Sukiyabashi Jiro

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sukiyabashi Jiro!! We did it!! 

Kevin and I waffled back and forth a bit about starting our trip to Japan on such a high (and expensive!) note, but we figured, why not! We love sushi so much, and after having late night, mediocre sushi in Asakusa, we were eager to have the real deal. 

If you're unfamiliar with Jiro Ono, I highly recommend watching "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," a documentary about the greatest living sushi chef and the best sushi bar in the world. You'll appreciate sushi as a dazzling art, its preparation as a well measured and precise performance, and come to love an old man who is so meticulous with his craft. I watched the documentary in theatres, followed by a Q&A with the director, David Gelb.  He discussed visiting other sushi chefs and bars in search of a story, so I wondered, was it really the best sushi he had ever had? He didn't pick my raised hand but at least I now have my own answer to that question.

We visited the Roppongi location where the younger son, Takashi Jiro, runs the show, not the infamous Ginza location where 86 year-old papa Jiro Ono works. This location has two Michelin stars, as opposed to three Michelin stars at Ginza, but they take English-speaking guests. Win! We were also able to make our lunch reservations the day of through the kindness of our hostel.

To answer some immediate questions you may have:

1. It was the most expensive meal I've ever had--$48,000 yen ($512 USD) for both of us, just green tea, at lunch time. Dinner costs more because there are more "courses."
2. It was worth every yen.
3. It was the best sushi I've ever had. Honestly, the best meal I've ever had in my life. Sorry, mom.

First of all, when you make a reservation (which you should), they warn you of their 10,000 yen cancelation fee if you change it less than 2 hours prior or don't show.  Second, the location was actually a little tough to find. It's in the back corner of a fancy shopping area, Roppongi Hills. Perhaps the construction made it difficult to navigate, but certainly their maps were not very helpful. Ask the information guide (look for someone in a smart, black suit and a red band on their arm that says "information") to direct you through the maze of high end shops and restaurants. 

Kevin & I got there early and nervously waited outside until it was 12:25 pm (reservation at 12:30 pm). Upon entering, they took our coats and seated us at the end of the bar. There were two groups there before us. The day revealed that we were the last of their lunch guests. The staff makes it a point to memorize who is coming so there's no glancing at paper. Serious stuff.

I unfortunately don't have any photos of the meal (no one was taking pictures and I didn't want to be THAT person), but you'll have to take my word for it and know that it was beautiful.  They asked us if we wanted to start with sashimi or go straight to sushi (nigiri). SASHIMI!! I'm so glad we did, too. Something new I'd never had before was bloody crab sashimi. It had a similar texture to squid or clam, but very sweet and somewhat delicate. I think it's a rare item because I can't seem to find a photo of it via google. After three sashimi dishes, we moved on to our 15 courses of nigiri. We had ika (so delicious & perfect), anago (it melted in your mouth!), uni (my favorite and the best, fresh from Hokkaido), prawns, tuna, mackerel, scallops, fish I'd never heard of and can't remember, etc etc. There was rhythm to the way Takashi Jiro artfully brushed the soy sauce on each piece and pressed the fish and rice together with two fingers.  Occasionally, he instructed in a low voice, "no soy sauce". The wasabi was freshly grated in front of us. The chefs were straight up perfectionists, not shy about sending  less than perfect cuts back to the kitchen. Their tomago was like a sweet, moist sponge cake rather than anything that resembled an egg omelet. I wanted to cry because I realized I had only been eating carbon copies of the real thing. I actually did get teary eyed. Food so good that it makes you emotional. Or I'm just emotional :P

The folks next to us probably ordered two or three times as much as we did. How the heck did they fit so much food! All in all, the meal has a steep price tag but it's worth it. Not only are you eating the best sushi, you're watching masters of the craft in their element. Do visit. At least just once. It's a spiritual experience of sorts or something.

Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi
Address: 6丁目-12-2 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan
Phone:+81 3-5413-6626
Open for lunch & dinner, closed Wednesdays.
Transit: Roppongi Station
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