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.