Forget about the infamous Jiro Ono and his 30 minute sushi omakase, the most wanted sushi shop reservation in Tokyo not only among foreign, but also Japanese sushi connaisseurs is at Sushi Saito. My first time at Sushi Saito was in 2011 when it was still located in a garage near the American embassy and relatively easy (or rather “possible”) to get in. My hotel concierge called and I was lucky enough to get the last minute reservation. The 7 place counter sushi-ya had 3 Michelin stars and was already highly in demand at that time.
Then I met Saito-san again when we filmed the Foodies documentary (which showed in cinemas in Japan recently). I have revisited Sushi Saito for a few times since then, but always either booking for my next time myself, or asking my friends to reserve for me once they were in place. Frequently elected as number one restaurant in Tokyo on Tabelog.com, Saito has become more of an “introduction only” restaurant, where new comers can only be booked by regulars. Serious and serial diners in Japan always reserve their next visits right after paying their bill. It’s the only way really to maintain their relationships with the chefs and remain in the “club”. Some people eat every month or even every week at Saito, which would be quite impossible for those like me, who go to Japan once or twice per year. I know many gastronomic travellers would love to get into Saito (yesterday someone left a comment on my Instagram feed offering $ 500 just for the reservation), but I think the place is simply too small and too popular to accommodate everyone, unfortunately… So do let me know if you have any luck when booking yourself or through the hotel concierge!..
What makes Takashi Saito more popular than other elite sushi chefs in Tokyo is hard to say. He is undoubtedly a very skilled sushi master with deep knowledge of fish and seafood, which he buys himself every morning at the Tsukji market. The firmness and the seasoning of the rice strike a perfect balance with the fish. Some of the fish is served very fresh, some is aged. Saito-san ages his tuna for a week or even more, depending on the particular case, then marinates it briefly in the soy sauce; kohada or gizzard shad is marinated for 2 days before serving. The movements Saito-san makes when making the sushi are beautiful to watch. His focus while behind the counter can be exemplary. Having said that, I think Saito’s success is also due to his open and friendly personality, which can be still rare when you dine at traditional Edo-mae sushi places in Tokyo.
Below are the images from my two visits in March 2016