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Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza

Tsukamoto Sogyo Building B1F, 4-2-15 Ginza, Chou-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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This is in the basement of an office building near Ginza station. There is a single wooden counter around which there are just ten tables. We had the usual range of sushi items, starting with flounder (which did not have a lot of taste but avoided chewiness) and a squid ("aori") which sadly was distinctly chewy. Eniada or young yellowtail was better, at which point we moved on to the usual trio of tuna: naguro, partially fatty and fatty "oto". These were excellent, though not a patch on the ones at Sushi Mizutani two days earlier. 

Kohado (a type of shad) was pleasant, as was the tasty horse mackerel that was in season. "Shako" is a type of shrimp (mantis shrimp) that was very pleasant, as was salmon roe. Sea eel as the final savoury item was not as tasty as two others I had on this trip. Finally the egg custard cake which traditionally finishes a sushi meal appeared. 

The temperature of the rice was correct (i.e. room temperature rather than fridge temperature), and reputedly they keep each fish at a slightly different temperature. The rice tastes more heavily of vinegar than some, but I gather this reflects the particular style of the sushi chef rather than it being objectively better or worse than a more lightly vinegared style. I was surprised at the gulf in the taste of the fish between here and Sushi Mitzutani on the same trip: there was clear blue water between the two sushi places that Michelin gave three stars to in 2008 in my view. Hence on the food I have scored this 16/20.

The service was another matter. This is a restaurant that you can only make a reservation at if you are eating with a fluent Japanese speaker. The person I went with has lived in Japan for six years and teaches cookery; he also felt the sushi to be good but not the best he had eaten. However from the moment we sat down, the old gentleman who runs the place, and the chef who served us, regarded us with barely concealed contempt. They spent their time glowering at us throughout. The fish came at a very fast pace, and when at one point my wife stopped for a few moments towards the end and explained (via our translator) that she just needed a moment, they just took her sushi away regardless.  "The customer is always right" is not a concept that has caught on at this place. 

At the end I bowed to the owner as I gather one is supposed to do (despite our poor treatment), and thanked him in my poor Japanese and he looked away and sneered rather than acknowledge me. This was literally the only example I have ever encountered in Japan of rude service, whether at high end dining places or the cheapest and simplest cafe, and it seems to me wholly unacceptable whatever the culture. It would appear that they really don't want foreigners to come here, in which case it would have seemed logical for them to decline being in the Michelin (as a few places in Tokyo did) and remain with their local regulars. Instead they seem happy to take gaijin money, but not to manage even the semblance of courtesy. One other person who has eaten here this year (an American food writer) told a similar story, incidentally. 

The bill, by the way, was an absurd JPY 30,000 per person for the food alone, which was almost twice that of the vastly superior Sushi Mitzutani (also 3 star Michelin) and was the most expensive food bill of the entire trip. The inaccessibility of this place may in itself seem a paradoxical attraction to some people, but it is really not worth the effort in my opinion. 

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  • Greg

    I met Jiro Ono last week in Tokyo at his restaurant. I had no reservations, and despite having a "closed" sign outside, he allowed me in to his restaurant to buy some of his sushi vinegar. He was brusque but not overly rude, calling upon a very polite junior apprentice who spoke fluent English to help me. The truth about Jiro's attitude towards foreigners probably lies somewhere in between the two polar-opposite schools of thought I've read here. I found him to be no more inhospitable than any busy 80-something American man I've ever met. Consider the context, as well: if he's in his late 80's, then he was in his early teens at the end of WWII, when two Japanese cities were vaporized by American bombs and his country was occupied by Americans. Human nature being what it is, I suspect that many Japanese men of that generation aren't very fond of Americans, just as I know many Americans of that generation aren't very fond of Japanese and Germans. I've also personally witnessed Americans behaving very poorly in Japan; he might have had some bad experiences himself over the years. Is he the demi-God some need him to be? No. He's just a tiny little grumpy Asian man who's been making great sushi for almost twice as long as I've been alive. Is his sense of self-importance a little inflated? Probably so. Bottom line: if you can handle the possibilty of being treated rudely for some first-rate sushi served by the guy who was in that documentary you loved, then go. If you're willing to spend the money and get almost identical sushi and austere ambiance without the rude treatment, then go to Mitzutani, his former apprentice. If you want to have first-rate sushi and have a blast, then go to Yasuda...best meal I've had in many, many years.

  • Anonymous

    For the comments regarding the poor service, Japan has an obsession with food and treats chefs with lots of respect. Jiro is considered a top celebrity in Japan. He has arguably the best sushi in the world. He also has high social status because he was born in a rich family. Another thing is, as in many other Asian cultures, treating elders with respect is given standard. His sushi is not just a meal. "It's a performance he gives through your taste buds."

  • Ben

    Eating there in early 2013 I am surprised regarding the comments. Everything was fine, one of the best sushi I ever ate. Nice service however the staff didn't speak english nor french. I went with a japanese co worker who ate there several times before our session. I know the rules, how to be polite. Maybe this makes the difference...

  • Olga

    Just returned from the restaurant. It was truly fabulous. We spoke no Japanese but we were really respectful -thanks to the hotel tips we knew dos and don'ts. Agree with the previous comment - this is the place for true conosseurs. I often can't help but wonder that Michelin stars are awarded for entertaining and often the food falls short. Luckily here it is all about remarkable sushi. So no I don't think the price is rediculous for the decades of obsessive dedication and a true honour of being served by the Great Jiro.

  • Jessen HP

    after reading the reviews, we have decided that it is best to stay away from this restaurant. speed eating and vinagery rice on top of being treated horribly by a uncivilized and moody chef does not sound like a good dining experience in the making.

  • Jeremy

    I did not eat there, but my wife and I were greeted with a rude awakening. First off this is the one place I looked forward to seeing after watching the documentary and this was my first visit to Tokyo. after spemding 30 minutes to find the place we took pictures of the outside. Just then jiro eldest son came out of the restroom and I politely asked in Japanese for his picture. His response was no and he walked off. 3 minutes later the building security guard comes out and asks us not take pictures of the inside which we weren't then rushes back to the back door to give and exteremly long and low bow to the son. Now almost every Joanese person out here has been kind and helpful to us so maybe I was expecting the same from jiro and his son. However as stated this was not so. I will never eat there or recommend it to others.

  • Tony

    There are a lot of negative reviews about this restaurant, and before I give my own personal review, I'd like to submit to all readers to watch an episode of Seinfield before reading any further. The episode? Soup nazi, of course. Finished? Watch it a second time. Finished? Let that episode sinks in for a good 10 minutes. I'll wait. All done? Good, then I'll say you're not worthy of eating here. Period. If your reaction to my last statement is indignation, and muttering "why, customers are always right", then please do you and your wallet a favor and do not visit this place. You will NOT get any good service, you will NOT get any good sushi. Now, the reason I said what i said is because every time I visit, the sushi are simply out of this world. I make a point to go there every time I visit Japan, and Jiro never disappoints. The thing is, Jiro is a master in the truest sense of the word, and you are not a customer. Rather, you should think of yourself as one participating with a master delivering his craft. And as with any ornery master crafting his art in times of yore, he is not there to impress or to serve. He is like the soup nazi, if he is not impressed with you then no soup for you. Regarding the comment that Jiro is racist, well over my several visits I did witnessed two occasions of Jiro's temper at some of his other patrons. Both times were directed at local Japanese, yet he is ok with me even with my not so fluent Japanese. Service and the sushi he makes do fluctuate according with if he sees you worthy of his establishment. In conclusion, I'd say its best for most to avoid this place. If you really wants to be able to experience something that a master at the top of his craft is able to deliver, please get in the proper mindset first. If Mozart were alive today, what kind of mindset would you be in if you were to attend his performance? Michaelangelo? This is a master, treat him as such.

  • ToTellTheVeryTruth

    Well, speaking of Sukiyabashi Jiro, three days ago I went to this restaurant in order to take some pictures of it to write a little article about this three-stars sushi-ya. Went I arrived there, a gentle couple – mister, his wife and their little baby in his/her cart – of american tourists were taking pictures themselves. After one or two more shots, the Wife went to the restroom while Mister gave me the place. I’ve just began when a young cook went out and shouted loudly I was not allowed to take pictures of the inside of the restaurant. As I made him note I was far away from it he repeated his defiant order: don’t take pictures ! I told him I was outside the restaurant which meant I could take picture without hurting any law and then the young cook pointed with his finger the restaurant sign saying I was allowed just to shoot that part of the restaurant. What an outrage ! What a misbehaviour ! This restaurant is very low on the “welcome criterium” and it trashes his reputation, the Michelin judgement and the so-called “sense of hospitality” of Japan that is a vast joke as the american tourist admitted after the incident, as we had a little discussion about what japanese tourists do when they visit foreign countries – which include taking pictures with violent flashes of Renaissance paintings – but can’t stand a foreigner taking pictures of some public places, shop windows and so on. A private and a national shame !

  • Name unavailable

    I'm not sure what you guys are talking about. I just finished my dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Ginza and everything went very well. Everyone working there was very nice to me and the food was out of this world. The only problem that I encountered during the whole process was when I called to make a reservation and they insisted that I call to confirm multiple times (once on Friday and once this morning). Other than that there was no aggresion, no time pressure, and no problems with the service there tonight. Jiro Ono only stared at me once the entire meal, after he served me the first piece of sushi, presumably (as explained in the movie "Jiro dreams of sushi") to see what handedness I am in order to make future pieces. Considering the fact that my friend and I were under dressed in comparison to the other guests, the service I received there was better than if I had done the same at some high-class western restaurants.

  • Name unavailable

    Let me start by saying this restaurant is not for everyone. If you plan to sit there with family/friends/clients and chat about the weather and politics, do not go to Sushi Jiro. However if you are a sushi purist or call yourself a foodie, you should ignore all negative reviews and try this restaurant before the 86yo chef retires. Both Chef Jiro Ono and his older son/first assistant greeted me when I sat down at the counter; they presented the daily Omakase (Chef’s choice) menu printed in both Japanese and English. Jiro does not speak any English, therefore it's not easy for him to communicate with you, however his son can understand and speak English and he verifies if you have any dietary restrictions or anything you don't like and modifies the menu accordingly. In term of food, it is difficult to say which 3 star Michelin sushi restaurant has the best fish, they all get the highest possible quality fish. But 3 items on my menu were the bests I have had, the cooked to order shrimp, the uni (see urchin) and the anago (sea eel) are to die for. In addition chef Jiro prepares his sushi rice with his own special blend of vinegar, which makes this experience truly on of a kind. Many reviewers complained about the pace of the meal, but I believe a piece of sushi is only at its highest quality within 5 seconds after it is made, you should not let it sit on your plate for more and a few seconds. Also it is a 20 course meal, if you don’t eat fast; you will be full before end of the meal and will not enjoy the last few pieces. Lastly, if you are a gaijin (Japanese for foreigner who doesn't speak japanese) like myself, it is best to have your hotel's concierges desk to make and confirm your reservation for you. Also I think it is better.

  • Name unavailable

    My husband and I have just finished watching the documentary, "Jiro - Dreams of Sushi", and wanted to make plan to visit the restaurant next year. Luckily, we've read this blog and the comment from the gentleman who visited the restaurant with his brother and Japanese wife. Based on your story, we've decided not to visit Jiro ever. On top of that, we'll be looking forward to the fall of that restaurant. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. If he were truly a worthy sushi master, he should understand there are people all over the world appreciating food just like himself. If he did not have that world view, he is not a worthy chef in my view.

  • Name unavailable

    I visited Sukiyabashi Jiro a few days ago and I really regreted spending 40,000 yen on my lunch. Me and my friend both speaks Japanese, and I mostly agreed with the other reviews about the poor service and good (but not worth 3 michelin star or 30k to 40k yen price tag) sushi. I think it is true Mr. Ono prefer serving his regulars, although our experience was nowhere near as horrible as some other reviewers. My guess is that Mr. Ono is borderline rude to all non-regulars, Japanese or not, because I observed similar type of indifferent treatment to other guests who are Japanese. And it makes me wonder if the Michelin reviewers' identity is not a secret to Mr. Ono, since I cannot imagine they would be awarded 3 stars if the reviewers got the similar treatment as most other reviewers on this site. On the food, I would say about half of the sushi were very good; sumi ika, buri, kuruma ebi, akami, otoro (to be honest, I think he skipped our piece of the otoro during the regular serving since he was serving us sushi in pretty fast pace. But at the end since we were not 100% sure if were jipped one piece of sushi or we didn't notice eating it, we just ordered another piece anyway). Uni was ok, saba was so so, Anago was not good and Tamago was horrible. My conclusion: good to so so food, bad service, 3 star ? Give me a break! 400 to 500 bucks? Rip off!

  • Name unavailable

    We went to Jiro fully knowing what to expect. I could never, however, never, ever anticipate the horrid - bordering on racist treatment - we in for that night. Three of us (me, my brother, and my Japanese wife) had no trouble making a dinner-time reservation a few weeks ago. We tried to enter the restaurant in single file, in the following order: my brother, first, me, second, and my 151 cm tall wife, last. As my brother and I entered the restaurant, my brother removed his jacket and placed it on a rack. Before I could reach for my scarf, my brother's jacket was - literally - shoved back into his chest, and he was being pushed in the back towards me and told, "Sorry, no foreigner." My brother said, "We have a reservation." He was then treated not to the Japanese standard 'batsu' sign, which consists of two index fingers crossed to indicate the negative, but to the exclamation version of this rather rude gesture, wherein the signer steps up to (underneat) your face, raises his arms emphatically, and crosses them at the forearm and says something like 'dame!'. I was startled to see this in a 3-star michelin restaurant, and I am happy that my brother, who is not used to such gestures did not react as most westerners would. Instead of 'dame!', the term used in this context was 'no enter. its full!' and this was delivered at, by Japanese standards, a very raised, hostile voice - I like to call it the samurai growl, because it's so common in samurai jidaigeki movies. All the while my brother was stepping back into me, I was retreating, and this 'individual' was gaining ground. A second later, we out of the restaurant. My wife, as yet unseen, suggested she try herself - being Japanese - and sure enough, she was treated as if a new guest had come in. When she confirmed our reservation and learnt our table was ready, she beckoned us in. They were startled to see us re-enter the restaurant with her, although no apology was forthcoming; rather, we heard a few grunts, and if looks could kill... The rude individual - who I would later learn was the nationally-famous owner - would go on to flash nasty looks, his eyes red-hot with what I can only describe as rage whenever he looked in our direction for the rest of the evening. At one point he made a snappy, fast comment and nodded in our direction. I barely believed what I read in Andy's article above, until it happened to my brother - as he was struggling with a piece of one of the final plates of sushi we were served, his plate was promptly yanked from under his nose and whisked away. As with Andy's party, we barely had time to breathe the whole evening - the place seemed to crackle with intensity whenever the staff came into the fray, and I was disturbed to realise the old man aforementioned spent what seemed to me like the better part of the evening not preparing sushi or chatting with patrons, but glaring at us, passing snide remarks, snickering and scowling. He observed what we did the whole time (as though he expected us to pocket a chopstick or something) and we could not relax or enjoy it. The bill came promptly, without our asking for it, and the waiter waited behind my shoulder whilst I counted out a small fortune to pay for the unfortunate choice of the evening. He snatched the tray off the counter as soon as the money left my hand, without so much as a cursory word of recognition or gratitude. As we rose to leave, there was no 'goshisosama deshta' or 'arigato gozaimas' on the part of either party: my brother's bow went unacknowledged; my wife and I did not bother. As a last insult, when we were out of the restaurant, the door was slammed shut behind us. Needless to say, my wife, trying to make a good impression both personally and in terms of my adopted country of residence, was embarrassed beyond belief (my brother is our guest in Japan; it's his first time here). Our one saving grace of the evening came in the form of other patrons. Where, compared to what we are used to, Tokyoites tend to keep to themselves and show no reaction to anything other people do, the other guests were visibly distraught at how we were treated. At one point, an elderly man dining next to my brother leaned toward him and said something like, "Doshtano?" in reference to the owner's treatment of us. I took over and said that we did not know what was wrong and could not comprehend the owner hostility. His reply was, "gomen nasai" - even a stranger was embarrassed by his countryman's poor treatment of us. The point of this article is simple: this restaurant is to be avoided at all costs, whether you have a Japanese amongst you or not. Now, please understand, I am not calling the reviewers who gave it a glowing recommendation liars; this is more of a 'your mileage may vary' type thing, but when you're looking at spending a small fortune, do you really want to risk being amongst those who have had an appalling experience at Jiro? Yes, the food was good; on the basis of food alone, I place it as follows, based on where we've been: 1. Mizutani 2. Kyubei 3. Sawada 4. >>JIRO<< 5. Saito At this level, when spending these amounts, I believe the food is only one of a few other factors that require consideration. I think most of the gastronomically-inclined would agree, and suggest that Jiro is best avoided based on this principle. I would be happy to accept that my bias might have relegated Jiro to 4 when its rightful rank is 3, above Sawada, but the evening was such a mess it affected my enjoyment of the food, and at the end of it, if you accept that you go out to eat to enjoy yourself - a holistic experience - then you must accept that, based on what I and others have said about this restaurant - its rightful rank is at the very bottom. Most people consider the old man a national treasure or whatnot - I consider him an offence to contemporary Japan, a man of whom his own countrypeople are ashamed.

  • chiente

    I am a fluent Japanese speaker and eat sushi every week. I did not see any superiority of materials to other sushi restaurant. I visited this shop on April 4th, 2011. The most impressive taste was the rice was sour than others. The service is really arrogant and brutal to the child by the elder son of Jiro.

  • Eric Kellerman

    When we are in Tokyo, we are lucky enough to have an excellent sushi restaurant, Sushi Kan, just round the corner from where we live. This is a place with limited space at the counter and a few tables. The chef, who turned down the offer of a place in the Tokyo Michelin guide so as to be faithful to his regular customers, has nothing but harsh words to say about the quality of Jiro.

  • john dewey

    Let me see... they welcome your money but not you... I don't think this would be acceptable in any culture. They should just not let you in, in the first place

  • Jo Rodin

    A rough experience at Jiro after a great experience at Mizutani - much in line with your comments. We did not mind hiring a guide to join us (as we were indeed required to come with a Japanese). At 31.500 yen per person (incl tea...) it is quite hefty in price, and by far the most expensive three star I have been to - on a per minute basis! Mr Jiro was apparently eager to have us out of our seats quickly, as there were some regulars coming in. In spite of our efforts to slow him down, he managed to serve us 20 bites in 32 minutes; i.e. about 1000 yen per minute...We were then allowd 16 minutes at a table, to relax with another cup of tea - as his regulars poured in. Now, all of this is liveable, if his efforts and serving had been top notch. While the service as such was more than good, the food was not. Mr Jiro did not seem very 'into' what he was doing (as compared to e g Mizutani), the rice was definetely not perfect, and Mr Jiro was much too liberal/casual on his use of wasabi and soya sauce - effectively killing the original taste of each fish. Our guide (who was there for the first time) agreed that the sushi was not first class - far from it. All in all a place not woth visiting, based on this one experience. Spend your money at Mizutani!

  • K

    Just would like to inform you that as much as I normally enjoy reading your reviews of many restaurants in the world - tonight was the 1st time I've read the Japanese section and with some of the mistakes contained in this report, I have to agree with some others that may be you're still not 100% understanding Japanese food yet, even though I do trust your tastebud generally. :) This shop is called Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza, not Sukyibasi Hiro Ginza. Squid is actually quite chewy. I assume you mean Aori Ika, not just Aori? I've never heard of Eniada being a version of Yellowtail either, but stand corrected. Only heard of Hiramasa, Hamachi, Buri, Kan-buri, Kanpachi, etc. Red Tuna is Maguro not Naguro, the fattiest part is called Otoro not Oto. Kohado should be Kohada. Not that spelling really matters but perhaps accuracy in totality can be more convincing! I'm disgusted by the service level of this restaurant though.

  • Lukas

    Your comments on the food and the service are completely spot-on. The criticism of the food, by the way, also reflects what many people in Japan think. Sushi Mizutani scores much better on Japanese foodie blogs than Jiro does (as do many other, non-Michelin-starred sushi restaurants, or Michelin starred sushi restaurants like Kanesaka). I have no idea what possessed the inspectors to give Jiro 3 stars. The treatment of foreigners is shameful and I will certainly not bother again. Perversely, some people seem to be gluttons for punishment and admonish other foreigners on foodie websites who dare to complain about such treatment.

  • zweitu

    Sounds to me like you treat Jiro like Nobu, or any other places where "customers are always right". Like a exclusive courtesan, chefs like Jiro please only the customers in the knowing, gaijin included. In America we have a name for them: "sushi Nazi". At least you were treated better than Charlize Theron - she was asked not to come back at one of these establishments. Going to a sushi place in Japan could be an intimidating experience. Someone even wrote a 13-segment series on how to win the duel with your sushi chef.

  • iain bannatyne

    I have been to Jiro a couple of times and agree the service to gai-jin can be absurd and the pricing is hard to understand. His son runs a similary priced restuarant in Roppongi Hills, albeit the service is not quite so harsh.

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