One of the most famous documentaries that people associate Tokyo with is a documentary about a sushi master of a 3 Michelin star restaurant – Jiro Dreams of Sushi. If you haven’t watched it, do – even if you’re not planning on going to Japan anytime soon. It shows you a lot of insight into the mind of a sushi master – how incredibly seriously they take their work, how they hone their craft to absolute perfection and how mediocrity is just never accepted.
Be prepared to have a craving for sushi after watching that documentary, though. Many of my non Japanese friends who come to Japan for a holiday often tell me they would like to try it for a once in a lifetime experience. Now, I’ve never tried it and here are my reasons :
1. A meal at Jiro’s is really, really expensive. From what I have heard and read, it costs about 300 USD.
2. It’s not a place for you to dwell and chat. Once you’ve finished your sushi, you should leave. This means you’re probably staying at Jiro’s for only about 20-30 minutes.
3. It’s hard to get reservations. My Japanese girlfriend told me that Jiro’s is only available once a month to take reservations, and every time she calls, the line is busy.
4. My Japanese colleague told me that when going to Jiro, you have to behave very properly – make sure you sit and eat the right way.
Having said that, please take note I have never actually been to Jiro’s and
this is all based on hearsay.
Which brings me to Sushi Asaba! I went here for a private sushi birthday party with my Japanese friend, Kumi. It is a small place that seats 8 people, and we took up the entire bar. We spent about four hours here, having a long leisurely lunch with lots of sake (I lost count!).
We paid about 150 USD per person, which is a lot for sushi but I do strongly feel with this place it’s worth it. The sashimi was incredible. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to sushi and sashimi – I usually like the relatively tame sashimi like ‘chutoro’ and ‘otoro’ – both cuts of tuna, but when I was here, my eyes were opened wide to a whole new world of amazing sashimi!
One of the things I really don’t like to eat is squid, and when it was presented to me, I had a little ‘ugh’ feeling inside. But when I tried it, I was amazed. My mind was blown. My boyfriend shares my sentiments about squid – and he was completely taken aback too. It was the softest, most tender squid I had ever eaten – nothing like the rubber tyres I was accustomed to. We asked the chef and he told us he had massaged the squid for 40 minutes! 40 whole minutes, can you imagine?
Everything that was presented on that day was just – ridiculous. Ridiculously good. I was constantly in fits of delight – I’m sorry it sounds so exaggerated but the quality of the fish here was just amazing. Basically, I never knew that fish could taste this fresh or this good.
This chef is also very friendly to foreigners, which is nice! I’ve heard that there are a quite a number of places in Tokyo where the sushi bars are not very foreigner friendly – probably boiling down to the fact that they may not speak English. Honestly, if I was a sushi chef that didn’t speak English, I would probably get very tired of trying to communicate with tourists all the time.
I have two little etiquette tips for you, if you go to a nice, fancy sushi place. The first – be punctual. One of the biggest things I love about the Japanese is their punctuality – they take this extremely seriously. If you’re late, you’re probably going to be incurring the wrath of a very angry sushi master. Heck, it’s better to be early. I’ve heard that in Japan, if you’re not 15 minutes early, your’e late.
The second thing is, don’t wear fragrance that is too strong. Some sushi chefs believe that if you smell too strongly, you will overpower the delicacies of the sushi. Don’t you find this so interesting? I find the level of detail that they have to everything incredibly admirable.
I would definitely go back to Sushi Asaba again for a special occasion. It’s way too expensive to do frequently but it’s such a great place for a treat.