Matt Goulding doesn’t do things by halves, and his recent James Beard award for Dining and Travel writing — specifically for his piece dubbed “Slice of Tokyo: How Japan Became a Pizza Hotspot”, for Airbnb Magazine — attests to this.
Europe’s 15 Best Sushi Shokunin
Curated by Aiste Miseviciute, in alphabetical order
From London to Logroño- my list of the best and up-and-coming sushi masters in Europe.
For some of these chefs it’s not only a job, but a lifetime quest to achieve perfection.
Half-Swedish, half-Japanese, Carl Ishizaki’s 20 years working with sushi, has earned him a cult following in Stockholm for his daily-changing omakase tasting menus. Proposing beautifully crafted Japanese cooking, prepared with local Scandinavian ingredients alongside condiments imported from Japan, his twelve-seater, hole-in-the-wall restaurant Sushi Sho opened in 2014 and was awarded its first Michelin in 2016. The laid back style and winning mix of tsumami (‘drinking snacks’) and nigiri delights critics and diners alike.
“Our philosophy is to continually evolve ever so slightly. When we opened there was limited awareness of what we were trying to achieve. I think we now have the embryo of an educated understanding of sushi locally. We make numerous trips to Japan per year to further expose and educate ourselves.”
Felix Martinez Ximenez
Felix Jimenez Martinez started his career at a Japanese restaurant in Mallorca before going to work in a Suzaku restaurant in Tokyo. This Michelin starred chef who follows a classic ‘Edomae’ style, runs Kiro Sushi, a traditional omakase style sushi shop in the most unexpected place, Logroño, La Rioja in Spain.
“My style is as you say Edomae style, and with great influence from my teacher Yoshikawa Takamasa from Suzaku restaurant in Tokyo who taught me to make grilled sushi, Aburi technique also used in the Edo period. I use binchotan charcoal Kishu from Wakayama, branches of Rioja wine, koshihikari rice from two areas: Toyama and Kyoto, Akazu vinegar, nori seaweed Maruyamanori that is the same that Sukiyabashi Jiro uses.”
Jose Gabriel Cerda Contreras
Stigbergsliden 17, 414 63 Göteborg, Sweden
Swedish and of Spanish descent, Jose Gabriel Cerda Contreras is the chef-owner of Hoze, a six-seat Edomae style sushi shop in Gothenburg. Contreras trained with Japanese chefs in Mallorca and then in Sweden from 2004 until 2010, when he opened his own space. His sushiya uses only the best ingredients: koshihikari brown rice, polished daily then washed in a “oribegama” with sake and water; fujisu vinegar and salt from Okinawa; soy sauce from a 300-year-old factory in Ibaraki; fresh wasabi from Shizuoka; all of the fish and shellfish is caught within the Scandanivian borders.
“In 2013 I made my first trip to Japan and have been going ever since, twice a year, eating and learning from my favorite sushiya like Hashiguchi, Sugita, Sushidokoro Mekumi, and so on.”
Kazutoshi Endo is the master at Michelin-starred Endo at the Rotunda in London. This third generation sushi masteri was born in Yokohama Japan and at the age of 22, followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather to begin his culinary career in his family’s restaurant. Endo has worked with world-renowned chefs in Madrid, Bilbao, Hong Kong, New York, Istanbul, Dubai, and London where he joined the world-famous Zuma Group in 2006. He is now focusing on developing his own brand, ENDO, which he founded in August 2015.
“Like my father and grandfather. I studied Tokyo style sushi in Tokyo for 10 years. I use mostly local produce at the Rotunda, especially the fish. When I prepare this fish, I use Tokyo style, called “ Edomae style ”. The rice is a very famous one from Yamagata, Japan. The water is also natural water from the mountains. I bring this water from Japan as well. The sushi vinegar is also Tokyo style, my vinegar has been aged for 8 years in Akazu and the salt is natural dried from Awagi island in the Hyogo prefecture.”
Ephemeral (Opening soon)
Wibautstraat 130, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Kitsanin Thanyakulsajja, originally from Thailand, started his career with a wildly successful pop-up in Amsterdam (Kit 384) in his dorm while he was still a student. Finding the best ingredients is an essential part of his work, which he puts on an even par with cooking. The Netherland’s market has proved difficult due to restrictions on imports, so while all the condiments are imported directly from Japan, he has been looking for the best seafood from neighbouring Spain and France.
“With my upcoming restaurant, I aim to push familiarity and relatability for greater understanding of Japanese food and design.”
Mads Battlefeld is the chef-owner at Sushi Anaba in Copenhagen. He worked at Dos Palillos, the Japanese-Spanish fusion Michelin star restaurant in Barcelona and then went on to another Michelin star, Alkima, a Catalan restaurant with great focus on local produce. He worked in restaurants in Denmark, Spain and Japan before opening Sushi Anaba in Copenhagen. The menu changes every day depending on the guests and the season, they use akasu, Danish apple cider vinegar and pure salt. All the products are from either Scandinavia or Japan.
“The philosophy of Sushi Anaba is to welcome everybody. We want a pleasant sushi restaurant with a high end sushi, but we still want people to drink beer and relax, have great conservation with the couple next to them and just enjoy the moment. We will always try to do our best and find the best ingredients here in Scandinavia, by using fish from the small boats that don’t overfish or ruin the sea.”
Since Mitsuhiro Araki returned to Japan, Marty Ryu is now the sushi master of The Araki in London. Before working with Araki-san for 5 years, he was working with Shinya and Yasu san at Yashin High St Kensington for two years and with Kyoichi Kai San (founding chef for Zuma, pre Endo San) for two years before joining Araki. He is fluent in Japanese and specializes in traditional Edomae style of sushi making.
“My main goal is to bring more local ingredients we have here in the UK to light and realise the true potential of the great seas surrounding us, and provide non Japanese speaking guests the real feeling of interaction at the sushi counter like you would in Japan. This is a key part in creating the atmosphere and majorly adds to the experience at the sushi counter.
It is important to continue practicing the traditional Edomae techniques handed down many generations from grand Japanese Masters in Japan, and now with Master Araki coming to the UK, it gives us the chance to apply these techniques to Western ingredients.”
Masaki Sugisaki is the Chef-Owner of Dinings SW3 in London. Born in the Saitama region just outside Tokyo, he was trained in a traditional Kaiseki restaurant, Katsura-saryo, run by his family. He left to explore a new style of Japanese cuisine outside of Japan, joining the team at Nobu and then later taking up the role of executive chef at Dinings. He then took charge of the Chelsea establishment Dinings SW3. He prefers high-quality fresh ingredients over than those flown from Japan wherever possible. For Sugisaki, these are the key to simple and delicate Japanese cooking.
“What I aim for in my life’s work is to introduce not only Japanese dishes or techniques but a whole philosophy of Japanese cuisine to non-Japanese guests and to my team. I feel that Japanese food as products are widely spread and accepted. However, I believe that their cultural value is truly the most important part to be introduced. After considering it for a long time, I decided on a fusion rather than an authentic style as I believe it is still too early for real authenticity to be accepted, this is not Japan but a different country with different culture, which must also be respected. Therefore, I use a lot of European techniques based on the genuine philosophy of Japanese cuisine. This is what I call “translation”.
Masayoshi Hanada is the chef-owner of one-Michelin-starred Sushi-B counter sushi restaurant in Paris. Born in Shimemachi district, Fukuoka, Hanada started working at Sushi Kappo Kogyoku in 2001. In 2012, he went to France and set himself up as a chef at Bizan in the 1st arrondissement. In December 2015, he started working as a chef at sushi-B Paris and earned a Michelin star in 2017. Hanada uses only the best local ingredients, such as tuna from Spain or langoustines from Brittany. His most iconic piece is nigiri with squid, which he chops very finely before serving.
Roger Asakil Joya
Roger Asakil Joya is the head chef at Sabi Omakase. He is originally from the Philippines but came to Norway as an 18-year-old. Roger has developed what he calls Norwegian Edo Style Sushi. He follows the 200-year old Tokyo sushi traditions but uses fresh, Norwegian seafood, caught in the wonderful cold Norwegian waters. Using a combination of all the best fresh products from the Nordic shore and the traditional Japanese techniques, he stays true to the idea of Edomae – Edo is the old word for Tokyo and Mae means “in front”, as in waterfront, or the shore. He follows the 200-year-old Tokyo sushi traditions but uses fresh, Norwegian seafood, caught in the wonderful cold Northern waters.
“I aim to combine the best of both worlds: the techniques and the principals of sushi. They have to be in the heart and spirit. My idea was to create a style of Edomae that will work in Norway. I called this Normae. Nor means “Nordic shore” and Mae means “near you” = Normae.”
Shigeru Fikushima is the head chef at Cafe Japan, a casual and unassuming Japanese restaurant in Golders Green, London. Cafe Japan is run by the Arari-ya group, the number one supplier of Japanese ingredients and fish to the best restaurants in London. Fukushima-san can compare to some of the best masters in Europe. My advice: sit at the counter and ask for the omakase of the day prepared by Fukushima san.
Sapporo native Takuya Watanabe is the chef-owner of Michelin starred restaurant Jin in Paris. He started his career by working in various restaurants in Hokkaido, going on to open four restaurants in the Japanese town of Sapporo, two of which obtained Michelin stars: Taku Maruyama and Taku Sushi. He opened Jin in a small street across from Rue Saint-Honoré in the first arrondissement of Paris in 2013. He specialises in the use of aged fish. Takuya creates daily omakase using local fish sourced from Brittany, Oléron and Spain. He will open a sushi restaurant in Covent Garden, London next year.
12 Jerusalem Passage, Farringdon, London EC1V 4JP, United Kingdom
+44 20 3217 0090
Before opening his own restaurant in 2012, Toru studied British history in Kobe, the seventh-largest city in Japan. Sushi Tetsu is a traditional Japanese Sushi bar owned and run by husband and wife Harumi and Toru Takahashi. Specialising in sushi and sashimi, ex-Nobu Chef Toru aims to bring a relaxed yet high quality sushi experience to the hidden alleyways of Clerkenwell, London.
Xavier & Mika Pensec
Xavier Pensec originally from Lorient, France and his wife and partner Mika Kobayashi from Japan, bring Breton fish to their ten-seat restaurant, specializing in Edomae style sushi. They met in Tokyo 10 years ago, when Xavier was undergoing intensive sushi training and Mika was a food consultant. Located at the port-city Brest in Brittany, France, Hinoki, offers traditional Tokyo style sushi.
“People are wrong to believe that we make the most of the sea’s wealth here in Brittany. In fact, for the most part, they always eat the same fish, often prepared in the same way, like anywhere in France. Sushi: what beauty, what purity, what elegance. The flavors are clean and crisp, a clarity of taste typical of the seaside, which vanishes when the products wait or travel.”
Not purely a sushi chef, but definitely worth mentioning, Yoshinori Ishii is the head chef of Umu in London. He began his career at Kitcho, three Michelin starred and one of the most exclusive restaurants in Kyoto. After training there for nine years, Ishii-san became the head chef at the Japanese Embassy for the United Nations in Geneva and New York, then worked as an omakase chef in New York. Since moving to London, Yoshinori Ishii has been introducing and teaching ikejime, which is a humane method of killing fish to maintain the quality of its meat, to British fishermen. Also a skilled ceramicist and calligrapher, Ishii-san uses both traditional Japanese produce and locally sourced ingredients to create inventive Kyoto influenced cuisine.
There’s likely no country in the world that has exported its cuisine better than Italy. To be honest, we Italians usually consider this fame a double edged sword.
From London to Logroño - my list of the best and up-and-coming sushi masters in Europe. For some of these chefs it's not only a job, but a lifetime quest to achieve perfection.
Sake, locally known as Nihonshu, is drenched in myth and mystery. The Japanese seem to have a complex code in their DNA that defines the exclusive rules surrounding sake tasting.