Sushi Sawada

MC Building, 3F. 5-9-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Sushi Sawada is on the third floor of the MC building in the Ginza. Its owner/chef is Koji Sawada, who worked as a truck driver before becoming a chef at the age of 31. He trained for six years in several sushi restaurants before opening Sushi Sawada in 2004. His wife (who speaks some English) does the service and he does the food, with no other assistance when we visited. There were just six seats at the counter. Be aware that they request no photos be taken of the food, for reasons that elude me.

The long grain rice is prepared with white vinegar, and the intention according to the chef is to get "quite a lot iof air nto the rice" i.e. to be quite loosely packed. As with many top sushi places, he applies the necessary condiments e.g. lemon, freshly grated wasabi or soy, to each piece of sushi as is needed. He is quite generous in his use of wasabi, which suited me fine as freshly grated wasabi root is a fine thing. The only additional condiment is excellent pickled ginger. The sushi is placed directly on the wooden counter rather than on plates, and you are encouraged to eat it with your hands rather than chopsticks.

The meal began with sea bream, one of the least chewy sea bream I have encountered, and continued with excellent cuttlefish, with just a hint of firmness but a mile away from the rubbery texture that can often be found. Hirame (probably halibut, but the translation is ambiguous) was good, as was sushi tiger prawn. Needle fish was terrific, as was shima aji (striped jack).

The usual sequence of tuna: maguro, chu toro, toro followed, all of the highest quality. Flesh of baby squid was wrapped around cooked rice, and then there was an interesting dish. Toro was cooked using charcoal, but instead of just being placed over a grill, the chef held individual charcoal stones just above the fish at the counter and cooked it, as it were, by hand. This, with a bold punch of wasabi, was absolutely superb.

Steamed abalone was extremely delicate, as was smoked bonito. Here the smoking was nicely subtle; so often smoked dishes in restaurants are too smoky, but not here. Even a giant clam was good, something I am normally fond of, as usually it is very chewy indeed, but here there was just a little firmness. Sea urchin roll was absolutely magnificent, gloriously briny, as good as I have ever had, even in Hokkaido itself, where much of the best sea urchin in Japan originates. Next was eel in two ways, one with wasabi on rice, the other with a sauce; both were very good. The meal concluded, as is traditional, with home-made tomago (sponge cake).

The bill came to ¥24,500 (£161) each, with water and a beer apiece. This meal was superb, sushi of the highest class. I have no idea why this has two stars and not three, as it was in no way worse than any three star Michelin sushi I have eaten, and indeed better than some. As noted elsewhere, I have discomfort assigning the very highest score to something as (deceptively) simple as sushi, but this is without doubt up there with the very best.

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User comments

  • Gio

    Hi Andy, great review! How did you manage to make a reservation at Sawada? Tried to book the last couple of times I was in Tokyo through my concierge but did not manage to get in Any tips welcome!

  • Ryan

    Great blog. Very informative. Can I ask how you made the reservation? We are travelling from Canada and want to know how we can make a booking in advance? Any tips would be great!

  • Stephen Robinson

    This was the best sushi meal of my life - bar none. I cannot wait to return.

  • Paul

    Great review. Sawada is a five senses experience... Really don't get why Yoshitake or Jiro have one more star than him.