When people think of Japanese cuisine, they immediately think of sushi. In truth, there’s a lot more to Japanese food than sushi, but it’s a completely understandable and logical jumping off point. Famous the world over, if you asked an average person what sushi is, you’d probably get some variation on the following: ‘raw fish’. In fact, sushi doesn’t always consist of fish; what unites all sushi dishes is the vinegared rice, also called known as shari. The rice is then combined with ingredients such as seafood (where sushi gets its fishy reputation), vegetables, meat, or even tropical fruits. The name for lone strips of fish, which is commonly confused with sushi, is actually sashimi, which can be an important distinction when you reach Japan. The rice used for sushi can be brown or white, and sushi is usually served with a side of ginger strips, to cleanse the palate between each delicious mouthful, and a bowl of soy sauce, to give the flavors a little extra kick.
You can get sushi in most countries in the world, but the aficionados among you will want to head to the original land of the dish: Japan. And what better city to sample the delights of sushi than Tokyo, that bustling neon metropolis which mixes the modern with the traditional to spectacular effect. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of sushi places over Tokyo, so choosing the best of them really comes down to a matter of personal taste. With Tokyo being such a densely populated area, which essentially contains eight mini-cities in one, you could even stay in one district and not go far wrong with sushi places to eat. Despite all the options and the choices, however, here’s a list of some of the best restaurants and eateries around; remember to log down the ones that catch your eye in your handy BUCKiTDREAM planner, and get on to BUCKiTDREAM’s feed to check out the sushi places your fellow travelers have discovered. It won’t be long until you’re a veteran sushi taster of the East!
Katsu Midori In Tokyo, you have to remember to keep looking up. Unlike the West, where we think of buildings as separate from each other, the Japanese use their space much more wisely and think in terms of floors. It’s not uncommon to see many different, seemingly random and at odds establishments stacked on top of each other in the same building. Katsu Midori is one such place. You can find this restaurant on the eighth floor of a seemingly innocuous department store in downtown Shibuya, just feet from the famous pedestrian scramble.
The first thing you’ll probably notice is the queue to get in, but don’t worry, this is normal, and the place has a pretty quick turnover time, so you shouldn’t be waiting that long. And hey, queuing is a big part of Japanese culture, so get with it! The sushi here is cheap, delicious, and has the added bonus of arriving at your table via a little train, which runs to all the seated tables in the restaurant. There’s also the standard sushi operating procedure in the center of the place, where you can grab a plate from the conveyor belt or ask for one fresh from the chefs. Katsu Midori is a hit with locals and tourists alike, so don’t worry about being misunderstood either!
Uobei Sushi Sticking with Shibuya, there’s another great little place that’s easy on the wallet; and anyone who’s been hungry while eating sushi knows all too well that you certainly need a large bankroll if you want to feel full.
This isn’t much of a problem at Uobei Sushi, where the food averages 100 yen (approximately $1) per plate. Also, this isn’t your traditional slow conveyor belt setup; once ordered, the sushi appears on your table with lightning fast speed. This is due to the unique touchscreen functionality of ordering, which gives the place a futuristic vibe and makes it a perfect spot for a quick lunch or dinner, with remarkably cheap prices.
Sukiyabashi Jiro There is, of course, sushi restaurants at the other end of the price scale. Made world-famous by the charming and insightful 2011 documentary ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’, Sukiyabashi Jiro is one of the most sought out spots in town, especially since its presidential visit from Barack and Michelle Obama.
Jiro Ono, the head chef, has spent most of his eighty-seven years on a quest to perfect his sushi, and the results are quite wonderful. This adherence and commitment have resulted in three Michelin stars for Jiro and his restaurant, though the dining experience will be quite different to any other similarly-decorated establishment.
Diners are expected to eat their sushi within 45 seconds of preparation; taking that into account, a meal at Jiro’s rarely takes more than half an hour, and it’s a very stripped-down affair. The restaurant itself is located in the basement of an office building near Ginza station, so you’ll have to go underground to find it. Also, it’s particularly hard to get in to, as the seating is minimal, and the waiting list for a table is somewhat extreme. If you are lucky enough to bag a seat, then rest assured you will be eating at one of the premier sushi restaurants not just in Tokyo, but in all of Japan.
Sushi Kanesaka Another upmarket choice for the more refined sushi-adventurer is Sushi Kanesaka, located in downtown Tokyo, right between the Imperial palace and the imposing, multi-veined (and multi-floored) Tokyo Station.
Kanesaka has been a well-known sushi spot for locals for many years, but in recent times, the Michelin guide landed in Tokyo and started doling out stars left, right and center, leading many tourists through their doors. Not that this is a bad thing, in theory; but when the foreign guests don’t take the time to even try to understand the native Japanese cuisine, it can lead to a little friction. Not that you’ll notice, as the Japanese are very reserved and polite, even to the most obnoxious of guests.
The menu is not cheap by any means, but the sushi is outstanding. The meal is fast, but not rushed, and unlike other places, you never feel pressured to rapidly finish your meal and make way for other diners. Also, at Kanesaka the fish and rice hold equal importance, which is the way sushi should be. As with many things Japanese, the beauty and the art are found in the balance.
Ultimately, there are so many sushi restaurants in Tokyo, that finding and discovering your own can be half the fun – take the above suggestions as a launching pad and then go forth and taste all of what Tokyo has to offer. Just don’t forget to share sushi snaps on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!