri, for exemple to take your time tasting different 'chi-sake(=regional blend sake)' with some 'hirame(=flounder)', 'tako(=octopus)', 'tai no kimo sauce(=sea bream with the liver sauce)', 'komochi ika(=squid full of eggs)',...
                  One of my all time favourites is maguro. I just heard that Sushi Araki, whose course is for half  maguro, spend 22million yens on a year for just 'maguro(=tuna)' !!! Of course, such amounts have to be passed onto the customers ... So, Okonomi style(=a la carte), is for connoisseurs of the 'jika(price of seasonnals)' and regular of places. After, there some crazy places that do this, but I can not recommend. For example, avoid sushi Matoi (sushi of the stars), price can easily climb to 40,000~50,000.-yens...

          2. re: Ninisix

            Hi Ninisix,
            would you say that Yoshitake is better than Sawada in terms of 'more than sushi' (smoking, marinades, sauces, etc.)? We'd really like to try that kind of sushi when we're in tokyo...

            1. re: MattR

              It is your first time sushi in Tokyo, right ? So, go to Sawada-san, he will want you to fully taste the ingredients. You can expect some big pieces of abalone, variety of uni,... your 2 and half hours with him will be easier, as he will act to show his work mostly in front of you. Yoshitake, in my opinion, do some more complex arrangements, in fact very subtle... half cooked, raw and half nigiri.... After that, dinner 'omakase' at Yoshitake is at 21,000.-yens, where Sawada is at 35,000.-yens (price went up). Quantity will be more generous at Sawada, but with the omakase at 21,000.- at Yoshitake you can make on another good story dinner at a high end Japanese ... your choice.

              1. re: Ninisix

                Hi thanks for the reply. No it's not the first time but the previous one I had sushi in cheap-ish places. I don't mind the 'more complex arrangements', but from the few pics I find on the web it looks like very little of it is sushi/sashimi and more courses are closer to a kaiseki meal. Is this correct? What ratio of bites would you say is classic sushi sashimi omakase vs more complex dishes at yoshitake? thanks again

                1. re: MattR

                  Complex was, for exemple, his "saba sushi(=mackerel sushi)", usually saba sushi works with sweetened shari(=rice), so he had to adjust his shari(red vinegar &salt) with kampyo, midori aoba, myoga... and so tasty...After on last December, I have had for 'otsumami' :
                  Crab, with sea urchin, jelly of gaiko(=outer crab eggs stomach)
                  Chawanmushi of ikura(salmon roe)
                  Amadai with the irizake reduction, and fish bone extract sauce
                  Magurozuke (cube of tuna marinated with soy sauce)..
                  Katsuo smoke on wara(bonito smoke on straw) with a sauce made with ponsu, sake, mirin, aroma oil, ginger..
                  Ankimo(lever of monkerfish) boiled in 'akasake'(red and regional sake)
                  followed by 12 little piece of nigiri, plus the saba-sushi and one bite of omelet...
                  'katsuo', 'amadai sashimi', 'magurozuke' are classic in sushi-yasan, but in my opinion, the  model  is different between each sushi fan... so in this opposed bites between simple nigiri and complex i say the dominance is on sushi, as just expect, in spring, the chef to give you some irregular/unknown pieces..

                  1. re: Ninisix

                    thank you ninisix, very informative as usual. One last question. Is it customary to ask to 'expand' the menu at Yoshitake, i.e. pay more and also get more?

                    1. re: MattR

                      Nope, there is only one 'omakase', so you will have to ask for supplement pieces as i did(less than 1,500.-yens per piece), or ask for what you want in particular. For exemple, as maguro is always included in the course, and really high quality in Ginza sushi-yasan, it can be a '5 maguro nigiris (zuke, akami, chutoro, otoro,tekkamaki)?'...This kind of special order will be welcome.

                      1. re: Ninisix

                        Re supplement, did you ask for pieces that was already included in the omakase orr, did you specifically ask for special items that are not included in the omakase?
                        I would love to try your 5 maguro nigiris special order, but how could a non-Japanese speaking diner be able to make such special order?
                        Thx. I will be trying Yoshitake next week, having failed to secure booking at Sawada and Mizutani.

                        1. re: CWFOODIE

                          a little precision for your omakase special maguro course (if you are after that): at the beginning of the omakase, just ask to taste it also as nigiri some 'zuke', then add a 'tekkamaki'.. Speak frankly to the chef Yoshitake-San, he understands English..

                          1. re: Ninisix

                            In fact, to simplify, just say that you want five different tastes of 'maguro(tuna)' instead of three, including 'zuke' 'akami'  'chuutoro' 'ootoro' 'tekkamaki'.. Translated in Japanese, it will be 'mitsu no maguro no nigiri o itsutsu ni shite kudasai : zuke..' 

                            1. re: Ninisix

                              Has anyone been to Sushi Umi. Is it difficult to book? I heard it boasts some of the best and imaginative ingredients.

                              1. re: CWFOODIE

                                Re Sushi Umi: Difficult to book. And they insist at least one person in the booking party has to speak fluent Japanese.

                                1. re: FourSeasons

                                  Yet! I didn't have the chance to try it, though his omakase is very reasonable under 20,000.-yens (with tsumami). This sushi-yasan seems to have also a strong flavour shari (rice base), as the use of red vinegar.. And, usually it is two weeks queue, the chef on the phone is a bit difficult to understand in his way of expressing energy !! So it might be difficult to book it by yourself. 

                            2. re: Ninisix

                              Ninisix I need your help. You were very helpful the last time I went to Japan regarding your advice on a sushi restaurant and I would love your help again.

                              Here is the situation.. I am going to Japan March 20-22nd with my 9 year old son and I need a great place to go for sushi. I have been to Sawada and Taichi but I am thinking about somewhere else with the following challenges:

                              1-) My son doesn't like all kinds of fish so I think that it is better for us to order a-la-carte as opposed to Omakase.

                              2-) We have an opening for dinner on March 20th but I understand that this is a national holiday (does this mean that most places will be closed)?

                              3-) I love great sushi (especially Toro and Uni) so I really don't want just normal stuff - I want something great.

                              I know that this might be a difficult task but I thought that if anyone can help me it would be you ;-).

                              Thanks in advance.

                              Regards,

                              Jonathan

                              1. re: talker32

                                That's OK ! Children under 12-14 are not easily accepted in high-end sushi-yasan, sushi Ikkyu in the 4th floor of Barney's Ginza does, and is open on holidays, but unfortunately closed Wednesdays.. This sushi is a parent sister of 'sushi-ko honten' Ginza, more affordable, still expensive.. I highly recommend you to fix the price, for exemple, 10,000yens and they will arrange with the possible choices. Don't choose the diner set with wine, go for the nigiri only, and order pieces supplement.. just remember that the best maguro pieces are around 2000per piece.. After 2 ranks down, you have sushi Manten in the basement of Marunouchi Square, price is very affordable, you won't have to worry about the price, but the quality of the tuna won't be the same, last time i have had two samples of sea urchin.. 

                                1. re: Ninisix

                                  Thanks for this. Sushi-Ko Honten sounds great. Do you know if they are open on Wednesday March 20th?

                                  Thanks!

                                  1. re: talker32

                                    Yes, Sushiko Honten Ginza is open on March 20th, and they do accept children, estimate cost 20,000yens/pp

                              2. re: Ninisix

                                Hello Ninisix, I have been researching your posts in preparation for my trip to Japan in end of Sept. Very helpful, thank you.

                                I have question for your expertise based on this Yoshitake message: for the price, is the standard Omakase quantity enough in your opinion?

                                I am working with my concierge to make reservations at these 3 for end of Sept.: Sushi Saito, Sushishio Masa, and Yoshitake.

                                Concierge has not responded yet, but she said initially when I made request last week that Sushi Saito is almost impossible/line always busy. She gave no comment on Yoshitake and Sushisho Masa.

                                We only want to do 1 large omakase, so we want best quality + best value. Sushisho Masa looks like very large quantity and variety vs. Yoshitake, for similiar price?

                                If we get no reservation at any 3, what other sushi restaurants you recommend for best quality but also good quantity, since we are only doing 1 high-end sushi dinner. Thank you very much.

                        2. re: Ninisix

                          Does Yoshitake also offer a lunch menu? I've been leaning toward Sushi Taichi since you seem to like it better than Sushi Kanesaka (which we tried last year in October and thought was wonderful). I've been reading a lot of good things about Yoshitake as well so I wanted to get your opinion of Yoshitake vs Taichi. We are all English speakers and have a little bit of knowledge about the names of the neta because I bought the book from the Daisan Harumi chef.

                          1. re: miltronix

                            No. It does not serve lunch. For lunch, I would recommend Sushi Iwa.

                            1. re: CWFOODIE

                              ok, you seem to love sushi as i do ! So, at first, I didn't feel any need to post after the reply of Chowmouse.. I do looove sushi Iwa, I actually enjoyed sushi Iwa even more..
                              Now, many, as myself, want to pay less. Hence the omakase, for those who choose no risk, especially as the supplement pieces at sushi Iwa are at about 1500 yens to 2000 yens per pieces. If you want cheaper, possibly a full course at lunch, sushi Taichi first price is at 8400,yens..

                      2. re: Ninisix

                        Hi Ninisix, at Sawada, is it possible to order some extra pieces at the end of the meal? If I wanted more Otoro no aburi, would that be difficult for Koji San since he and his wife are the only people working. Haha. I can't wait.

                        1. re: palatism

                          Yes, you can add in you classic menu (sashimi+nigiri) an option, but you will have to ask it at the beginning as the chef will have to manage his menu. Usually, the menu includes some big cut of 'toro' roasted in the corner, and served as sashimi,.. so in my opinion a supplement piece is possible.

                          1. re: Ninisix

                            But let's say after the meal, I'd like some other pieces that are not otoro no aburi, it should be fine right?

                            1. re: palatism

                              Yes, as long as the neta(fish) is on the menu.. but you will have to add supplement !

                              1. re: Ninisix

                                Right. Got it!! Thank you very much.

                                Have you been to Sushisho Masa in Nishi Azabu neighborhood? What do you think?

                                1. re: palatism

                                  No, I do not appreciate sushi 'sho' style that much.

                                  1. re: Ninisix

                                    Okay.

                                    I'm looking for two more sushi joints: Mizutani, Yoshitake, Harutaka, Oono, or Kanesaka?

                                    What do you think?

                                    1. re: palatism

                                      Sushi Harutaka, sushi Yoshitake, are very different, I did enjoyed both.. Well, there is others sushi, sushi without stars, why not a high end like sushi Taichi ?

                                      1. re: Ninisix

                                        Thank you Ninisix! :) can't wait!!

                                        1. re: Ninisix

                                          Hi Ninisix,
                                          I will be back in Tokyo at the end of March. I went to Iwa for lunch following your recommendation 2 years ago and loved it. Is there any other you recommend for lunch or should I stick with Iwa? thanks!

                                          1. re: MattR

                                            If you are confident you can manage without English, you can try sushi Shimizu, at lunch it is more accessible !
                                            http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1301/A13010...

                                            1. re: Ninisix

                                              I am curious about what needs to be managed in Japanese to eat at a quality sushi-ya as it seems to be important for some sushi chefs and posters here sometime place more emphasis on having Japanese language skills than at other types of restaurants.

                                              We don't typically eat at high end sushi places, sticking to washoku and other dishes. We don't speak any japanese and have never had a problem as long as a) the concierge or a friend books and b) is able to confirm the course and price ahead of time (or an approximate range).

                                              Typically, we arrive, sit down, are shown a drinks menu where we ask for a particular section (sake, beer etc) and point to one based on price, are served the meal, and are then presented with the bill.

                                              Aside from the fact that drink selections are shots in the dark and that it is hard to order additional outside the course, where would Japanese be needed and is it different in the sushi-ya that are regularly discussed here? We have been to places like Sushi Namba in Ogikubo using the same approach and had no problems.

                                              Obviously, allergies can present a problem but if they are not severe, a card or note from the concierge usually works.

                                              1. re: tigerjohn

                                                Sometimes it is nice to know what you are eating. Also, if you are able to communicate, the chef could suggest things that you may want to try based on what you've eaten so far and what you like or not.

                                                1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                  I should have mentioned that the only place where I have some japanese language skills is in food words. Typically I can understand ingredients which are being served. I can see how without that it would be less enjoyable. Sometimes chefs go out of their way to communicate this though asking other guests to look up words on cell phones. One place we went to had never had a foreigner dine there without a japanese speaker and contacted a cousin who spoke english and she typed up a description of the ingredients and process for each course for the night we dined.

                                                  It would be an advantage to receive suggestions from the chef. Aside from that though, the meals can still be enjoyed.

                                                  I have never encountered a situation where the restaurant refuses guests who do not have at least one japanese speaker and yet this seems to be somewhat common, particularly among sushi-ya. Perhaps these restaurants get more foreigners and have had problems in the past.

                                                  1. re: tigerjohn

                                                    A good experience is half-half, with one half coming from yourself... There are still some sushi out there for non fluent speakers, like sushi-sho - who might choose the day for you to reserve, or sushi Saito - who speaks fluently English ... and is fully booked. And well, some who prefers their regulars, where the chef chose to manage his image as small/local place. Image is important ... The counter is very small at sushi Shimizu, there is some panel behind the counter that is written in Japanese that only sushi aficionados know about.. I actually understand chef that will refuse and speak frankly they won't explain in English ! Things like this change the ambiance of a small counter, if you go to sushi Shimizu, just choose the omakase at 8500yens that will give you a series of good nigiri.

                                                    1. re: Ninisix

                                                      I agree it can change the ambiance at the counter. There are some restaurants which are so small we wouldn't want to take more than just the two of us as having 4 out of 6 or 7 non-Japanese speaking does change the experience. I am sure that just 2 changes it as well and I wouldn't necessarily blame a chef for wanting to maintain a particular ambiance. I only say that the experience can be enjoyed whether one speaks Japanese or not, as we have experienced many times in many small local restaurants we have selected without introduction, with the qualifications that 1) we can understand the ingredients words for the most part and 2) we haven't enjoyed sushi-ya as much so maybe there is a qualitative difference between this and other branches of Japanese cuisine.

                                              2. re: Ninisix

                                                Thanks Ninisix, I also just found out Saito is cheaper at lunch (5/10000 yen). Do you know if this is still true? How would i 'set the price' when I book? Should I just say how much we want to spend? Or is it fixed for lunch as well?

                                                1. re: MattR

                                                  Sushi Saito is fully booked until mid April already, the lunch service is reduced to one service only.
                                                  After, I really recommend you sushi Kimura at Futago Tamagawa, this only 20mn by train from Shibuya.

                                                  1. re: Ninisix

                                                    I second the recommendation of Ninisixa at Sushi Kimura. Mother of the chef at sushi kimura speak fluent english and really surprise us. We were the only two gaijin and we enjoy thoroughly the experience and food. We also have the blue marline which is divine. I actually more fond of his tsunami. FYI, we don't speak Japanese

                                                    1. re: Ninisix

                                                      Hi again Ninisix I will be back in tokyo at the end of October. Am I right in thinking this May be the best period of the year for seafood in tokyo? I was thinking of trying sushi kimura what do you think? How much would the full omakase be at lunch? Any other seafood experience you recommend for this time of the year? Thanks! m

                                                      1. re: MattR

                                                        I have just recommended sushi Fujita, the lunches set are at 4,500/8,000 yens (before tax), dinner omakase begins from 12,000yens including tsumami. I just went there recently, and had a good lunch, a good menu set is always a good start !
                                                        http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1301/A13010...

                      3. Just to add to this old thread: I had a very nice omakase at Matsue Zushi in Ebisu. Our chef spoke excellent English and was very careful to ask our preferences before commencing. Our price was approx 140,000Y each. The restaurant has the ambiance of a nice neighborhood restaurant (in a well-to-do neighborhood!). There was a longer straight sushi bar to the left sitting perhaps 12-16 and a corner-shaped bar sitting 8 on the right. This is the side that the English-speaking chef uses. There were also 2-3 tables. This meal may not have been the level of craftsmanship of Jiro, but it pleased me to no end! Lovely serving dishes, cold sake served in a pewter cup, abundant courses.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: JojoSF

                          For JPY 140,000 each I would expect a life-changing experience, not merely a "pleasing" one.

                          1. Just my take on several high end Tokyo sushiyas I have the privilege of trying, I have also listed down what I had during my most recent meals at each place:

                            Sushi Taichi (dinner) – uses mix vinegar, very little shoyu on neta, very friendly itamae, speaks some English, really try to engage customers into conversation.
                            Tsumami – Tako, ebi, awabi, oyster soup, kani, marinated chutoro
                            Nigiri – Hirame, akami, chutoro, kohada, akagai, sumi-ika, ikura, kurumaebi, shime saba, engawa, sayori, kawahagi with liver sauce, buri, hamaguri, uni-maki, anago (salt and sauce), tamagoyaki, ending with soup

                            Sushi Iwa (dinner) – has a very well English speaking itamae-san, shari less vinegar, shari not consistent, good quality and balance but not as good as Saito, they served so much food I was very full at the end.
                            Tsumami – Hirame and liver, buri, saba, grill anago and liver, kani, shako, grill nodoguro, seaweed
                            Nigiri – Kuromutsu, akami, chutoro, ika, otoro, kohada, kobashira, kurumaebi, mirugai, hamaguri, aji, uni-ikura don, anago (salt and sauce), kanpyo maki, chutoro maki, ending with tamagoyaki

                            Sushi Saito (dinner) – speaks good English, smaller size pieces compare to others like Taichi, Iwa, Jiro, Mizutani and Yoshitake. Vinegar level is similar to Iwa and Taichi, but shari better quality. Neta and shari more balance. His maguro is not as good as Jiro, Mizutani and Sawada. The meals there very consistent the 3 times I was there.
                            Tsumami – Ikura, awabi, tako, oyster, kobashira skewer, shime saba, karasumi, grill nodoguro, pickle
                            Nigiri – Taiga, buri, kohada, akami, chutoro, otoro, sumi-ika, kurumaebi, aji, hamaguri, uni, anago (salt and sauce), ending with miso soup

                            In general, I think Taichi, Iwa and Saito style are quite similar. But Saito is definitely on a much higher level than Iwa, followed by Taichi, for both tsumami and nigiri, the shari, neta, quality and balance are better at Saito.

                            Sawada (lunch but had dinner course) – even though speaks very little English, very friendly, slight heavy on the vinegar, big pieces particularly very generous with the amount of toro and uni he usually serves, most expensive sushi meal, but I enjoy Sawada a lot, been there 3 times.
                            Tsumami – Gingko nuts, hirame, engawa, aori ika, Hokkaido bafun uni, awabi, tako, aburi shime saba, chutoro, micro tomato, shimofuri toro, barracuda maki, aburi otoro, a refreshing maki
                            Nigiri – Sayori, mirugai, kohada, ikura, akami, chutoro, shimofuri otoro, jabara otoro, aburi otoro, katsuo, ika no inrozume, kurumaebi, uni, anago, tamagoyaki, ending with gooseberry

                            Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza (dinner) – fastest meal, minimal to no conversation, shari is the best, very heavy on vinegar, big pieces of neta, shari-neta good balance
                            Nigiri – hirame, sumi-ika, buri, akami, chutoro, otoro, kohada, mushi-awabi, aji, kurumaebi, akagai, iwashi, hamaguri, saba, uni, kobashira, ikura, anago, tamago, ending with melon

                            Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi (lunch) – style is pretty much similar to Jiro Ginza, to me I think Jiro style has the best rice, but Jiro Roppongi didn’t execute it as well as Jiro Ginza. Shari-neta balance not as cohesive. Big pieces of neta, shari is heavy on vinegar (but lighter than Jiro Ginza). Has English speaking staff, friendlier and more relax than Jiro Ginza.
                            Nigiri – Hirame, ika, sayori, big scallop, akami, chutoro, kohada, akagai, aji, ikura, kurumaebi, uni, shime saba, anago, tamagoyaki

                            Sushi Yoshitake (dinner) – very friendly, English speaking, uses mix vinegar, interesting sauces, shari-neta balance very good
                            Tsumami – Snow crab with dashi and roe sauce, tako, tai, awabi with liver sauce, seared katsuo, kaki
                            Nigiri – Aori ika, amadai, katsuo, chutoro, otoro, kohada, barracuda, saba, akagai, uni, kurumaebi, anago, tamago, ending with the most delicious miso soup

                            Sushi Mizutani (lunch) – no English, cash only, initially very quiet but usually warm up later during the meal, friendly. Even though a disciple of Jiro, Mizutani style is quite different from Jiro style, except for the tamago (same as Jiro), shari is second best, shari-neta balance excellent. Few of the neta preparation better than Jiro. The meals very consistent the 2 times I was there.
                            Nigiri – hirame, kohada, ika, akami, chutoro, otoro, akagai, kobashira, mirugai, sayori, kurumaebi, saba, awabi, uni, anago, tamago

                            Sushisho Yotsuya (dinner) – very different style of sushiya, extremely small pieces, different type of vinegar for different fish, very friendly, there is English speaking waitress and itamae. It’s about aging the fish to bring out its best, very random flow of sashimi and nigiri pieces, don’t think there is any particular order, it’s like roller coaster ride, quite fun.
                            Here were what I had – Sea grape, hamaguri, grouper and kinmedai, ika no inrozume, aji and saba, sawara nigiri, tako, ika nigiri, giant clam, kisu nigiri, shirako, ebi nigiri, hamaguri nigiri, kai, buri nigiri, grill fish skin, masu nigiri, oyster, oyster nigiri, maguro nigiri, uni gunkan maki, iwashi, chutoro, botan ebi body and head, chawanmushi with uni, ikura and awabi, ankimo, ohagi, anago, fresh water crab soup, wasabi ice cream and tomato sorbet

                            All my meals were enjoyable. It’s very difficult to say which one is the best, as they all have their own unique style, good in their own way. It’s also a matter of personal preference, some people like more vinegar, some like less, some like their shari soft, some like their shari firm, etc.

                            19 Replies
                            1. re: CaLBeaR1227

                              Thank you for such a thoughtful and useful review, CalBear. I have eaten at a number of these sushi-ya (one of them is my 'regular') and your conclusion really resonates with me. At this level of craft, care and hospitality, all meals are enjoyable, and 'best' comes down to personal preference. I am always a bit mystified by posters who confidently declare such-and-such to be the 'best' sushi (or kaiseki, or beef, or noodle) after a single visit during a 'foodie trip'.

                              I didn't realize Sawada served such a big selection of tsumami and not-so-traditional nigiri, hope to try it some time !

                              1. re: CaLBeaR1227

                                nice... can you comment on the firmess of the shari and of saito vs mizutani vs jiro(ginza) vs sushi sho vs sawada ??

                                1. re: Lucil

                                  I think when I was at Jiro Ginza and Roppongi, both served firm shari. For Yoshitake, Saito, Mizutani, Sushisho and Sawada, their shari firmness were quite similar ... I'd say medium range ... somewhere in the middle, with Yoshitake slightly firmer of the medium bunch. Sushisho and Yoshitake used red and white vinegar, and the rest used white vinegar.

                                2. re: CaLBeaR1227

                                  Great reviews thank you.

                                  Can you comment on how you secured reservations to each place? Did you use a concierge, what were the lead times, any tips you can share? Thanks.

                                  1. re: PorkyBelly

                                    I used my hotel concierge all the time ... most of them booked within 2 weeks to 1 month before the actual meal dates. No special tricks, just luck I guess.

                                    1. re: CaLBeaR1227

                                      how far ahead did u have to call to book saito? thanks!

                                      1. re: jmui852

                                        i don't usually plan much ahead of time ... all my trips were decided about 4-6 weeks before the actual trip dates. therefore all my restaurant bookings were done within 2-4 weeks before trip dates. for saito, all 3 times i booked within 4 weeks ahead of time, all done through concierge.

                                  2. re: CaLBeaR1227

                                    This is because good food have to echo in your memory that I selected one or two style as favorites !
                                    In my opinion, Ginza sushi yasan have this historic brand, a distinction, a status, and clients that are rather experienced onces. Soft shari works well with a bit firm neta(fish) material, like found at sushi Saito. Unfortunately, my past experience there was that, after have eaten 20 pieces in a row (full course), without drink (as I don t drink alone), I realised it was the most sweet nigiri I ever had of the sushi you've referenced... He had modulated the neta for effect !!
                                    My preference is certainly sushi Sukiyabashi Jiroo Ginza. After going there for many years, I'm still looking for something similar : simple neta, warm shari(rice), piquant vinegar - even if I feel it isn't as strong as you describe it ! And definitely, neta not too altered - as for ex I did not overly enjoy maguro's aging at sushi Sho.
                                    Sushi Yoshino Kyobashi's vinegar is too strong, sushi Matsunami vinegar is not felt, both roots of Jiroo San. At Jiroo Roppongi, the shari rice was a bit crushed(!), and some neta(fish) felt not right : torigai was cut in half, tairagai was cut by knife, but first time there was better than my second spring visit... At sushi Iwa, I had diner end of November, but the chef Iwa was in Hong Kong, so ot was very different than my previous February dinner there. The shari taste wasn't the same, and usually I eat almost only nigiri, craving for it. In your case, was Iwa San was there when you've had dinner ? As for sushi Sho, I will try this year the new sushi Sho Shingo, but I do feel it isn't my style, and for lonely dinner, I didn't enjoyed it that much... . Also, this year, sushi Mizutani.

                                    1. re: Ninisix

                                      I usually just had tea when I dined in Tokyo, for any meals, mostly alone or a few times with friends. I think I personally prefer style starting with tsumami followed by nigiri, it's less confusing, the flow just makes more sense and I think I am able to appreciate the pieces and the whole meal better.

                                      Sushi Sho style is extremely random. I agree Sushi Sho style is not for everyone. I just think it's an interesting experience. I do would love to experience Jiro Ginza again, unfortunately since that one time, I haven't been able to secure reservation.

                                      When I was at Sushi Iwa, the main chef was there and not in Hong Kong. Also Yoshitake was there when I dined at his Ginza restaurant.

                                      1. re: CaLBeaR1227

                                        I have questions following your review about sushi Iwa, so I will certainly go soon .. I have been checking on him for more than 4 years now..

                                      2. re: Ninisix

                                        Ninisix can u share ur experience with sushi kimura / ichikawa / umi if possible?

                                        1. re: jmui852

                                          I really have a preference for sushi Kimura over sushi Ichikawa, here below find the open post about these one
                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/882713
                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/929038
                                          Sushi Umi, no, I didn't try it.

                                        2. re: Ninisix

                                          hi ninisix, reading at this particular comment. you have tried mizutani already this year???

                                          1. re: senvie84

                                            No, in fact, I didn't enjoyed it, so I'm quite reluctant to go again, even if a chef managed to convince me ! That said, I do know through that reputable source - as this chef is also a sushi chef - that Mizutani-san uses alcohol in his shari mixture. That aspect is precisely against Jiro-san style.

                                            1. re: Ninisix

                                              wow alcohol! I guess I am leaving mizutani behind than. is iwa part of saito group?

                                              1. re: senvie84

                                                Sushi Iwa is not anymore part of Kanesaka group, since 2012 ! So there is no direct link anymore between these two, and it is not even sure if they are in good relationship !

                                          2. re: CaLBeaR1227

                                            Hello,
                                            I'am heading to Tokyo in 2 weeks and am hoping to take my parents out for top class sushi - nigiri mainly. Aiming for Friday the 21st.
                                            We speak no Japanese so a place with some English may be better.

                                            Our hotel doesn't have a concierge we can book through so I'll be calling the restaurants myself.
                                            Budget is about 20,000-25,000 yen per head for omakase.

                                            I realise there's not much time given many places are fully booked for months ahead.

                                            I called Sushi Saito and Sushisho Masa. Saita is booked out and Sushisho Masa said they don't speak English.

                                            Sushi Taichi was recommended by Ninisix but recently it seems the chef was stressed about non-Japanese speakers.

                                            So far I have a short list of:
                                            Sushi Kanesaka
                                            Sushi TaiChi
                                            Sushi Iwa
                                            Hatsunezushi
                                            Sushi Ichikawa
                                            Sushi Yoshitake
                                            Kyubey - Ginza

                                            thanks!

                                            1. re: domix

                                              Personally I'm not a big fan of Iwa, Kanesaka and Kyubey (most touristy out of your entire list) while I have never been to Sushi Taichi. Sushiso Masa does speak some english. I would recommend Yoshitake, Sushiso Masa and maybe Sushi Sawada if you manage to get a booking! Enjoy!

                                          3. This is a very interesting thread with lots of useful and great informaton. Thanks to everybody contributing here. It is very valuable.

                                            I would like to know if anyone knows Sushi Tsu? From what I have found on the net the chef speaks very good English. They also serve some quite rare neta which I am looking for particularly like whale tail, keiji salmon, sea cucumber and snow crab with roe according to Tabelog (would anybody be so helpful as to inform me what the Japanese names for sea cucumber and whale tail is - I believe the latter is called Oonomi but I am not sure). I am particularly looking for the Keiji which I have read is also served at Sushi Sho Masa on a blog somewhere. I am also particularly looking for whale tail which I also believe is served at Sushi Nojima.

                                            I have two open spots on my restaurant list which I want to fill with sushi restaurants. Currently I have put up Hal Yamashita and Nobu Tokyo to possibly experience fushion sushi, but after thinking about it I have changed my mind and certainly would prefer real top quality sushi instead even though the list already contains 16 high end sushi shops.

                                            The makajiki served at Kumura will almost be reason enough to go there by itself. I want to try that. So that will most likely occupy one of the spots. Then there is the last spot.

                                            The alternatives I have for the last spot:
                                            Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi
                                            Sushi Taku
                                            Sushi Iwa
                                            Sushi Tsu
                                            Sushi Taichi
                                            Sushi Miyaha
                                            Miyako Zushi
                                            Sushi Nojima
                                            Sushi Nakamura

                                            At MIyaha I have understood that he serves a very different Omakase to regular customers than to non regulars. I will go with a regular if I choose Miyaha.

                                            I have already chosen these (if I can get in of course):
                                            Sushi Saito
                                            Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten
                                            Sushi Mizutani
                                            Sushi Sawada
                                            Sushi Mitani
                                            Sushi Kanesaka
                                            Sushi Ichikawa
                                            Sushi Kyubey
                                            Sushi Hashiguchi
                                            Sushi Yoshitake
                                            Sushi Sho
                                            Sushi Sho Masa
                                            Sushi Sho Saito
                                            Sushi Umi
                                            Sushi Harutaka
                                            Sushi Kanesada

                                            I have even held a spot on the list for Sushi Araki in case he should get problems opening in London again and decide to temporarily or permanently move back to Tokyo like he did beginning of this year.

                                            1. To have all in one place - here is the current Tabelog Top 20 Sushi ranking in Tokyo:

                                              Sushi Saito
                                              Hachigushi
                                              Miyako Zushi
                                              Sawada
                                              Kozasa
                                              Sushi Ichikawa
                                              Mitani
                                              Mao
                                              Sukiyabasi Jiro Honten
                                              Harutaka
                                              Sushi Sho
                                              Sushi Nakamura
                                              Sushi Mizutani
                                              Miyawa
                                              Shinbashi Shimizu
                                              Sushi Garyu
                                              Hayashi
                                              Sushi Yoshitake
                                              Daisan Harumi
                                              Sushi Kanesaka

                                              Not that rankings really matter all that much given that personal preferance always will be different. This list does however give some value in that it indicates that all these in general are considered good and should be worth a visit.

                                              1. it seems like there are so many choices ... having read through the threads, would very much like to know people's opinion in comparing and contrasting: sushi iwa, sushi tokami, and sushi taichi? and also, besides price and number of nigiri, what else would be the difference between lunch and dinner? i am most keen on nigiri, my friend loves tuna. i can speak high school japanese. many thanks

                                                16 Replies
                                                1. re: oliolioli

                                                  I have tried both the tokami and Iwa but not yet Taichi. You can have the same thing either at lunch or dinner i.e omakase but the two offer lunch special which are cheaper. I always go for the omakase either at lunch or dinner at these two places. The omakase include tsumami and nigiri for both. They are similar in some way in terms of quality of the fish , but their speciality will be different as Tokami does really well on maguro and I found Iwa does better on shellfish ( torigai, uni) and squid ( ika). Tsumami is more creative in Iwa than in Tokami. The shari in Tokami is red vinegar based and Iwa use white vinegar. They are probably the better value and consider above average among the sushi yasan in ginza especially for lunch. The sushi chef both speak English. In my limited sushi experience -- they are ranked in the middle pack of all the sushi ya i have visited in tokyo and certainly not comparable to other master such as Jiro Ginza and Miyaha or my most favourite sushi ya--Namba.

                                                  1. re: silverlim

                                                    thank you silverlim.
                                                    well my concierge says there is no way I can get into saito, which was my first choice. and i'm guessing the same problem with sawada. i noticed your preference for namba but can't find too much about it? in that range i was thinking namba, yoshitake or ichikawa?

                                                    the thing is, it is my first time trying higher-end sushi, we all love fish but my friend is Western and doesn't understand any English, so looking at previous comments it felt like an ultra-austere, serious place would not be the go.

                                                    1. re: oliolioli

                                                      Forget about Saito, booked into Spring 2015 as of this past Aug. Forget about Mitzutani, et al. unless you want to spend +$300/person while holding your breath in fear and eating sushi in tension.

                                                      I just came back from Tokyo. GO to Sushisho Masa. One of the greatest meals I have ever had. The quality of fish and flavors were incredible. Also, there is such variety: not just 100% raw nigiri, but also wonderfully flavored grilled pieces. There are over 30 pieces as well.

                                                      Appealing as well is the atmsophere and chef himself: extremely friendly and not stuffy at all. His English is good enough to indicate "eat with wasabi only" on a certain piece for example. Tons of reviews, coverage online of it, so. def. check it out. I believe that if you are a non-native/1st time eating Sushi in Tokyo, if you go to any of the ~top 50 sushi temples there, the sushi will uniformly be the greatest you have ever had in your life regardless of which restaurant. So view Tabelog, and then book which you can based on your research and other criteia like atmsophere, price, etc.

                                                      1. re: iceslip

                                                        Thanks ice slip. Yes sushisho masa looks great. The advice is pretty consistent - all will be eye-opening experiences, for sure! I am slowly cross-referencing tabelog with info from here ...

                                                        1. re: oliolioli

                                                          My other recommendation would be Sushi Yoshitake. It was closed on the days we were in Tokyo. But from what I read, it also seems like a great balance of traditional yet creative items, and the chef is also very friendly leading to a jovial dining atmosphere.

                                                          1. re: oliolioli

                                                            I have been to yoshiitake twice and his tsumami is excellence most notable is his Awabi (abalone) with kimo. Nigiri is also very good but I fell in love with jiro and namba style Shari where it is heavy on the vinegar with just the right temperature. I don't particular like sho style and I had only been to the original sushi sho at yotsuya hence can't comment on sho masa but I had heard good thing about him from my friend including the value. No matter what you choose , you will be blown away if you have never set foot in Tokyo sushi ya. Tabelog is only for reference and not always reliable

                                                            1. re: silverlim

                                                              Yes, I agree--once you have done research and have enough lead time in reservation, it comes down to preference: more vinegar-rice, nicer chef, etc.

                                                              For most who are inexperienced in Tokyo Sushi-ya, the food itself is splitting hairs--as you said, all with be most perfect sushi ever for you.

                                                              I was only being partially facetious in describing seriousness of Jiro et al. Relatively, those are most serious and most uncomfortable relative to others. In particular Jiro, with amount of money spent and his disposition and speed, is simply not enjoyable as a meal relatively to other places when spending nearly $1,000 USD for three persons. But of you want best, pure nigiri experience only, of course he and his like counterparts is best irrespective of all other criteria.

                                                              1. re: silverlim

                                                                I agree with Silverlim - i went to Yoshitake and while the tsumami and other appetizers (steamed abalone with liver sauce in particular) were excellent, the sushi was a major letdown. Cold, pre-sliced fish over unseasoned, cold rice. Very disappointing.

                                                                I had eaten at Sawada a few days earlier and Sawada was a much more enjoyable meal.

                                                                As another datapoint however, i LOVE Sushi Sho. I think probably the weirdest and most creative sushi meals i've had in tokyo have been there. I would visit it at least once if you can.

                                                                1. re: jba256

                                                                  Interesting take: I booked a meal at Sawada AND Yoshitake based on what I read and the photos I'd seen on the tinyurbankitchen blog, and decided to pass on Sushi Sho for the same reason. My understanding is that a large part of the appeal of Yoshitake is the non sushi items. The creative fusion starters and small plates that are served throughout the meal seem to be quite unique and based on most reviews that I've read, quite memorable. Since we'll already be dining at Sawada and Htasunezushi (the latter for lunch) in Tokyo, I was drawn to Yoshitake for those small segue dishes over his straight sushi. Interestingly enough, that particular blogger loved Yoshitake and only enjoyed Sho, though felt it was not on the level of the former or other top sushiyas in Tokyo as mentioned in this thread. Of course, everyone's taste and leanings are different and that's just some random blogger's perspective to be taken with a grain of salt - or a dollop of wasabi!

                                                            2. re: iceslip

                                                              I never get intimidated by jiro or mizutani. I never notice any tension either and certainly enjoy the sushi. I do agree the atmosphere is "serious" though. To me the food is more important than atmosphere . I I would take best sushi anytime over friendly chef not that the latter doesn't improve the dinning experience. Everyone will have his favourite sushi ya and I think olioliol should keep his option open including jiro and mizutani. In fact I fell in love with sushi after my first high end sushi meal at mizutani. Although I later found out later there are better option and quality than mizutani, I still go back as their fish quality is no doubt one of the best out there although his Shari really is hit and miss therefore I only go back for lunch which is cheaper than dinner at less than 20kyen

                                                              1. re: silverlim

                                                                thanks silverlim and iceslip.

                                                                can you comment a little bit more on namba? yoshitake does sound fantastic for sure. mizutani - had read some unhappy reviews in recent times (ie inconsistent) hence worried about getting a *dud* day or is this splitting hairs. jiro - $300 for 30 minutes got a definite NO from my friend.

                                                                i also agree, food quality is definitely more important than friendliness / atmosphere. as we will most likely only do 1 or 2, and i have the responsibility of doing the research for my friends(!), want to make sure it's ok for both of us.

                                                                again, i would prefer emphasis on nigiri as opposed to the tsumami. and edomae style as opposed to sho style (but have read blogs on this too and definitely that sounds great).

                                                                (i'm only going in january hence am milking as much info as i can - many thanks!!)

                                                                1. re: oliolioli

                                                                  Sushi Namba is located in the outskirt of tokyo in Asagaya, 40 min train ride from ginza, so location might not be ideal but you get to explore the residential area of tokyo. The JR chuo line do run very late till 120am. They only do dinner and only have two seating, one at 530pm and the other at 9pm. They can seat 12 pax in one seating, The interior decor is high end just like any ginza sushi-ya. It all counter seating. I don't think they have private room. had a young and rather handsome nisho ( sous chef) assist him mostly with the otsumami course but all nigiri are still made by the taisho himself. The taisho nor his staff speaks any english at all but I understand basic Japanese so still get by without major problem. They do sincerely try to make eye contact and checking on you time to time to see if you like the pieces served. We were lucky enough that the local japanese guy sitting to us was fluent in english and mandarin and so we chatted quite a bit and got to interact with the taisho. Namba is quite famous among taiwaneese and hong kong tourist so you might get to see a few when you were there but as Gargle had noted, caucasian is not commonly seen there. I also tend to think the Chef is interested in foreign guest but I could be wrong. Certainly , all the staff there including chef are friendly.

                                                                  The style is edomae and serve omakase which consist of otsumami and nigiri. I like just about everything there. The otsumami is excellent and probably one of the best I had tried and in my opinion better than harutaka and yoshitake ( hadn't tried Saito yet ). I like the progression of the dishes and the taste is just umami. The chef make the shari fresh and in front of you. I am not sure if he uses the white or red vinegar as it looked on the dark side when he poured the vinegar. The rice didn't looked brown like yoshitake or tokami but just a tint of color and the shari is in my opinion the best I had in my life. It is so piquant in vinegar even more so than Jiro with right amount of salt. The rice is served warm i.e at perfect temperature and balance well with the fish. The size of the neta and nigiri is smaller compared to Jiro Ginza. The nigiri grip is not as firm as Jiro so the rice sort of melt in your mouth but I might be exaggerating. I certainly do like it though. The beta quality is certainly A grade but the focus is not on maguro ( for sure you will get it). The memorable pieces of nigiri including the uni mixed with ikura, kawahagi with the liver, sukigai, and notoguro. They serve what it is in season of both high end and low end fish. The latter like notoguro, kawahagi is rarely served in high end sushi ya in Ginza. Their tamago is the best I have had so far and better than Jiro with 2 distinct layer and certainly great flavour. It is made of real rbi ( shrimp ) broth. The top layer taste like custard and the bottom layer taste like sponge cake like the one in Jiro. All together close to 30 pieces of ostumami and nigiri served and the meal lasted for 3hrs which I wish to stay further but I had to catch the train back to tokyo. The tempo is certainly relaxed and the chef does take his time. If you like sake , then here is the place to go. They have vast collection of sake even some of the rarer edition one like 石田屋 which you have to ask for it. You can just say sake, and they will bring out different make of sake that pair with the dish and show you the bottle. I believe this style is called "ikki" as the japanese guy sat next to me.

                                                                  Best of all, is the price. The omakase menu is usually 11k yen per person but as Gargle said, the max is still only 13k with fresh sea cucumber roe throw in so you can't beat the value. The total bill for two of us with sake and two supplement nigiri is ~29k and still cheaper than what I pay alone in Jiro without drink.

                                                                  Case in point, it is hard to book and you need about 2 month advance in reservation and they do take reservation from hotel concierge.

                                                                  If you looking for great sake, edomae style sushi and excellent otsumami for relatively low cost, than I highly recommend you to try.

                                                                  However, if you want english speaking chef, western foreigner friendly, michelin star recognition or closer to tokyo , than I suggest you try Iwa or Tokami instead.

                                                                2. re: silverlim

                                                                  I found the atmosphere at Mizutani to be very friendly. Mizutani himself is very chatty.

                                                                3. re: iceslip

                                                                  saito changed the reservation system?
                                                                  i see that certain someone close to him says that reservation can be made for next year

                                                            3. re: oliolioli

                                                              Nigiri shape sushi is the origin of Edomae sushi...contrast in simple nigiris, good buttery 'toro', acidic notes in the red 'akami' flesh, subtle parfume of the 'akagai', ... products in their simple attire... and the characters of each nigiri will change, learning from the products of the sea, and making sense of their living is actual the Foundation of sushi, there is some 'new' sushi, like sushi Sho style that compose a lot, but the simplest is what I recommend, so for that persuasion on these little simple, try sushi Iwa for exemple at lunch for a full nigiri course(specify your demand on reservation), and a diner at sushi Tokami if you want to eat the full complexity of 'maguro', or sushi Taichi who will be stylize the classics and will be cheaper.

                                                              1. re: Ninisix

                                                                silverlim: i can see that visit made a massive impression on u!
                                                                thank you all for the advice, and i will get back to you about which place i can actually get in to!