Having served presidents, celebrities, and earned itself Michelin stars, is Sushi Jiro worth the trouble of getting a reservation?
Sukiyabashi Jiro, more commonly referred to as Sushi Jiro, is one of the world’s most famous and hardest to get into restaurants. With scarcity comes demand, and with demand comes hype. So, is this uber-famous Tokyo restaurant worth the effort of making a reservation?
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Plan Ahead--Way Ahead
Sukiyabashi Jiro reservations are notoriously hard to get. The restaurant will start taking reservations on the first day of the previous month, so make sure you’ve told your hotel concierge well ahead of time and know exactly what day and time you want to dine. It’s also wise to give them multiple options to ensure a spot for lunch or dinner.
Your Credit Card Concierge Is Useless
Chase Sapphire Reserve? No chance. American Express Platinum? Nope. The Black Card by American Express? Sorry. The only way you’re getting a reservation at Sushi Jiro is by having a friend on the ground who speaks fluent Japanese or a concierge from a 5-star hotel to help you snag a table.
Don't Be Late
There are only ten counter seats and if you show up past your reservation time, they will likely refuse you entry. Also, they have a strict cancellation policy, so they will charge you the full set menu price on the credit card used to reserve your table if you’re late. Just don’t risk it–show up 15 minutes early if you have to.
It’s Not Cheap
The prices at Sukiyabashi Jiro are around 33,000 yen, which is a little over $300 USD. With that wallet-cringing price tag, you’ll also get a souvenir napkin and a copy of that day’s menu.
Learn to Use Chopsticks Before You Go
Take a look at their website and ensure you cradle that fish properly, or you will be admonished. And not just stared at. You will be told you’re doing it wrong.
INSIDER TIPThere’s a soft dress code for men, so throw on some trousers and long sleeves.
It’s Some of the Best Sushi You’ll Ever Have
Of course, sushi is good at Sushi Jiro, but will it blow you away? Unfortunately, nothing can live up to the expectations that have been placed upon it. Expect an omakase-style menu where you get 20 pieces of fish and melon for dessert. Because Sushi Jiro is famous for its high-quality sushi, every piece of sushi served is likely to be the best piece of sushi you’ve ever had.
That said, the hype surrounding Sushi Jiro can sometimes threaten to eclipse the restaurant. Sushi Jiro has received three Michelin stars. Barack Obama ate here. Anthony Bourdain thought it was incredible. They even made an entire documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi that tells the background of Jiro and why people think of him as the best sushi chef in Tokyo. As a result, it is definitely a victim of unobtainable expectations.
It’s a Short Meal
The meal lasts about 35 minutes. That’s around $8.80 per minute at current exchange rates. The moment you eat the fish they serve you, the next piece is presented. If you take too much time to eat, you will be guilted with cold stares.
It’s Hard to Find
The restaurant is inside Ginza Subway Station at exit C6. Find the large yellow C6 sign and go down the stairs and through a set of glass doors into another building. The restaurant sign is in Japanese with a big DO NOT TAKE PHOTOS placard. If you’re having trouble finding it, look for Birdland, the restaurant next door that has a sign in English.
INSIDER TIPYou can’t take photos inside, but if you ask nicely, the chef(s) might take a pic with you in front of the restaurant.
You Probably Won’t See Jiro
Chef Jiro Ono will most likely not be there. He’s over 90 years old and only comes in occasionally. If you’ve seen the documentary, you’ll recognize his son, Yoshikazu Ono, preparing your sushi.
If You Can’t Get In, Tokyo is Full of Good Sushi Restaurants
If you want what many consider to be a quality equivalent to Sushi Jiro, make sure you reserve a spot at the small and savory Sushi Saito. For 10,000 yen for lunch or 20,000 yen for dinner (around $100-$200 USD), you’ll be treated to a fishmonger’s mastery unlike anything else. Reservations are pretty impossible, so make sure you have a 5-star hotel concierge to help you out.
Another option is Sushi Tokyo Ten near the Shinjuku Train. With super reasonable prices (around $50 for lunch and $75 USD for dinner), you’ll find succulent slices of raw goodness mixed with boisterous chefs in a non-stuffy environment.