If you don’t read at least a little bit of hiragana, you might look for the Suzuryu building for a long time. Like many high-end restaurants in Tokyo’s Ginza, Sushi Yoshitake (3F, Suzuryu Building, 8-7-19 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo, tel. 03-6253-7331) is located in an ordinary office building, on an ordinary floor with an ordinary entrance.
You see, if you don’t have a reservation usually you are not supposed to walk into this kind of restaurants in Japan. If you are a gaijin, a foreigner, you will need to ask your Japanese friends or your hotel’s concierge to call for you, get a map with directions ( as basic as possible – here is the Shiseido building, there – Chanel shop) and then, if you are lucky to find the place you will end up sitting in a tiny few places restaurant with the sushi master slicing fish, making sushi and do all the talking with the guests. Sushi Yoshitake, like most, if not all high-end restaurant I’ve been in Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka, is a one-man show. The two or the three assistants might prepare some ingredients (like boil a kuruma ebi just before serving ), cook warm appetizers in the kitchen behind or pour tea and sake once your cup is dry, but it’s the sushi master who will have the last say.
When I finally found Sushi Yoshitake and went up the third floor, the head sushi chef was walking his guest to the elevator. He politely told me to wait outside for a few minutes as I guess he wanted to prepare my place. Once they let me in, I found myself sitting with two Japanese couples behind the 7 places sushi bar. Having a sushi omakase , it’s not only a meal but a very special experience, especially if you dine alone. For over an hour you sit at the same table with complete strangers. Sometimes I regret that I don’t understand and speak enough Japanese and a little jealous of the locals who can chat and joke with the chef while having their drinks and meal. Luckily, often it’s my Japanese neighbours who can speak English, so I wouldn’t say that I have ever been bored when dining alone.
All my previous 3 Michelin star sushi experiences ( Sukiyabashi Jiro, Sushi Mizutani, Sushi Saito) were during cold months and I can tell now that the fish eaten during hot summer season is quite different (You do get the sushi omakase classics like otoro, uni or kuruma ebi though). August is the time when chefs enjoy cooking unagi (eel), hamo ( pike eel ), or ayu ( sweetfish), a little fish that is grilled with salt (or deep-fried when at tempura restaurants) with all its skin and insides.
Even if I prefer fish and crustaceans that are the best during the cold season, the meal at Yoshitake was spectacular. Abalone with its liver sauce that was mild and tasty, smoke-flavoured, salt grilled skipjack tuna, firm and buttery horse mackerel or shrimp that was sweet and smoky. The sushi-making technique here is strictly Edo mae but, like Sushi Saito, Sushi Yoshitake is the new generation kind of a sushi shop. Here you can have a glass of champagne or a bottle of white wine with your meal if you wish so. And, most of all, the chef is nice and friendly- one more reason to come back to Sushi Yoshitake one day…