Takashi Saito is the chef/owner of Sushi Saito, a restaurant located inside a car park, yet with three Michelin stars. At the time of writing it is the highest rated sushi restaurant in Tokyo on Tabelog, the kanji-only Japanese restaurant guide, which is a sort of constantly updated version of Zagat. Mr Saito trained principally at Kyubei before striking out on his own. The restaurant is tiny, seating either seven or eight people at full capacity along the little counter. It is in a surreal location. Opposite the American embassy is a multi-storey car park; you enter the car park up the ramp, and on the right is a little door. Behind this is a red curtain, the threshold to Sushi Saito. The chef applies freshly grated wasabi, soy or lemon to each piece of sushi as appropriate; the only condiment that the diners have is pickled ginger, which had terrific flavour
At lunch you can choose from sushi menus of 10, 15 or 18 pieces, or opt for the dinner menu, which goes beyond purely sushi. We tried the 15 piece menu today. The meal began with red snapper, then iroeti (there didn't seem to be an English translation). Shad has a taste reminiscent of sardine, and was excellent. Next came the traditional trio of tuna: maguro, chu-toro and otoro, which were velvety smooth in texture and tasted superb. Squid sushi is remarkable here, as tender as I remembered it from the first visit. A cooked prawn was followed by baby shrimp sushi, both excellent, the baby shrimp a little taste of the sea. Bonito was magnificent, the best I have tried, followed by lovely sweet baby scallops in a seaweed roll. There are two types of uni (sea urchin) served here, one quite sweet, one more briny, both top drawer. Eel was served with and without sauce. The sequence concluded with rolls of a Japanese vegetable which had no English translation.
Mr Saito speaks quite good English and is very friendly, chatting and joking with the customers. There is no sense of hushed formality, the atmosphere very relaxed. The bill at lunch, with water only to drink, came to ¥10,500 (£69), so not only is it the best sushi in Tokyo, it is the cheapest of the top places.
The notes below are form my first visit in October 2010.
Sushi Saito is situated opposite the US embassy in the Jidousha Kaikan building in Minato ku. Even by Japanese standards the entrance is hard to find, with the entrance to the corridor where the restaurant is located halfway up the car park ramp (turn right up the ramp just before the security desk). The chef is Takashi Saito (born 1972) who originally trained at the well known sushi restaurant Kyubei. The place is tiny, with just seven counter seats; the chefs prepare the sushi and serve it to you directly. The rice is prepared with red vinegar and is served, as it should be, at body temperature
We began with red snapper; I had tried this elsewhere on the same trip and found it chewy, but here this was not the case at all (8/10). Eel tail was simply stunning with lovely texture (8/10). I have eaten some good tuna in my life but no better than the magnificent specimen here, the texture silky, the flavour delightful (9/10). The toro was also absolutely superb, the best I have eaten.
Next was squid, with just a drop of lime applied by the chef as he served it; those of us used to chewy squid in Europe should all take a trip here and see just how good squid can be (8/10). Next was baby shrimp, enlivened by a little freshly grated wasabi; also excellent (8/10). This was followed by bonito, which is a little like tuna in taste (8/10).
Gorgeous horse mackerel followed, its natural hint of spiciness coming through and entirely without chewiness of texture (8/10), Next was regular mackerel, followed by superb sea eel; both were lovely, the eel just warm and having terrific flavour (8/10). We finished the lunch with more of the magnificent tuna, this time in rolls. The bill for two was ¥13,020 for two people (£49 per person). Bear in mind that you can have a longer form of the menu, and doubtless it is costlier in the evening.
Until this moment the best sushi I had eaten was at Sushi Mizutani, but Sushi Saito had the edge. The chef was friendly and careful to check our preferences. I simply cannot fault this restaurant in any way. I don't feel comfortable scoring more than 8/10 to a restaurant that is serving food which could be construed as shopping rather than cooking (of course the selection process must be elaborate, and the cutting of the sushi is highly skilled, but still). However it is the best sushi I have eaten, and if I was to score on a sushi restaurant scale this would be a perfect 10.