Sushi Royalty: Eating at Japan’s Best Sushi Spots

Eating at Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi, Kanesaka, Mizutani, and Sawada and living to tell the story

Our contributor takes the sushi tour of a lifetime.

The comparative is taken to another level on account of the seasonality of food in Japan. In many countries, farm-to-table is a widespread trend du jour that seems to have rendered itself passé — everyone does it so it’s no longer a competitive advantage. In other, non-sushi culinary enclaves, chefs proudly announce that their morels come from local farm (fill in the blank), that their beef is of course grass-fed, and that their fiddleheads are organic. However, with sushi, there are no such monikers. Each piece arrives sans provenance and adorned with little more than the faintest slather of sauce. Perhaps that is a disservice to the many hands that had to work so diligently to get the fish onto the tsukedai in front of you (the raised platform of the sushi bar). But on the plus side, it further builds the intimacy of the experience. You must trust those that feed you and there’s often no better way than to simply surrender to the omakase.

Much about these experiences is part of a larger form. At the end of the meal, the customer is presented with the opportunity to accent the chef’s choice. While this might happen at many of the high-end establishments elsewhere in the world, and perhaps that offering might be somewhat unfettered, in these Tokyo sushi-yas, the offering is de rigueur. Aside from whatever you may choose, dessert at each is a one, two punch of anago (sea eel) and tomago (egg omelette). Perhaps the anago might be skipped on account of the season, but rest assured — you will get some egg in your mouth (if not on your face on account of the sheer exhilaration). Anago is worlds apart from unagi, the fresh-water eel popular at your grocer’s sushi bar. No matter who’s offering, if your audience is as intimate at one of these fine establishments, you will get a fluttery piece of fish, sometimes touched to rice, other times as barren as your bottom the day you were born. A touch sweet, more so than anything else you will have had, it’s still a distinctly fish-forward experience.

The tomago of the sushi world is closer to a quiche than anything Jacques Pépin might pan up. Some of them even bordered on pâté de fruit. If you saw the cult-adored Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you will see just how difficult this is process is. While you might have presumed our tomago experience at Jiro to be the coup de grâce, it was a touch overcooked.

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While each of these sushi experiences is of the highest order, there are differences to be found within. It is in these nuances where the tiny distinctions amalgamate to from the whole. While it is the entire comparative that makes each more interesting, the individual establishments are meritorious on their own.