Eating sushi — the right way — is not just about the taste, but also about the experience. Nobody knows that better than the people of Tokyo. Many will argue that the Tsukiji fish market is the best place to eat sushi in Japan, and that is very possible, but we are focusing on restaurants. With tiny spaces and dim lighting, the following restaurants treat sushi like it is sacred; go to them to eat, and you’ll become a true believer. Beyond sushi, Tokyo holds more Michelin stars than any city in the world — even Paris.
Using data collected from our list of the 101 Best Restaurants in Asia, we pulled the best Japanese restaurants that specialize in sushi. One of them holds the No. 1 spot on that list (and, of course, this one too). In the novel Good Omens, one of the characters says: “Heaven has no taste… and not a single sushi restaurant.” Well, Tokyo definitely has a taste of heaven.
5. Sushi Mizutani
This cash-only restaurant, located on the ninth floor of what looks like an office building, is anything but sketchy. It has 10 seats and three Michelin stars. It’s the unsuspecting ingredients that stand out here: perfectly cooked rice and a shrewd use of vinegar. And, of course, there’s the fish, especially the steamed abalone nigiri. It is highly possible you will even see master chef Hachiro Mizutani, as he works alone and prepares everything himself.
4. Sushi Saito
Jiro isn’t the only one who dreams of sushi. Master sushi chef Takashi Saito’s restaurant also has three Michelin stars, and three tunas to prove he deserves them: lean akami, medium-fatty chu-toro, and the much-prized o-toro, which has the most marbling. From the outside, this seems like a restaurant in New York: tiny, with seven seats, and located in a parking garage. But there is no doubt that this is 100 percent Tokyo.
3. Sushi Kanesaka
Unlike the previous two places, Sushi Kanesaka’s location is grand: the Palace Hotel Tokyo. Expect to wait a long time for a reservation, and expect to spend a long time eating: the food is served edomae-style, which means the pieces are served one at a time, letting the quality of the fish and rice do all the talking.
New York celebrity chef David Chang has called this his favorite sushi bar in the world, and it is the first spot that renowned Mexico City chef Enrique Olvera goes after landing at Narita airport. Seeing this seven-seat, husband and wife-run restaurant advertised on such a regular-looking sign outside an elevator building is surprising, because the intimate, three hour-long experience you get inside is anything but regular. Chef Koji Sawada serves some of the finest seasonal wild seafood from all over Japan, raw, cured or lightly seared.
1. Sukiyabashi Jiro
Ninety-year-old Jiro Ono, the subject of a popular documentary, was the first sushi chef to earn three Michelin stars. You wouldn’t expect arguably the most recognizable name in sushi-rati to have a restaurant tucked away in a Ginza subway station, yet there it is. There are plenty of people around the world who are willing to spend more than $300 each for an omakase (“let the chef decide”) 20-piece sushi dinner, because, if any chef knows best, it’s this one. People adore Sukiyabashi Jiro so much that a negative review of it on social media caused an internet storm.