Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi (Tokyo, Japan)

Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi
6-12-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032
Dining date: 11/4/12

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Jiro Ono and his restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro have achieved a sort of legendary status. The documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi added to the attention and seemed to really put him onto the radar of Westerners (particularly Americans). Having seen the film, I can see why; Ono’s relentless pursuit of the perfect sushi (and countless shots of food porn) sounds like any sushi lover’s dream destination. I was sold; Sukiyabashi Jiro became my #1 restaurant destination in Tokyo.

My perception of the restaurant has changed dramatically during my stay here. First, the restaurant is not nearly as well-known as I thought it would be. Sure it’s known among the ‘foodie’ culture, but I’ve gotten countless blank stares from others. Second, from what I’ve gathered from those who have heard of it, my general impression is that it’s known to have good sushi but not the best; if anything, it’s more well-known for being one of the most expensive sushiyas around. On Yelp-like restaurant rating site Tabelog, the main Sukiyabashi Jiro scores a very pedestrian 3.54 stars out of 5. His son’s outpost in Roppongi rates an even lower 3.14. Having said all that, Sukiyabashi Jiro remained my #1 destination to try (albeit less enthused); I was not able to score a seat at the Ginza location, but did manage a seat at the son’s outpost in Roppongi.

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Located in the foreigner-friendly Roppongi Hills complex, Ono’s younger son Takashi opened this location since his elder brother is in-line to take over the main branch. It’s supposed to have the same flavors and techniques as the main (since Takashi did train under his father for decades), so I guess this is the closest to dining at the Ginza Sukiyabashi Jiro without actually doing so.

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ginkgo nuts

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Lightly salted, warm ginkgo nuts were the first thing served before a number of sashimi courses.

flounder fin sashimi

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aji/horse mackerel sashimi

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kurumaebi sashimi

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akagai/ark shell clam sashimi

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shrimp head

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My favorite of the sashimi courses was probably the horse mackerel. Tender, yet fatty and rich in flavor, I really savored these bites. The sweet shrimp is usually one of my favorites too and this was no exception.

18 courses of sushi came next in quick succession.

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hirame/flounder

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ika/squid

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akami

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chutoro

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otoro

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kohada/gizzard shad

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steamed abalone

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ikura

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kurumaebi

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uni

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smoked bonito

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hamaguri/clam

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saba/mackerel

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mirugai/geoduck

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shako/mantis shrimp

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scallops

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anago/sea eel

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tamago

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The fish quality was, as expected, excellent. I loved the progression of tuna from akami to otoro and I thought they were all some of the best examples I’d had on the trip. The uni sushi was fantastic too, overflowing with cool, sweet sea urchin. The smoked bonito had a great balance of smokiness and rich meatiness, while the anago was amazingly creamy with just the right amount of sweet eel sauce. There was only one that I didn’t like which was probably more of a personal preference – the shako shrimp had a sort of dense and mealy texture I wasn’t expecting…nor acquired.

In terms of the overall sushi, the rice was seasoned with more vinegar than I would’ve liked. I think this is another personal preference thing, but it really got in the way on some pieces (kohada, abalone, mirugai). The meal lasted about 50 minutes from start-to-finish, which seems a bit longer than the main branch. Service was good but not in a noteworthy way.

With one beer, this meal came out to ¥35,700, by far the most expensive of the trip. From everything else I’ve heard/read, I expected the meal to be around ¥26-27,000 without the beer so I think there was a big mistake or I was simply ripped off (sushi at the main branch is ¥31,500). The diner next to me ordered a bunch of extras so it’s possible it was the former. There was no menu or bill itemization, just a number written on a piece of paper at the end of the meal. Needless to say, this left a bitter impression and I still regret not inquiring deeper about it.

Aside from the billing issue I think I’d have to side with a lot of what I’ve heard here. It was a good sushi meal, sure, but far from the best (this was borderline top 3 sushi of the trip) and definitely overpriced.  And even if it was at the mid-¥20,000 price level, it’s still more expensive than most sushiyas.

Other Tokyo sushi:
Sushi Dai | Sushi Daiwa | Sushi Kanesaka | Sushi YoshitakeUmi


Comments

Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi (Tokyo, Japan) — 18 Comments

  1. i wonder if it’s the same way about Urasawa in LA.. mostly known by foodies, but not generally where most would go to eat sushi.. and maybe not the best in town? i’ve never eaten there, so i can’t say.. but it sounds crazy expensive for sashimi

    • I really think Urasawa is in a class by itself in LA, and I feel like many others who have been agree. For what it’s worth, Urasawa does very well on Yelp. Having said that, it’s definitely very expensive even for Tokyo standards, but perhaps that’s the price of importing all that fish (and Rodeo Dr. rent).

  2. Trip, spending nearly $500.00 for some sushi should have been a truly out of this world experience, sorry bro. Next time you roll out to Sin city, visit YAMA sushi, hopefully that’ll soften the blow at 23.95 for some pretty dam good AYCE.

  3. i work in a high end sushi restaurant as a chef (started about 2 monhts ago) and let me tell you ITS HARD to make perfect high class sushi…. i beleive it when they say ” a master sushi chef has minimum 10 years of experience in japan”

  4. why didn’t you try the main store where prices are almost identical or a bit more expensive? Wanted to hear a review on the main store.

  5. Hi Darin.. I typically don’t reply or comment on blogs/ posts, but have to say I’m impressed by both your photos and penmanship.. Just had lunch at Kyubey at Keio Plaza today and it was, in a word, disappointing.. It started off VERY well.. but after the cooked food and sashimi were done (all good-to-very good), the sushi was… well… all the ‘sashimi tops’ were very good… but the rice was sooooo disappointing.. WAY too much vinegar, for one.. and that fact that doneness of rice was also inconsistent… Different pieces of sushi, some had ‘aldante’ rice and other pieces had ‘ok’ cooked rice.. and then coupled with sake that was priced 3.5 times that at bottle shops (yes, after lunch we happened to walk into one).. simply put, sealed Kyubey’s fate as a ‘never again’… Total bill for two at lunch was just a tad under ¥66,000.. (food alone was approx ¥52,000)..

    Btw, next time you’re in Tsukiji, try Ryuzushi, that’s diagonally right of the row where Sushi Dai and Sushi Daiwa are… Usually no queues and… Overall a better experience than lunch at Kyubey @ Keio Plaza.. and.. I’ll let you know whether or not in my opinion is that far better of worse than Dai… cos I’ll be attempting my first breakfast there in about three and a half hours time… Do wish me luck!

    Cheers!

    • Thanks for stopping by and the comment! I briefly considered Kyubey but passed hearing that the mini-chain wasn’t what it used to be. Sounds like your experience kind of supports that – sorry to hear!

      I’m not sure I’ll find myself in Tokyo before Tsukiji relocates (don’t know which sushi shops will also survive) but thanks for the advice…and hope you got into Dai!

  6. I know that this is an old post, but just wanted to say that most traditional sushi restaurants always give you a bill with just the amount on it in the end, with no itemisation etc. At the more relaxed places they generally keep in mind what you’ve eaten and throw out a number. Not sure how they do all the math inside their head!

    • Thanks Chloe! I’ve often seen just this one final end price (as well as an itemization, at least between food and drink). My source of frustration wasn’t particularly on the lack of itemization, but on the sticker shock in general compared to expectations and compared to other Michelin-starred establishments in the area. Itemization probably would have helped though, since I have no idea how they calculated or if it was even correct.

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