Sushi Saito ***, Tokyo
3 Star Michelin Sushi in Akasaka.
Located next to the American embassy – this is one of the weirdest locations not just for a 3-star michelin restaurant, but FOR ANY RESTAURANT! Literally inside a car-park building, the restaurant itself (if you could call it that!) has a seating area smaller than some restroom cubicle (no kidding). Just imagine this – getting up from your seat, your chair is almost pushed beyond the door! That’s how tight the space is – incredible!
Now, let’s clear some things up;but first , we have something to say about this place :
SUSHI SAITO – THE BEST SUSHI RESTAURANT IN TOKYO .. & THE WORLD!
At sfreelife, we do take ‘labels’ very seriously and regular readers can surely testify that we are less than generous with our reviews of what are essentially the very best restaurants in the world. However, with all things considered, we think Sushi Saito is deserving of this tag.
Do note that having been ‘just once’ to Saito, we can’t really call it our ‘favorite’ sushi in tokyo – that’s SAWADA in Ginza. We’ve been trying to return to Saito for the past 4 visits to Japan but even for someone who’s been to most of the ‘world’s hardest reservation restaurant’ (see the list here : http://eater.com/archives/2012/01/25/the-toughest-reservations-in-the-world.php ) , Saito could very well be the toughest of them all. Most recently, we were told in February that the next available slot is in July! Lunch or dinner, 11am or 10pm .. there’s just no empty seat at Saito.
Like most starred-sushi places, Saito offers a TSUMAMI (appetizers and sashimi) before the sushi. The grilled akamatsu is probably the best grilled fish we’ve eaten in our lives!
Sushi-wise, having declared it the best there is, do note that we are talking an infinitesimal differences here and the likes of Sawada, Yoshitake, Jiro, Araki. (yes, those are our all-time top 5 in the world). We’ll come back to review exclusively on this BIG 5 but in essence, Saito’s sushi is the perfect combination of SIZE, TEMPERATURE, TASTE and TEXTURE.
In the book “Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs ” (Phaidon) , Chef Murata of Kikunoi singled out not the taste but the SIZE of Saito’s sushi as the single most important factor for its greatness. We can’t agree more except to add that Saito’s sushi has also the best Texture we’ve tasted – and by texture, we mean the ‘airiness’ within the shari (rice) which makes each piece of sushi ‘melt away’ in the mouth. This ‘lightness’ of sushi , while hard to describe, is one of the most magical eating sensations we’ve experienced!
– SAITO is the disciple of Shinji Kanesaka, chef-owner of Sushi Kanesaka (2 stars), Sushi MAO (1 star) and Shinji by Kanesaka (Singapore)
– We were told by chefs at Kanesaka that the fish at Saito is ‘exactly the same’ as Kanesaka – in fact, every morning, all the fish arrive at Kanesaka where it’s carved and prepared before ‘sending to Saito for use’. We find this quite incredulous because there’s clearly marked difference between both the sushi and the fish at Kanesaka and Saito.The sequence of the omakase is almost identical, however.
– One of the reasons Saito is the most difficult reservation in Tokyo , apart from the fact that there are just 6 seats, is that the price here is much cheaper than the other ‘big names’ in Ginza. The omakase (tsumami + sushi) per person is around 23,000 yen compared to 38,000 Yen at Sawada. At lunch, there’s an almost ‘miraculously-priced’ set lunch at around 5000 Yen per person. (approx US$50)
– This visit to Saito was on a Sunday. Till now, we’re still puzzled as to why they were open on the day because Saito is generally closed on Sunday.