Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Jiro Ono, master chef and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro recently celebrated his 89th birthday. Yesterday it was announced that the Japanese government is awarding him with a special honor for his contributions and hard work as a sushi craftsman. Today there was a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan and here are just some of the juicy bits. In attendance was food writer Masuhiro Yamamoto, Jiro Ono, and his eldest son, Yoshikazu Ono.

Jiro started working in a kitchen at the age of eight, so he has been in this craft for 81 years. Yamamoto said that Jiro is still far from retiring.

Jiro was awarded a distinction, similar to a Living National Treasure, when he was 80-years old. This new award is not usually given to individuals but to groups, so this new award is very unique.

During the introductions the interpreter said Sukiyaki Jiro (instead of Sukiyabashi Jiro) to which Yamamoto politely corrected her and mentioned that there is in fact a person who is called Sukiyaki Jiro. 🙂

Yamamoto-san said that he believes that Sukiyabashi Jiro is the cleanest restaurant in the world. He went on to say that Jiro says 50% cooking and 50% cleaning.

At Sukiyabashi Jiro Yoshikazu will cut the seafood and Jiro will form the sushi in his hands. This is how it is done now.

Regarding standing all day for work, Jiro said that since he started working in a kitchen from the age of 8 he was too busy to do his homework so at school he was constantly being made to stand in the hallway, so he’s used to standing all day.

The movie, Dreams of Sushi, had a big influence for Jiro. That before the movie he was famous in Japan, but since the movie he moved into a cult-like status.

About 70% of the diners at Sukiyabashi Jiro are foreigners, so for some Japanese dining there they say that it doesn’t feel like they are in Japan.

Sukiyabashi Jiro

Masuhiro Yamamoto, Jiro Ono, and Yoshikazu Ono

Jiro believes that part of truly enjoying sushi comes from eating it properly. For this reason, he teamed up with Yamamoto to write a book, Jiro Gastronomy. There is a section in the book that describes how to properly eat sushi.

Jiro is an innovator. For example, Yamamoto said that in the past shrimp was boiled in the morning and then served to the customer later in the day, but that Jiro will wait until the customer has arrived until boiling it. Yamamoto also used the example that 30 years ago sushi courses usually started off with tuna, but that Jiro started serving white fish like flounder or sole before moving onto tuna.

Very interesting fact-checking on President Obama dining at Sukiyabashi Jiro.

The restaurant opened for Obama and Abe only after the regular customers finished their meals, so no customers were told they had to give up their reservations.

The left-handed Obama is very good at using chopsticks.

Obama ate all of the omakase sushi course. Some rumors were saying that Obama had only eaten a few pieces, but this is not true.

Jiro Gastronomy

Masuhiro Yamamoto contributed to Foodie Top 100 and to Jiro Gastronomy

These are two books that were given out to journalists at the press conference. I will include these in a blogpost so stay tuned.

Tokyo Cheap Eats

Tokyo is a great city for eating well on a budget. The first thing to look for is restaurants that specialize in a dish, like ramen, tonkatsu, or soba. Also, remember the word “teishoku” which is like the daily special or set meal. It is often includes rice, miso soup, pickles, a main dish and a side dish or two. In all of my years eating in Tokyo I can count on one hand the bad meals I have had.

Here are my favorite cheap eats in Tokyo (and this is just scratching the surface):

1. Maisen tonkatsu in Omotesando. Who doesn’t love breaded and deep-fried cutlets? And, it is conveniently located near Omotesando Hills and Takeshita Dori in Harajuku.

Isehiro Yakitori Lunch Donburi

2. Isehiro yakitori in Kyobashi. The lunch donburi special is 1,800 JPY for five sticks of grilled yakitori over a bowl of rice with soup and pickles. This is a bargain when compared to the dinner full course which starts at 6,300 JPY. This is one of my favorite yakitori restaurants in the city, especially at this price. I like to sit at the counter and watch the chef grilling the skewers. Chuo-ku, Kyobashi 1-5-4.

3. Ivan Ramen. Ivan makes his own noodles, trained at the CIA, and has worked under luminaries such as Andre Soltner and Bobby Flay. Other favorites include Afuri in Ebisu, Jangara Ramen (chain), Ippudo (chain).

4. Uoriki Sushi in Shibuya’s Tokyu Toyoko-ten depachika. Uoriki’s main business is as fishmongers, they have a big retail shop in Tokyu, so the quality of the seafood is very good. Also, the location is great, literally underneath Shibuya station. It is located in the depachika, near the seafood section. Don’t worry if there is a line as it usually moves quickly. Just put your name on the waiting list.

5. Saiseisakaba tachinomi for offal. Everything we’ve had here has been great, from sashimi brains (even Shinji was afraid to try this at first), to all of the grilled innards. My favorite dish here is always the tender tongue. And, I love the genki (and handsome) staff here. Locations in Shinjuku, Monzennakacho, and at the Shin Maru Building outside of Tokyo Station’s Marunouchi exit.

6. Narutomi Soba in Ginza. A bit off the beaten path yet located between Tsukiji and Ginza. I was brought here by two Japanese food writers. Be sure to get the gobo tempura, you’ll thank me later.

7. Tenmatsu for tempura at Nihonbashi. The “business lunch” is a bargain at 920 JPY. Be sure to ask for a seat at the counter. Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-8-2. It is located just next to the historic Nihonbashi bridge. And conveniently located between Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi – both with magnificent depachika.

8. Tamai for anago in Nihonbashi. Most people I know adore unagi. If you don’t live in Japan chances are you haven’t had anago yet. Similar to unagi, but I find it more delicate.

9. Buri tachinomi for sake and small bites. A short walk from Shibuya station, the menu has a variety of dishes and not only are the staff hip, so are your fellow diners. Shibuya-ku, Ebisu Nishi 1-14-1

10. Depachika. When I am at a loss for where to go, I head to the basement of any major department store. Especially Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shinjuku Isetan, and Ginza Mitsukoshi as these all have rooftop gardens where you can bring any bento that you get at the depachika to enjoy. While you’re at it, pick up a beer or can of sake to enjoy.

This is just a tiny bit of what’s delicious and affordable in Tokyo. Just recently, Robbie Swinnerton of The Japan Times shared with readers a great sukiyaki restaurant, Sukiyaki Yoshihashi, in Akasaka that has a lunch bargain starting at 2,100 JPY.

Where to Have Sushi at Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji Sushi

Tsukiji Sushi

Daiwa Sushi and Sushi Dai are two of the most commonly heard sushi shop names at Tsukiji Market. The problem is that they are so popular that they have such long lines, some queue for three hours. And yes, the sushi is great here, but is it worth hours standing in line? And for me, I would rather pay the same price, but have a leisurely sushi lunch in Ginza or elsewhere in the city for the same price. However, if you find yourself at Tsukiji and can’t bear to join the long lines at Sushi Dai or Daiwa Sushi, here are some other Tsukiji sushi shops worth checking out.

All of the restaurants serve an “omakase“, usually about eight pieces of sushi that are all served at the same time. But to have a more authentic experience, order piece by piece. Ask for “shun no mono” or seasonal items.

Nakaya 中家

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #8

03-3541-0211

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/46_nakaya/index.htm

Another very satisfying way to satiate that craving for raw fish is to have a donburi, or a large bowl of rice topped with seasonal sashimi. Nakaya has a selection of donburi including an uni don of creamy, sweet uni. For a very over the top bowl, you can get toro (fatty tuna), ikura (salmon roe) and uni.

 

Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し (Note in a comment below that a recent diner did not have a good dining experience here. I have always had good sushi here so not sure if it was a bad day or what.)

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #1

03-3544-1755

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/09_iwasa/index.htm

The seasonal seafood is all wild. The shop specializes in shellfish.

 

Sushi Maru すしまる

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #10

03-3541-8414

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/45_sushimaru/index.htm

Using wild and top quality seafood. One of their signature dishes is the “aburi jyu”, a chirashizushi of seared fish over rice.

 

Ichiba Sushi 市場すし

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #8

03-3541-1350

http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/40_ichiba/index.htm

It is hard to resist the uni donburi or the uni and ikura donburi (check out the photos at the link above).

 

 

A post on Cheap Eats at Tsukiji Market.

Where to go for sushi on Sunday in Tokyo.

November  Seasonal Japanese Seafood (what you should be eating if you come to Tsukiji this month).

An article I wrote for The Japan Times on what to see at Tsukiji. Winter is the tastiest time to visit Tsukiji.

Book Review – Sushi

Sushi

Sushi

A professor of biophysics at the University of Southern Denmark, Ole G. Mouritsen has penned the most extensive and authoritative book—dare I say encyclopedia?—on sushi to date. This weighty tome is packed with more information than most readers will ever need. Yet that’s exactly where it shines. The author’s curiosity and passion about fish is evident throughout. Perhaps most notable is that, unlike other sushi books written by non-Japanese, the information about seafood is factually correct. Sushi will educate readers on all aspects of fish—texture, taste and how they are served. Packed with photos and illustrations (by the author’s son), this comprehensive guide also includes information on other dishes at the sushi counter, from the rice and vinegar used to make theshari to the green tea that ends the meal. With an extensive glossary and a rich bibliography, Sushi will find its way onto the bookshelves of chefs and foodies the world over. After consuming this work, readers themselves should be given a PhD in sushi.

SUSHI

By Ole G. Mouritsen
Springer, 2009, 330pp, ¥3,357

This review first appeared in Metropolis magazine:

http://metropolis.co.jp/dining/local-flavors/the-food-files/

 

Ginza Harutaka 銀座青空

Ginza Harutaka

Ginza Harutaka (photo from old shop)

Chef Harutaka developed his skills with 12 years at Sukiyabashi Jiro. This sushi restaurant is popular with top chefs in the city. Sit at the counter and watch the young, talented and soft-spoken chef as he handles the seasonal seafood with care and deft. Part of the delight in dining here is taking in the beautiful vessels he uses to hold the seafood. No detail is overlooked at this restaurant that comes highly recommended by top chefs in the city.

* Harutaka moved to a new location in 2016. Address listed below.

Ginza Harutaka 銀座青空

6F, Ginza Tokiden Bldg, 8-3-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku (new address as of 2016)

03-3573-1144

5:00 – 24:00 (Saturday until 22:30)

closed Sunday and holidays

no website


Ginza Kyubey 銀座久兵衛

Ginza Kyubey

Ginza Kyubey

Ginza Kyubey 銀座久兵衛

Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-7-6

03-3571-6523

11:30 – 13:30, 17-21:45

closed Sunday and holidays

www.kyubey.jp/index_e.html (English)

Kyubey Sushi, is famous as a top-class sushi restaurant in the city. It is so popular that it often turned away customers. To accommodate everyone they have opened a bekkan (annex) across the street. They are accustomed to foreigners coming in and you may be seated in front of an English-speaking chef. It is popular with Japanese as well as tourists. The sushi chef may ask you if he should change the size of the shari (rice) or the amount of wasabi. This thoughtfulness is especially appreciated by the ladies who lunch there who may want to have a little less rice as they may be watching their weight. Kyubey is a nice option if you are looking for a top quality sushi experience but want to avoid the prohibitive prices at some shops that are only open for dinner. The lunch here is very reasonable for classic Edo-style nigirizushi.

Magurobito Kaitenzushi in Asakusa 浅草のまぐろ人

Magurobito

Magurobito

**** Note, this shop has closed.

 

Magurobito まぐろ人

Taito-ku, Asakusa 1-5-9 台東区浅草1-5-9

Phone: 03-3844-8736

Monday – Friday (11:00 – 15:00, 17:00 – 22:00)

Saturday (11:00 – 22:00)

Sunday and holidays (11:00 – 21:00)

www.magurobito.com/ (Japanese)

Magurobito is kaitenzushi (revolving sushi) with a good value and a selection of seasonal fresh fish. It is very popular so there is often a line, but it tends to move quickly. This is a chain so you may see shops around the city. Of the many kaitenzushi, this chain is one of the better ones. It is also very popular for its bang for buck. There is a second shop in the area but it is tachigui (stand and eat) and only accommodates a handful of customers.

Kizushi in Ningyocho 人形町の㐂寿司

Kizushi in Ningyocho 人形町の㐂寿司

Kizushi in Ningyocho 人形町の㐂寿司

Kizushi 㐂寿司

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Ningyocho 2-7-13 中央区日本橋人形町2-7-13

Tel. 03-3666-1682

11:45 – 14:30, 17:00 – 21:30 (Monday – Friday)

11:45 – 21:00 (Saturday)

closed Sunday and holidays no website

Opened in 1924, this third generation sushi shop feels as though time as stopped. The third generation owner works with his sons, fourth generation, behind the counter. This is classic style sushi that is served not onto a plate but onto a narrow counter in between the chef and the diner. If the sushi needs to be seasoned the chef will puts some tsume on it. You should eat your sushi with your fingers, which is why you are presented a small wet napkin in a small basket. The seafood is displayed in small refrigerated cases on straw trays, some which still may be moving. Dinner can be on the pricy side so come for lunch if you are on a budget. While some of these old style sushi shops have the reputation for not being friendly, you will be warmly greeted and looked after here.

Nipponia magazine has an excellent write-up of Kizushi online at:

http://web-japan.org/nipponia/nipponia47/en/feature/feature01.html

Tokyo Cheap Eats – Oedo Kaitenzushi 大江戸回転寿し

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi

As a fishmonger, Shinji is always craving sushi. There are many ranks of restaurants, even within the kaitenzushi (revolving sushi). Ooedo Kaitenzushi came highly recommended for its variety of fresh fish at a reasonable price. Ooedo has several locations throughout the city. This one is near Okachimashi, just south of Ueno station and near the boisterous Ameyoko market.

Shirako

Shirako

Assorted Sushi

Assorted Sushi

Assorted Sushi

Assorted Sushi

Ooedo Kaitenzushi – Okachimachi Kitaguchi Ten

Taito-ku, Ueno 6-2-1

Phone: 03-5812-2097

http://www.ooedo.co.jp