Disclaimer: Don’t read it!
I wasn’t sure whether I should write this post. Sometimes you don’t want/need to reveal that the Easter bunny doesn’t exist. And my blog is about my positive experiences - not about the disappointing ones. But let the truth prevail, you deserve to be informed. Ever since I watched the movie 'Jiro dreams of Sushi', I dreamed about having a meal at the master of the masters. This is why you shouldn't dream about it.
Short version: the legendary Sukiyabashi Jiro isn’t worth the hype. Click for a longer version!
Don’t misinterpret: the sushi place is not a bad one by European standards. But, it is not at all the best in Japan! Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun, we have already seen that the media picks up someone not based on quality and merits, but thanks to an exciting story and strong characters. And Jiro is good at that, (old, 3 Michelin starred sushi chef in an underground passage) as much as the movie itself is good (for those interested in gastronomy and Japan). But the “restaurant” is not quite like that.
After having a meal at the place of the 3 Michelin-starred Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten in Ginza, Tokyo, I wouldn't ever want to return and I keep asking myself: how could the world take the word of a TV show (Bourdain) and a nice movie on such a delicate thing as fine gastronomy?
It was on my bucket list, it was pretty expensive, so I wish I could think it was a great experience. But it was not.
- I can appreciate their special style and I do respect their culture. I knew in advance that I’ll have 30 minutes for the whole experience (20+ big nigiris) so I wasn’t surprised that I finished the meal in 27 minutes. But I don't think it's okay that the chef is dictating the pace by placing the next sushi on my plate while I am still chewing the previous one. And in a way this makes the experience quite stressful, as if you are not fast enough, he can take away the sushi from your plate when the next one comes...
- Given the strictness and the fastidiousness towards any possible violation of the etiquette, the ambience was anything but comfortable or friendly. I didn’t really feel welcome, and looking at my fellow guests, no one seemed to be at ease, either. And believe me, even if they served the best sushi in the world, you need a relaxed atmosphere to really enjoy it (and not to be rushed: 27 minutes for 21 big nigiris is anything but stress-free).
- But the sushi is not the best in the world. It is not even close to perfect. I had so many great experiences in Tokyo on my trip, that it wasn’t simply enough to get nice food. Most of the fish were great, but some pieces seemed low quality or defective. For example, the mantis shrimp had a very strange slushy texture, definitely not the best quality.
- The size of the sushi is too big. Okay, it is the “rustic” style of the place, but still, it should be easy to fit it into your mouth to enjoy it. (Biting off is not an option because that would be impolite and violating the etiquette, and we don’t want that, right?)
- The flavouring of most of the sushi was just too strong. Some of them were too sour, some of them way too sweet, some of them well balanced. This is of course also a question of personal taste but it should all be about the taste and the quality of the rice and the fish, and not about the overwhelming marinade or sugar.
- Not even the Japanese think this is the best sushi. If you check out Tabelog, a reliable restaurant guide, you won’t see Jiro in the TOP20 in Tokyo, and it’s even lower on the list if we look at the whole country. (Saito is the number one, check out here what I had to say about it)
- Service was not friendly at all. It was not just strict and unkind, but there was not a single word from Jiro. I understand that a traditional sushi chef is not chitchatting but it would have been nice if he said a word about the sushi he was serving. Even in Japanese. I was prepared. I even greeted them in Japanese, said thank you in Japanese, etc.
- Service was not friendly at all - No 2. I was not allowed to take off my jacket! I tried it first at the entrance, but the waiter - who spoke English and was also responsible for the tea - told me that I should keep it on. I tried again taking it off inside, when taking my seat at the counter, but I was again told to keep it on. So I kept it on. It was clearly an outerwear, and I still had to wear it for the whole time. From this point of view, it was nice to have only 27 minutes...
Don't get me wrong; it's a decent place with a sushi that is much better than almost anywhere else outside of Japan. But it is definitely not the Nr. 1 in Japan, not even in Tokyo. (Check out the real Nr. 1 here!) And the above - being uptight and quick because that’s the style here – may be acceptable one by one, but altogether the inconveniences made me not want to return but rather publish my bad experience. I don’t recommend the place but luckily it’s quite far away and it’s extremely difficult to get in, hence only a few will march in this trap. Anyway, Tokyo is full of other exciting foodie experiences to choose from!
[e.g. the most kawaii restaurant, or others]
Your comments are welcome!