At the legendary Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza

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Jiro Ono and Yoshikazu Ono of Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza

The father and the son – Jiro Ono and Yoshikazu Ono

My post about the sushi restaurant in Tokyo where Barack Obama and Shinzo Abe had a dinner last night. Sukiyabashi Jiro is one of the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo and,without any question, the most famous in the world thanks to the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. According to the Wall Street Journal, the two heads of state had a presidential treatment as their dinner lasted for one and a half hour, 3 times longer than a meal normally lasts at Sukiyabashi Jiro. ( Most of the ” regular” people are out after 25-30 min…)

Those who have ever been eating out in Tokyo might know the difference between “Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza” (Tsukamoto Sogyo Building, B1F. 4-2-15, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo ,tel. 03-3535-3600), 3 Michelin stars  and “Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi” (2*). You can quite easily get a booking at the latter, while if you are gaijin, a  foreigner who doesn’t speak Japanese, you have little chance of getting a reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza. And you shouldn’t even try walking in as  you will be most likely turned away.If you do want to eat sushi made by the hands of the “Japan’s living national treasure”, 86 year old sushi master Jiro Ono , you must speak Japanese or be accompanied by a fluent Japanese speaker. Claims of rude service and even foreigners discrimination at Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza have been surfacing on the internet. Therefore i was a little nervous before going there, especially that the night before i read about  Andy Hayler’s  unfortunate experience. In fact, I was treated really nice and  it was one of my best sushi experiences in Tokyo ever.

But first of all, how i got the reservation. The lunch for one was reserved by my Japanese friend. As i understood, the biggest Sukiyabashi Jiro reservation person concern was that i might not show up.( Let’s be fair, this happens in Europe or the US, people just don’t bother to cancel their bookings.) Once my friend guaranteed via her company that the cost of the lunch (31 500 Yen, the same price as dinner ) would be covered anyway, i got the confirmation. Back to the basement next door to the Gap store in Ginza. When i entered the tiny, only ten places restaurant i was greeted by a lady ( who took my coat) and one of  the Jiro Ono’s  assistants. I was expecting icy expressions on everybody’s face, but that was not the case. The lady greeted me with a smile, so as the first assistant of Jiro Ono  and Ono’s son Yoshikazu Ono.

The first thing the assistant asked me was if there was something i don’t eat. I don’t  eat eel,  i said in my poor Japanese. Almost immediately after i got my first sushi (which i will describe later in this post).  The intervals between each sushi piece were very short, 20 sushi meal took about half an hour. ( According to the Michelin Tokyo  guide ” one shouldn’t be surprised to be finished within 30 minutes”). Jiro Ono’s work discipline is incredible, once he is behind the counter, he operates like a  Swiss watch. At one point, the son of Jiro Ono asked me where i was from. I said that i am originally from Lithuania. “So you must speak Russian, then”, – he answered in Russian. Suddenly the communication got a lot easier as i do speak Russian a little bit. And Yoshikazu Ono san , and Jiro Ono san were relaxed, pleasant and eager to chat. They didn’t seem to be  bothered at all about my basic Japanese or about me taking pictures of the sushi. Jiro Ono san even tried to place sushi in a way so it  looks more flattering in front of the camera. Without any hesitation he agreed to take pictures together and before leaving personally gave me the little menu with all the fish i had.

Speaking of the sushi, one thing that struck me was the sourness of the rice; it was much more vinegared than at other top Tokyo sushi restaurants I’ve been. The fish quality was amazing and I did eat the eel nigiri after all. Jiro san insisted i should try it and I just couldn’t say no to the legendary sushi master.( Actually i find eel very tasty, i don’t eat it purely because of psychological reasons.) Lunch at Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza was a lifetime experience and i can’t wait to see  “Jiro dreams of sushi” ,a documentary about the man who has been making sushi since he was nine yet never ceases to search for perfection.   The omakase images

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Karei (flatfish)

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Hirame (fluke)

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Sumi-ika (cuttlefish)

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Buri (Japanese amberjack)

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Akami (top loin of Bluefin tuna)

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Chu-toro ( medium fatty tuna)

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Oo – toro (fatty tuna)

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Kohada (gizzard shad)

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Mushi awabi (steamed abalone)

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Aji (horse mackerel)

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Akagai (ark shell clam)

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Sayori (halfbeak)

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Kuruma-ebi (Japanese imperial prawn)

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Katsuo (skipjack tuna)

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Hamaguri (clam)

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Saba (blue mackerel)

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Uni (sea urchin)

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Kobashira (mactra clam)

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Ikura (salmon roe)

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Anago (salt water eel)

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Tamago (sweet egg omelette)

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Melon

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COMMENTS
  • http://verygoodfood.dk Trine

    Wow, what an amazing experience! Very happy for you :-)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/luxeat luxeat

    Thanks,Trine ;)

  • Janet Klaus

    service was brutal when i went there and food was average in tokyo standards.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/luxeat luxeat

    So sorry to hear that, Janet!

  • http://blindtastingclub.net/ Alex

    Well, the sushi look extremely fresh and delicious. Weird how you can tell from pictures how fresh it looks. Thanks for that report!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/luxeat luxeat

    You are so right, Alex!

  • Janet Klaus

    no problem, luxeat. It is just shameful that they show off their beautiful fake smiles when they receive a well known food blogger ;p

  • http://profile.typepad.com/luxeat luxeat

    I doubt that they have ever heard of my blog, but maybe they suspected something as i was taking pictures…
    I do hope that their pleasant attitude was genuine!

  • http://www.ermadkunst.blogspot.com M. Engelbrecht

    That looks great! I hope to visit the restaurant in 2012 if I can book a table.

  • http://www.sfreelife.com Lit

    congrats on finally getting to this legendary place! must have been memorable!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/1238510510s25130 Michael Booth

    So, the big question is, did you think it was the greatest sushi ever? Or did the over-vinegared rice ruin it? I do wonder with Jiro whether the fact that, at 86, his palate will certainly have lost its sensitivity has an impact on the flavour. Perhaps that’s why he over-vinegars his rice?
    Please excuse the drop here, but Heston Blumenthal told me that when he went there, Jiro said that he assesses the jaw-length of his guests, and tailors the nigiri accordingly. Do you think he did this?
    Thanks for posting this – it’s great to get a chance to hear your thoughts on this legendary place.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/luxeat luxeat

    Despite of the rice which was maybe a little too sour ,I really liked the sushi at Sukiyabashi Jiro.But to be honest, I don’t think that it’s the greatest sushi ever as there are so many sushi bars in Tokyo that have similar level. (Sushi Kanesaka is one of them http://www.luxeat.com/my_weblog/2009/10/sushi-kanesaka-.html ) You must be a serious sushi connaisseur,which i am not, to be able to choose the absolute best sushi restaurant in Tokyo…
    I also realized that Japanese themselves don’t like to categorize their sushi restaurants. As one Japanese guy said, Sukiyabashi Jiro is very traditional,while Sushi Saito for example, is modern.
    Heston Blumenthal’s remark is very interesting, i wouldn’t be surprised if Jiro does that as he is quite obsessive about his job. I read that he cooks his rice twice or three times per service, so the rice on the top doesn’t crush the rice on the bottom!

  • Oskar

    Lol, from the stories that I’ve heard, it’s amazing where good looks could get you. A great looking young lady like you getting better treatment and attentive service is hardly surprising.

  • http://eataduck.wordpress.com jimmy t.

    So awesome, I didn’t even try to get into the Ginza Jiro. The Roppongi Jiro was amazing, but I still pine for the real deal.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/luxeat luxeat

    I thought Roppongi Jiro was amazing too and much less stressful…

  • http://www.sfreelife.com lit

    i was really initially ‘hit’ by the sourness but after trying many other sushi places, funnily enough, it was this sourness that left an impression more than other places.
    my meal, even with photography, concluded within 20 minutes! prob the fastest way to burn 30,000 yen!
    Just went to roppongi branch, while superb too, i felt there was a marked difference with the Ginza honten. just a personal opinion. the chef told me that too (that he changed some little things, like preferring smaller-sized fish than his dad.)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/luxeat luxeat

    I liked both Sukiyabashi branches, but you are right, they are very different!

  • dz8879

    I am heading to Japan in July, and Sukiyabashi Jiro is at the very top of my list. I am actually an avid sushi fan (well avid food fan is more appropriate), and have a NYC food blog of my own… so I’m looking for the very best during my first trip to Japan!
    Do you need to book far in advance? Please let me know. As my boyfriend and I are both from New York, I am assuming we will have to go to the Roppongi Branch unless we can find a sponsor to take us to Ginza :)
    Any other restaurant/sushi recommendations would be very much appreciated – such a great blog to come across during my research, I love it!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/luxeat luxeat

    Hi dz8879,thank you ;)
    I booked Sukiyabashi Jiro just one week in advance, but I had to ask my Japanese friend to call for me.(I still haven’t figured out on what criteria they accept reservations for foreigners… )
    My favorite in Tokyo are Sushi Saito and Sushi Kanesaka and they are foreigners “friendly” ;)

  • Benson

    Sayori should be Sayuri
    Kobashira should be kaibashira or Hotate.

    • Red1971

      Absolutely incorrect!

      Sayori is Sayori not Sayuri (Japanese female name – not a fish), and Kobashira is BAY SCALLOP not Hotate SEA SCALLOP.

      If you pretend to know about Sushi at least learn the language enough to grasp the difference.

      Typical self-indulged foodie types with no real sense.

      • luxeat

        Thanks, Red1971 !

  • Ricky Z

    I (a non Japanese speaker) was able to get a reservation by asking the very nice concierge lady from the hotel i am staying at to call and reserve a seat for me (I did make my reservation 1 month ahead). Also to reconfirm 1 day before the reservation date. To secure a reservation, you need to provide a credit card, the restaurant will charge you about 15,000 for no shows.
    It is an absolute Honor to eat at Sukiyabashi Jiro, outside of this small restaurant in Tokyo, I don’t believe you can find any 80+ year-old chef who spent his/her entire career to perfect the way he/she cooks.
    I can understand this is not the restaurant to sit down and spend hours talking with friends, but I had a great experience there, Papa Ono-san even offered me to take a few pictures with him after dinner.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/luxeat luxeat

    “It is an absolute Honor to eat at Sukiyabashi Jiro”- Agreed, Ricky!

  • Hayesworth

    Hey Ricky, my wife and I are going in July and our concierge was also able to get us a reservation. Just curious though, did you attend the meal with a Japanese-speaker or were you completely unable to communicate in Japanese? Neither of us speak any Japanese and the reservation does not include a translator, so was wondering if this would hinder us even though we have a reservation…Our other option is Mizutani and we’re having a hard time choosing. Thanks!

  • Anton

    Its easy to be nicely treated when you look nice. All my “average” looking gaijin friends were treated horribly. Yes, most were male. Those snapshots look very tantalizing!

  • shyparrot

    I have a question about how you made your reservation. I’m aware that I would need a Japanese friend to call into make the reservation, but is there a downpayment required? I read in another blog post that they had their colleague living in Japan, delivered a cash payment to secure the reservation. Or will a credit card suffice? I’m still a little confused on how works.

  • http://www.rivieragrillny.com/ rog brown

    This seems to be so delicious and really irresistible.. I wish I could taste all of these..