I Dream of Jiro's

On my trip to Japan, i was able to dine at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Ginza. This restaurant was made famous thanks to the documentary, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi".

Let's get one thing out of the way really quickly.  Easily the best Sushi meal I have ever had and I have had quite a few from really good restaurants.  This is the second 3 star Michelin restaurant I've been too (French Laundry being the other) so I have some basis for comparison when it comes to fine dining which I will get to later.  The question everybody wants to ask is, "Is it worth it?"  and that is really hard to answer because it depends on a lot of different factors.  I definitely think it is but also think its a valid viewpoint that it isn't.  Details at the end. 

First, getting a reservation.  Many have told me they had a hard or impossible time getting a reservation.  I was able to secure one at a prime time, Friday 7:00 PM without much of a problem.  What was my secret?  I had my hotel's concierge do it.  I don't know the details of what they did, but for $28 they took care of it all.  You have to plan to make the reservation the first day of the month before you plan on going.  I think it helped that I had a native Japanese speaker place it, that there was a known place I would be staying at, and I suspect someone went physically down there to actually make the reservation.  

My biggest fear going in was that I speak very little Japanese and it was my understanding there was no English spoken at the restaurant.  I was also afraid of being the only non-Japanese there.  Anybody scared about this should probably not be.  There were at least two people at the restaurant who spoke excellent English, the receptionist and one of the chefs.  I suspect that this was not the case earlier but the movie probably brought in so many tourists that it made it necessary.  When I dined, there were only 3 other guest and none of them were Japanese.  

Most of the other complaints I read I feel were pretty unwarranted.  Common themes are that the meal feels rushed and that the restaurant wasn't polite.  I honestly think people went in with the wrong expectation.  Yes, the meal ends quickly.  30 minutes for the fish and then you are escorted to the tables to partake in dessert.  But this honestly seemed fine to me and the pace felt natural.  I ate a piece and got another.  I didn't feel like I had to scarf it down.  The lady next to me actually decided not to finish all of hers and it really wasn't a big deal.  The purists will tell you that sushi has to be eaten right after it is made and this is why, to get the best experience, it is going to feel rushed.  Also, Jiro doesn't engage in small talk.  Probably in part because he only speaks Japanese but probably more importantly is that he is laser focused.  Do you want the best sushi you ever had or do you want polite chit-chat?  I want the former and yes, I do think one can affect the other. 

Besides, the food, you know what was the best part?  I got to see it all in action.  Seriously.  You go to other restaurants, and you have no idea who is making your food.  Not the case here.  I flew 5000 miles to go to this restaurant and I know for a fact that this 90 year old master prepared my meal.  Got to see it first hand and the results were fantastic. 

So I'm not going to go into all details. If you want them, let me know in the comments.  The highlights. 

* Each piece was good and probably the best I have had of that type of item. 
* Only thing I didn't care for was the Mantis Shrip.  Never had it before.  It wasn't awful.  Just wasn't good. 
* The Uni was acceptable.  That is saying something since I hate Uni. 
* Best piece?  Probably the broiled Prawn which surprises me since I'm usually a fish guy
* You know how the make a big deal about how long it takes to master Tamago?  Seriously.  You can tell.  I don't care for Tamago normally but I honestly can't begin to tell you how good Jiro's Tamago is. 
* All of the fish was ridiculously fresh and practically melted in your mouth.  

So the final verdict. was it worth it?  For me absolutely!  However, keep this in mind.  The final cost of the meal is about $325 a person.  I can afford this but completely understand how this is a considerable amount of money.  Given the "rushed" atmosphere I really think it depends if you can feel OK spending that much money for a meal that last under 30 minutes.  A decent sushi dinner probably cost you in the neighborhood of $40-$60 a person so is this 5x better?  Very few things are that way.  It certainly is better but not that outrageously so.  So if "value" is a big thing for you, than yeah, this isn't going to be your cup of tea.  In fact, I went to several conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Tokyo for 1/10 the price and I was fairly satisfied there.  None were as good as Jiro's but I definitely didn't feel like was much worse off.  

Hopefully you find this entertaining or helpful.  As always, if you have any comments or questions, please let me know below.  
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2014-10-28
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