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

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talker32 Dec 14, 2011 04:20 PM

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. BaronDestructo RE: talker32 Dec 14, 2011 09:45 PM

    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. BaronDestructo RE: talker32 Dec 14, 2011 09:52 PM

      Oh and hey there fellow Vancouverite.

      46 Replies
      1. re: BaronDestructo
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        Ninisix RE: BaronDestructo Dec 16, 2011 01:38 AM

        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
          t
          talker32 RE: Ninisix Dec 16, 2011 12:16 PM

          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
            n
            Ninisix RE: talker32 Dec 19, 2011 02:01 AM

            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
              n
              Ninisix RE: Ninisix Dec 21, 2011 01:33 AM

              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
                t
                talker32 RE: Ninisix Dec 26, 2011 01:41 PM

                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
                  n
                  Ninisix RE: talker32 Dec 26, 2011 08:24 PM

                  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
            m
            MattR RE: Ninisix Jan 17, 2012 04:02 AM

            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
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              Ninisix RE: MattR Jan 17, 2012 08:13 PM

              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
                m
                MattR RE: Ninisix Jan 18, 2012 07:59 AM

                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
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                  Ninisix RE: MattR Jan 19, 2012 06:31 AM

                  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
                    m
                    MattR RE: Ninisix Jan 19, 2012 07:41 AM

                    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
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                      Ninisix RE: MattR Jan 20, 2012 04:01 AM

                      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
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                        CWFOODIE RE: Ninisix Apr 2, 2012 07:57 AM

                        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
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                          Ninisix RE: CWFOODIE Apr 2, 2012 03:34 PM

                          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
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                            Ninisix RE: Ninisix Apr 3, 2012 05:26 AM

                            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
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                              CWFOODIE RE: Ninisix May 1, 2012 10:19 AM

                              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
                                FourSeasons RE: CWFOODIE May 1, 2012 08:22 PM

                                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
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                                  Ninisix RE: FourSeasons May 7, 2012 03:13 PM

                                  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
                              t
                              talker32 RE: Ninisix Feb 21, 2013 08:06 PM

                              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
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                                Ninisix RE: talker32 Feb 22, 2013 04:24 AM

                                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
                                  t
                                  talker32 RE: Ninisix Feb 22, 2013 10:09 AM

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

                                  Thanks!

                                  1. re: talker32
                                    n
                                    Ninisix RE: talker32 Feb 23, 2013 12:35 AM

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

                      2. re: Ninisix
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                        miltronix RE: Ninisix Jan 11, 2013 07:14 AM

                        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
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                          CWFOODIE RE: miltronix Jan 11, 2013 10:58 PM

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

                          1. re: CWFOODIE
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                            Ninisix RE: CWFOODIE Jan 14, 2013 08:33 PM

                            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
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                      palatism RE: Ninisix Nov 13, 2013 02:57 AM

                      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
                        n
                        Ninisix RE: palatism Nov 13, 2013 04:36 AM

                        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
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                          palatism RE: Ninisix Nov 13, 2013 04:56 AM

                          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
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                            Ninisix RE: palatism Nov 13, 2013 05:13 AM

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

                            1. re: Ninisix
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                              palatism RE: Ninisix Nov 13, 2013 06:06 AM

                              Right. Got it!! Thank you very much.

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

                              1. re: palatism
                                n
                                Ninisix RE: palatism Nov 14, 2013 07:35 AM

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

                                1. re: Ninisix
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                                  palatism RE: Ninisix Nov 14, 2013 03:10 PM

                                  Okay.

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

                                  What do you think?

                                  1. re: palatism
                                    n
                                    Ninisix RE: palatism Nov 15, 2013 04:27 AM

                                    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
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                                      palatism RE: Ninisix Nov 15, 2013 09:16 AM

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

                                      1. re: Ninisix
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                                        MattR RE: Ninisix Feb 15, 2014 07:36 AM

                                        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
                                          n
                                          Ninisix RE: MattR Feb 16, 2014 08:21 PM

                                          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
                                            t
                                            tigerjohn RE: Ninisix Feb 16, 2014 09:17 PM

                                            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
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                                              Uncle Yabai RE: tigerjohn Feb 16, 2014 09:23 PM

                                              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
                                                t
                                                tigerjohn RE: Uncle Yabai Feb 16, 2014 09:35 PM

                                                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
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                                                  Ninisix RE: tigerjohn Feb 17, 2014 03:07 AM

                                                  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
                                                    t
                                                    tigerjohn RE: Ninisix Feb 17, 2014 03:33 AM

                                                    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
                                              m
                                              MattR RE: Ninisix Feb 16, 2014 11:56 PM

                                              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
                                                n
                                                Ninisix RE: MattR Feb 17, 2014 03:20 AM

                                                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
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                                                  silverlim RE: Ninisix Feb 17, 2014 07:32 AM

                                                  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: silverlim
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                                                    Uncle Yabai RE: silverlim Feb 17, 2014 08:07 PM

                                                    I am not a big fan of tsunami.

                                                    1. re: Uncle Yabai
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                                                      ruprecht25 RE: Uncle Yabai Feb 17, 2014 10:23 PM

                                                      Don't make waves, Uncle Yabai.

                  2. j
                    JojoSF RE: talker32 Nov 13, 2013 06:37 AM

                    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
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                      Uncle Yabai RE: JojoSF Nov 13, 2013 07:40 AM

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

                      1. re: JojoSF
                        Tripeler RE: JojoSF Nov 13, 2013 06:08 PM

                        Don't you mean 14,000 yen?

                      2. c
                        CaLBeaR1227 RE: talker32 Jan 18, 2014 07:25 PM

                        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.

                        18 Replies
                        1. re: CaLBeaR1227
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                          shakti2 RE: CaLBeaR1227 Jan 18, 2014 09:46 PM

                          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
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                            Lucil RE: CaLBeaR1227 Jan 19, 2014 04:40 AM

                            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
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                              CaLBeaR1227 RE: Lucil Jan 19, 2014 09:20 AM

                              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
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                              PorkyBelly RE: CaLBeaR1227 Jan 19, 2014 06:58 AM

                              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
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                                CaLBeaR1227 RE: PorkyBelly Jan 19, 2014 09:22 AM

                                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
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                                  jmui852 RE: CaLBeaR1227 Jan 20, 2014 03:42 AM

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

                                  1. re: jmui852
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                                    CaLBeaR1227 RE: jmui852 Jan 20, 2014 11:40 AM

                                    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
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                                Ninisix RE: CaLBeaR1227 Jan 20, 2014 04:33 PM

                                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
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                                  CaLBeaR1227 RE: Ninisix Jan 20, 2014 05:22 PM

                                  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
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                                    Ninisix RE: CaLBeaR1227 Jan 21, 2014 03:57 PM

                                    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
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                                    jmui852 RE: Ninisix Jan 20, 2014 07:19 PM

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

                                    1. re: jmui852
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                                      Ninisix RE: jmui852 Jan 21, 2014 04:06 PM

                                      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
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                                      senvie84 RE: Ninisix Jun 7, 2014 02:27 AM

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

                                      1. re: senvie84
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                                        Ninisix RE: senvie84 Jun 8, 2014 06:10 PM

                                        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
                                          s
                                          senvie84 RE: Ninisix Jun 8, 2014 06:35 PM

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

                                          1. re: senvie84
                                            n
                                            Ninisix RE: senvie84 Jun 8, 2014 08:05 PM

                                            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 !

                                    3. re: CaLBeaR1227
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                                      domix RE: CaLBeaR1227 Feb 5, 2014 08:45 PM

                                      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
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                                        jmui852 RE: domix Feb 5, 2014 08:51 PM

                                        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!

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