If a high-end sushi experience is on your bucket list, you’ve come to the right place. Sushi in Tokyo is on an entirely different level, but with thousands of sushi restaurants, it’s not easy to narrow it down. “Best” is subjective after all. The answer depends on your tastes, your experience with sushi, and how much you’re willing to pay. In this article, these sushi restaurants in Tokyo are for those who are willing to jump through some hoops to get a seat. Some of them are notoriously hard to get a reservation, and some are so exclusive, they go by an invite-only basis. Welcome to the world of high-end sushi!
1. Sushi Saito
For many sushi connoisseurs, Sushi Saito is the holy grail of sushi. Run by chef Takashi Saito, the exclusive eight-seater restaurant in Roppongi had three Michelin stars until it stopped accepting reservations from the public. It is impossible to get a reservation here unless you are a regular patron or a VIP, and most diners make reservations for their next visit even before their meal is over.
If you’re lucky enough to know someone that will invite you along for a meal, get ready for a transcendental experience. You will understand why Chef Saito is so venerated by the way he executes his craft. Going great lengths to procure the best ingredients, every shari (seasoned sushi rice) and neta (topping) pairing goes impeccably together. Sushi Saito is not just one of the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo. It is the best sushi restaurant in the world.
2. Sukiyabashi Jiro
If you’re a sushi connoisseur, you’ve no doubt heard of Sukiyabashi Jiro. Much like Sushi Saito, it was removed from the Michelin Guide for being too exclusive. It does not take reservations from the public, instead requiring a luxury hotel concierge to make the reservation instead.
Don’t expect a relaxing dining experience – owner-chef Jiro Ono believes that speed eating is the best way to enjoy sushi. You are also expected to be on your best behaviour – chefs have also been known to scold diners for bad sushi etiquette! For this reason alone, we wouldn’t recommend Sukiyabashi Jiro as a first-timer experience to high-end sushi. If you’re desperate to try Chef Ono’s style of sushi, we’ll recommend getting a table at the branch restaurant in Roppongi that’s run by his son.
3. Sushi Arai
Since its opening in 2015, Sushi Arai quickly became one of Tokyo’s favourite sushi restaurants. Chef Arai may be one of the younger sushi chefs in the industry, but he has eight years of experience with the renowned Sushi Kyubey, and six at Sushi Sho.
Chef Arai’s style of sushi leans towards a classic style with the pieces slightly larger than most. The focus here is on nigiri sushi, with tasty fish and shellfish slices gently pressed on a bed of shari made with red vinegar. What’s also unique about Sushi Arai is that unlike other omakase meals, you get to have a say here in the line-up of your course! Chef Arai also speaks English well, so non-Japanese speakers and first-time diners will feel much more at ease here.
4. Sushi Sugita
Sushi Sugita is a Michelin star restaurant, and chef Takaaki Sugita is known for his shari made with a blend of red vinegars and amber. It pairs beautifully with his neta, particularly the hikarimono (silver fish). His otsumami (appetizers) are not for unadventurous diners. Think white shrimp with tomalley and brains, sea cucumber ovaries, and salt-grilled cod milt (aka fish sperm!)
Unsurprisingly, Sushi Sugita is also notoriously hard to book, you’ll be best trying to snag a reservation through your hotel concierge. If you’re lucky enough to secure a seat at the counter, Sugita-san is absolutely mesmerizing to watch. His execution and presentation is hard to beat, and you can see this in the techniques he applies to every piece of sushi.
Hatsunezushi is one of the sushi restaurants in Tokyo with a rich history. Over 120 years of it, to be specific. Chef Katsu Nakaji is the third-generation owner, and his great-grandfather started this restaurant in 1883. Different from Edomae sushi, the neta here is warmed on a hot plate and meant to be eaten warm. Chef Nakaji also serves the sushi directly into your hand instead of on a plate!
If you’re a first-timer, Chef Nakaji speaks decent English, is incredibly personable and will put you at ease. However, back in 2018 they were already taking reservations for 2020! We can imagine that the waiting list will start to pile up when the pandemic is over. We hope you’ll get a seat here!