Oct 11, '09
Some say that Sushi Mizutani is the best in Tokyo, while Hachiro Mizutani san is one of the best sushi masters in Japan. And if one can rate sushi places with stars that were first meant to rate French cuisine, Sushi Mizutani together with Sukiyabashi Jiro are the only sushi restaurants in Tokyo that were awarded 3 Michelin stars.
Sushi Mizutani could be a cliche of a sushi restaurant run by a genius sushi “sensei”. It is located on a basement floor in a plain office building in Ginza and is very tiny, with only ten places. Nobody speaks English there and while doing a reservation ( a Japanese friend called for me), the person at the phone asked if there is anybody speaking Japanese among the guests. Nonetheless, the stiff and official atmosphere ( the lady who was serving ( maybe Mizutani’s san wife? )asked not to take any pictures), ultimately warmed up. When I asked one of the Mizutani’s san assistants (there were two young guys, one at the counter and one in the kitchen) in my very poor Japanese if he spoke English, the master chef started speaking with us and asking where we are from. Despite some reviews that Hachiro Mizutani is serious and austere, I found him pleasant and charming. And when we wouldn’t recognize a fish, the lady would point at its species in a book.
The dinner was started with some salmon roe ( eaten with a spoon). Then sushi followed. Such as Japanese gizzard shad (my least favourite as I don’t like fish with skin), tuna (including chu-toro and o-toro which was exceptional), mackerel (good but not as memorable as in Sushi Kanesaka the day before), cuttlefish(firm but not chewy), ark shell clams, boiled shrimps (very good, full of flavour), Japanese scallop and sea urchin roll (strong, distinguished taste)…
Has Sushi Mizutani lived up to my expectations? Yes and no. To be honest, I think that such guides as Michelin or Zagat have done a bad favour to exclusive Japanese places as Sushi Mizutani.
The quality of the fish and seafood at Sushi Mizutani was above par, so was the rice (a little warm and slightly al dente). Hachiro Mizutani san is a real master and probably my biggest pleasure was to observe his graceful movements, how he slices the fish and how he manipulates the rice. The sushi was flawless, so as all the dinner. Having said that, more I eat at sushi restaurants in Tokyo (Kyubei one and a half year ago, Sushi Kanesaka two days ago, Sushi Mizutani yesterday or simply any ordinary sushi bar close to Tsukiji market), more I realize that judging them with Western ratings is a nonsense and is against the very idea of a sushi restaurant.
Despite the high rating of Sushi Mizutani, I didn’t find it much better or worse than Sushi Kanaseka or Kyubei. (In all these restaurants the fish and rice quality was excellent). But, of course, it doesn’t make the talent (and life long experience) of Hachiro Mizutani san any lesser.
Post update. Chef Brent has sent an Andrew Zimmern video from Sushi Mizutani . Thanks again!