Being a travelholic I have become pretty smart and effecient with my travels expenses, I can’t say the same about my dining.
Roundtrip business class fares to Tokyo usually run for about $4,000 and up however this JetSetting juggernaut was able to snag 2 roundtrip tickets on Qatar Airway for a cool $648. That’s a 15 hour flight in a lie flat bed whilst being served endless rosè for less than a sushi meal, at a Michelin rated Tokyo restaurant to be precise.
Tokyo has a whopping 227 Michelin rated restaurants and my goal was to visit a couple of the sushi places which may seem easy but definitely isn’t. A lot of these restaurants have seating for as few as 6 people and being that they are highly in demand, it can easily be a plot for the next mission impossible movie to get a reservation at one of these spots without doing so a few months in advance.
Luckily, the concierge at my hotel was a sharp fellow that knew how to get sh*t done so after making a couple calls, he was able to get us into Sushi Masuda (2 Michelin stars) and Suhiko Honten ( a 135 year old 1 Michelin star rated restaurant).
Sushi Masuda was first on the list. Masuda was a long time disciple of word famous chef Jiro that many consider to be the top sushi chef in the world and owner of a 3 Michelin star rated establishment. After learning from Jiro for several years, Masuda decided to open his own place. Smart!!!
One we arrived we were seated and asked for our choice of beverage. All the fine sushi places do an omikase style dining which means that the chef selects your food. In Masuda’s case, he tailors the line up based on the drink order, we ordered a bottle of white wine and waited with excitement.
The meal started with a few appetizers, some of which would have been unrecognizable to me had we not been told what it was before being served.
After the appetizers the sushi began. Most people that eat sushi in the western world are used to eatin maki (rolls) however in Japan nigiri and sashimi are what is popular and don’t expect to get cream cheese or spicy mayo in your sushi. What was served to us was simple, carefully constructed pieces of sushi piece by piece. And when I say peice by peice I literally mean it, chef Masuda served us each piece of sushi and then waited and watched us enjoy it before making the next peice right in front of us. Although he wasn’t intimidating by any stretch. In fact he asked us before he started to let him know if we did not like anything and he can cater to our desires. We enjoyed everything bite by bite.
Maybe my western roots are at play here but my favorite peice of sushi was a maki roll he made. It’s was a toro (tuna belly) roll with onions, ginger and wasabi. So simple but is without a doubt the best bite of sushi I have ever let my taste buds caress. Maybe it’s the aggressive vinegar in the rice or maybe it’s simply the careful prepration but nonetheless it was a blissful experience.
Masuda’s English is limited however he attempted to make some small talk with us during the 1.5 hour dinner and after our delicious dinner, came from behind the counter to take a picture with his full bellied patrons.
Total cost: 67,000 Yen ($604) almost double the price of our one way trip in business class to Tokyo but we were only half way done. Sushiko Honten was next.
Sushiko Honten has been serving sushi for 135 years and is currently 1 Michelin starred restaurant. Being that it’s located in the luxury shopping district of Ginza we decided to walk there since our hotel was also in Ginza. We timed our walk so that we would arrive exactly at 8:30 pm, the time of our reservation however when we arrived we noticed that google maps had steered us wrong and we were actually 15 minutes away from the actual location so we hailed a taxi and apologized for being late once we arrived.
We were taken downstairs to a sushi counter where another couple was also being served and were introduced to our chef and waiter/translator/guide. Just like at Masuda we ordered our drinks, a bottle of 2010 white wine and we were asked about any allergies and/or preferences and the feast was under way.
We began with appetizers that included a few servings of sashimi while our entertaining waiter explained the preparation and detail of each serving. Next the sushi followed and this time around there was no maki however the eal was divine and was followed up closely by an amazing toro and sea urchin.
Our waiter whom is a chef in training spoke very good English so we chatted him up a bit and found out that he moved to Tokyo to receive training in the art and craft of making sushi. He told us about the hierchial system in sushi shops and how it could take a minimum 10 years for a trainee to get the chance to prepare sushi for a customer. Until then they trained and did stuff like prepare the rice or make the tomago for years until they perfected it.
After the serving was finished we were asked if we cared for anything more and Eszti decided to have one more bite of the eal while I ordered a miso soup that was unlike any other miso soup I had ever had. It was so rich in flavor and so filling that I had to ask our waiter why it tasted so much different than the miso I have had in the past and he politely replied that miso soup in the US is simply miso and hot water and then proceeded to break down the myriad of steps it took to prepare their miso. Too long for me to write down but boy o boy was it good. Another successful sushi dinner completed and we were stuffed.
The damage for this dinner? 78,000 Yen ($703)
A total of $1307 for 2 sushi diners and approximately $11 more than the 2 roundtrip business class tickets to Tokyo cost us but it was well well well worth it.
Should you spend that kind of money on sushi if you visit Tokyo? Well, if you are a sushi aficionado I would say you should try it once at least but don’t go in expecting California rolls and the like. If you go in looking to experience something different and unique than I believe that you will experience a meal of a lifetime prepared by people that take their craft so seriously that they devote more than 14 hours a day and basically their entire life to, thus you can expect a delicious meal. Start saving 🙂