Sushi Kanesaka ** , Tokyo
2 Michelin star sushi in Ginza
Shinji Kanesaka-san is one of the most highly-revered sushi master in Japan as well as one being one the most successful restauranteur , owning no less than 3 michelin-rated Sushi-yas in Tokyo and being the first sushi brand to successfully make its name overseas with Shinji at legendary Raffles Hotel, Singapore. Kanesaka, mentor of Saito-san, also helped set up 3 Michelin star Sushi Saito which reportedly is ‘owned’ by the Kanesaka empire , and the two restaurants share the same supply chain of fish (which explain the similarities)
( See Sushi Saito at http://sfreelife.com/2012/03/07/sushi-saito-tokyo/ )
Being regulars at Shinji in Singapore, which arguably is the best sushi anywhere outside Japan, we had very high hopes visiting the ‘original branch’ in Ginza. Our hopes sky-rocketed when we were ushered to sit right in front of the counter manned by the master Kanesaka-san himself. However, we would soon realize that the original Sushi Kanesaka is not noticeably better than that at Shinji. This, to us, is more a testament than a criticism to the Kanesaka brand– it speaks volume of the proprietor – for being able to replicate the ‘original experience’, including the quality of the sushi itself, all the way to the shores of Singapore. Ironically, in doing so, it left the original branch comparatively ‘slighted’ as we left the honten disappointed that it could not provide something more amazing than its outpost — unfair maybe, but inevitably so. We also disliked the clever but claustrophobic U-shaped layout design of the place. More significantly, while Shinji can claim to be the ‘best there is’ outside Japan, Kanesaka is far from being the best in Tokyo.
The courses at Kanesaka are almost identical to that at Shinji. They are also very similar to that at Saito. That makes the difference between 2 and 3 Michelin stars even more telling — same ingredients, same courses but noticably different results (taste and texture). In short, we totally agree with the Michelin ratings of 2 stars for Sushi Kanesaka and 3 for Saito. The latter, being situated outside Ginza, is also 30% cheaper which explains its ‘months-long waiting list’ while Kanesaka can be easily booked inside a day or two. However, first-timers can visit Kanesaka without any hesitation as it’s still amongst the best in Tokyo.