In today’s Japan Travel Q&A we answer a question about sushi in Tokyo from Jonathan in New York City:
“What are some of the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo?”
Don’t feel like watching a video? Read below for today’s answer!
Great question, Jonathan!
Tokyo is full of great sushi shops and we’re going to tell you about some of the very best.
But before diving in, we want to mention that it ultimately comes down to personal taste and preference.
The sushi-ya (sushi shops) we introduce below are among Tokyo’s best, and dining at any of them will be a sublime culinary experience. But Tokyo has many other excellent sushi restaurants as well, both famous and little known.
For some extra insight into the complex and ever-changing world of Tokyo sushi, we had a conversation with our friend Rebekah Wilson-Lye.
Rebekah is a Tokyo-based writer (you can see her latest articles at her website, Ichi for the Michi), food fixer, certified Advanced Sake Professional and passionate sushi enthusiast.
Tokyo’s Best Sushi Shops
If you’re coming to Tokyo and looking for a once-in-a-lifetime sushi experience, here are 5 of Tokyo’s best!
As Rebekah put it to us, these 5 sushi shops are perfect “if you’re coming to Japan for one visit, and want to have that ‘stick a fork in me, I’m done’ tour-de-force sushi meal.”
This is an endlessly-controversial topic among foodies in Japan and around the world, and the good news for you is that Tokyo has far too many excellent sushi shops to even attempt listing.
If you’ve seen the documentary, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” you may be surprised to see that Ono-san’s (Jiro’s) restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, isn’t included in our list.
While Ono-san is a living legend in the world of sushi, it’s widely agreed upon by sushi connoisseurs today that there are better places in Tokyo to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime sushi meal.
Even though Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saw fit to treat US President Barack Obama to lunch here, it’s important to note that – despite its 3 Michelin stars and popularity in the western media – among Japanese diners, Jiro’s shop does not usually rank at the top in rankings of Tokyo’s best sushi restaurants.
See the top 50 sushi shops as chosen by users of Tabelog, a popular restaurant rating website in Japan.
Perhaps more importantly, a major drawback to eating at Jiro is that the entire experience is over before you can even settle in! Meals at Jiro usually last around a half hour.
In stark contrast, at the sushi shops featured below you generally have the luxury of enjoying your top-end sushi experience over the course of a couple of hours.
So without further ado, we present 5 of the top sushi shops in Tokyo (listed in no special order):
Sushi Yoshitake is a beautifully-appointed sushi shop in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district. In many ways Yoshitake offers the complete experience: a masterful chef, impeccable ingredients, elegant ambience, a great sake list – and Chef Yoshitake even speaks some English.
Rebekah says, “Consistently flawless, brilliant at combining flavors and textures. For me, it is just a ‘hallelujah’ moment dining here. So for me it’s at the top of the list.”
The approximately 2-hour omakase set menu course costs around 23,000 yen (about US $230) plus tax. Reservations at this tiny 7-seater are a must!
Suzuryu Building 3F
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Tel: 03-6253-7331 (+81-3-6253-7331)
〒104-0061 東京都中央区銀座8-7-19 すずりゅうビル3F
Sawada is another beautiful Ginza sushi-ya that will blow you away. Chef Sawada has become famous for many reasons, but one in particular is how he ages his tuna. Chef Sawada is friendly and has some limited English skills.
Rebekah says, “You may get a restraining order from your bank manager after a meal here, but if neta is what you’re interested in, Sawada is the place to go. He is a master in terms of his marriage of flavors and aging techniques. Definitely the option for the ‘meal of your life’ experience.”
The approximately 2.5-hour omakase set menu course costs around 35,000 yen (about US $350) plus tax. Reservations at this tiny 6-8 seater are a must, and photos are not allowed (for more on this topic, see our sushi etiquette article).
MC Building 3F
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Tel: 03-3571-4711 (+81-3-3571-4711)
〒104-0061 東京都中央区銀座5-9-19 MCビル 3F
Sushi Sho (also written in English as Sushisho and Sushi-sho) offers a more laid-back – and even lively – top-notch sushi experience. Chef Nakazawa is famous for his 35-dish omakase set menu course.
The course here is also unique in that he intersperses his nigiri (pieces of sushi) with tsumami (appetizers). This encourages the drinking of sake with your meal, because if you have too much rice in your system from eating nigiri, you’ll want to stop drinking!
Rebekah says, “You go on this roller coaster ride of flavors and textures. It’s quite delightful, and playful as well. He’s another sushi chef who does aging very, very well. Also, he’s got a fantastic sake list.”
The omakase set menu course costs around 20,000 yen (about US $200) plus tax. Be sure to make reservations well in advance, as this 10-seat sushi shop has a strong following.
Yorindo Building 1F
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0004
Tel: 03-3351-6387 (+81-3-3351-6387)
〒160-0004 東京都新宿区四谷1-11 陽臨堂ビル1F
Harutaka (also known as Ginza Harutaka) is the much-loved sushi shop run by one of Ono-san’s (Jiro’s) most famous disciples. If you want to enjoy a taste of Jiro, but in a much more relaxed and convivial atmosphere, dine at Harutaka.
Rebekah says, “He was a disciple of Jiro-san’s for many years and I think he’s the best of the former apprentices. You get the flavor of Jiro but with a much more pleasurable dining experience.”
As anyone who has seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi knows, Ono-san’s apprentices learn the ins and outs of every aspect of making sushi from the bottom up. As Rebekah put it, “These guys were washing the octopus, doing all the prep for him, and they were taught his sequencing and his sauces.”
Chef Harutaka offers a nigiri course similar to what you might get at Jiro, albeit at a much more “human” pace. In addition, his course here includes a short tsumami (appetizers) course, which you won’t get at Jiro’s shop.
This is classic Edomae sushi, and is a favorite with other chefs as Harutaka is open late. The sake menu here is also very good.
The 20-piece omakase set menu course costs around 23,000 yen (about US $230) plus tax. Reservations, of course, are strongly recommended!
Ginza Kawabata Bldg. 3F
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Tel: 03-3573-1144 (+81-3-3573-1144)
〒104-0061 東京都中央区銀座8-5-8 銀座かわばたビル ３F
Sushi Iwa is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a top-quality sushi experience, but want to spend a little less than the above options. The “steal” here is at lunch, when you can choose between a 10-piece or 13-piece nigiri set.
Rebekah says, “His nigiri is excellent. He’s a great host and it’s wonderful to watch him prep before you. The harmony between the fish and the red vinegar that he uses is wonderful.”
The omakase set menu course for dinner here ranges from about US $185 to $260, but the real bargain here is at lunch. You can select between a 10-piece nigiri course for about 4,750 yen (about US $47) or a 13-piece set for about 8,400 yen (about US $84). It’s worth splurging on the 13-piece set.
As always, reservations are strongly advised!
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Tel: 03-3572-0955 (+81-3-3572-0955)
Japanese: 鮨 いわ
〒104-0061 東京都中央区銀座8-5-25 第2三有ビル 1F
We hope you enjoyed this Japan Travel Q&A about sushi in Tokyo!
We’d like to give a special thanks to our friend Rebekah Wilson-Lye for her insights into Tokyo’s sushi world. You can connect with Rebekah at her website, Ichi For The Michi, and on Twitter (@IchifortheMichi).