Friday, April 11, 2008

Sushi Mizutani (鮨 水谷) - Best Sushi in Tokyo?!

Continuing with my Japan Trip, on Night 2 I was lucky enough to get reservations for Sushi Mizutani. Going to Japan and being a major Sushi Hound, I had to try out "great Sushi" in Tokyo as a comparison for everything I've had before outside of Japan.

I found Sushi Mizutani thanks to Silverjay's mention of the Japanese Customer-driven Food Review Site Tabelog (similar to a Chowhound + CitySearch/Yelp). As of today (and when I was researching), Sushi Mizutani was the #3 highest-rated Sushi restaurant listed. I later found out it was also a Michelin 3-Star rated restaurant! (As a side note, Sukibayashi Jiro (the other Michelin 3-Star Sushi restaurant in Tokyo) ranked much lower on Tabelog (from customers' feedback).) So off we went to Ginza to try it out.

Sushi Mizutani is in the basement level of a tiny building off the main streets, a simple, humble restaurant (with no pretentiousness).

We walked in, and were immediately and warmly greeted by Mizutani-sensei himself, and his wife, who runs the front of the house. It's a small establishment, with 1 simple and clean Sushi Bar, seating up to ~10-12 people. That night there were 8 of us dining. We of course went for the Omakase-style dinner, allowing Mizutani-sensei to choose. Here's a rundown of the Sashimi and Sushi pieces we had:

* Hirame (Flounder): Served Sashimi-style, it had wonderful texture, simple and clean. The best Hirame I've had.

* Engawa (Dorsal Fin of Flounder (Hirame)): This is the first time I've ever had Engawa, a nice hint at the variety and uniqueness of what was to come (it's rare to find this in So Cal). There's a nice firm texture and bright flavor.

* Awabi Liver (Abalone Liver): Very unique and again, the first time I've ever had this. I normally don't like liver of any sort, but this had a rich, earthy taste that actually didn't exude the normal "liver-like" taste normally associated with it.

* Saba (Mackerel): I'm normally not a fan of Saba and the oily fishes, but Mizutani shows off his impressive knifework (and eye for picking fresh fish). The Saba was hands-down the best Saba I've ever had! Wonderfully *fresh* and not overpowering at all. It also tasted like it had *2* different types of textures (his knifework in cutting the Saba lent itself to a wonderful cut of the fish).

* Awabi (Abalone): Abalone usually can be a little tough and/or chewy or rubbery, depending on the quality, and even the best Abalone I've had before this was "crisp" but on the firm side. Mizutani-sensei shows off his expertise and focus on Shellfish: The Awabi was amazing! It was soft and had a wonderful texture... it was nothing like any Awabi I've had before, ever.

* Chutoro (Medium-fat Bluefin Tuna Belly): Very fresh and tasty. The best Chutoro I've had, but I've been spoiled by Ohtoro so I was anticipating that later. :)

We now started the Nigiri Sushi portion of the meal:
* Kohada (Japanese Gizzard Shad): Amazing. The best I had previous to this was at Mori Sushi in L.A., but Mizutani's was one step above.

* Ika (Squid): Ika is usually the step-child for Sushi at many places... at most places, Ika can be rubbery or chewy and just not appetizing. Not so here: This was one of Mizutani's showcase pieces: The Ika here is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS! It's SO good. His Knifework shows through here as the Ika was literally CREAMY! *No* "chewiness" or "toughness" at all! It was melt-in-your-mouth creaminess! We were blown-away. Tied for my favorite of the night. (^_^)

* Maguro (Tuna): The standard piece and wonderfully executed here. Solid, fresh and smooth! No complaints.

* Akami (Special Portion of Tuna next to Chutoro): Another cut of fish I've never had before. Mizutani-sensei warmly explained what Akami was (he brought out a Fish Magazine with illustrations) and showed us that Akami was the portion right next to the Chutoro cut on the Tuna. It was wonderful and not as fatty as Chutoro, but richer in flavor than the regular Maguro cut.

* Ohtoro (Fattiest Cut of Bluefin Tuna Belly): Amazing. It was probably just a touch below Sushi Zo's Ohtoro, but only a touch. It was still very fresh and melt-in-your-mouth goodness. :)

* Akagai (Ark Shell): An amazing piece of shellfish! This is the first time I've experienced this and it didn't disappoint. Unique, toothsome (in a good way), and a good flavor and texture.

* Tairagai (Pen-Shell Clam): Another unique shellfish I've never had before! I have no frame of reference, but it was extremely fresh and tasty. Softer than the standard Mirugai, for example.

* Torigai (Cockle): Wow! This is another piece of sushi I've never had before. Mizutani-sensei explained that the Japanese call this "Torigai" because it looks like the beak of a bird (tori). The cut he presented to us was so well-done! It had a dual-flavor and dual-texture if that makes any sense. The flavor would augment and change from the first bite to the second.

* Mirugai (Geoduck Clam): The best Mirugai I've ever had.

* Sayori (Halfbeak / Needlefish): Prior to this, Mori Sushi had the best Sayori I've had, but Mizutani's is LEAGUES ahead of Mori's! His cut of Sayori was so sweet and fresh! My 2nd favorite of the night.

* Ebi (Cooked Shrimp): I'm spoiled by (and have a preference for) Amaebi (Raw Sweet Shrimp), so I usually look at the cooked version as "eh~." But for a standard Ebi Sushi, this was well-done and fresh. The Shrimp was lightly sweet as well, no complaints.

* Uni (Sea Urchin): Ridiculous. This was a perfect "100%" rating in my book, and it had a taste that was different from Nozawa's (which was the only other one to get a 100% once). Perfectly Sweet, Buttery, with NO hint of any "sea water aftertaste" that usually plagues Uni. My favorite of the night!

* Anago (Conger Eel): Fresh and wonderfully prepared (not overly sweet or sauced), easily the best Anago I've ever had.

* Tamago (Egg): The true test of a Sushi Master in many ways, and I can only say: WOW! Hounto ni SUGOI desu!~ COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS! I have NEVER had Tamago like this before! The cooked Egg was SO light and airy, so fluffy and lightly sweet... it could've passed as a dessert! It's not even remotely like any Tamago I've had at any other establishment.

Throughout the night Mizutani-sensei and his wife and assistant were warm and cordial, chatting with us and made us feel at home. In total, it cost us about ~$275 U.S. per person (including Sake). Mizutani-sensei is a true Sushi Master, with wonderful knifework and a specialization in shellfish (amongst other things). Sushi Mizutani is easily THE Best Sushi I've ever had in my life, eclipsing L.A.'s top Sushi bars like Mori Sushi, Sushi Zo, Nozawa, Sasabune, etc. It's simply the freshest fish I've had, and he's a warm and hospitable Sushi Master (which doesn't always seem to be the case with other top-rated places).

Rating: 9.7 (out of a Perfect 10.0)

Sushi Mizutani
(Ginza, Tokyo, Japan)
鮨 水谷
東京都中央区銀座8-7-7 JUNOビル 9F

JUNO Building 9F
8-7-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tokyo 104-0061 Japan


kevinEats said...

How come no pics?

ExileKiss said...

Hey kevin,

Call it a combination of nervousness and just good conversation with the itamae. (^_^;

Basically Mizutani is a pretty hard reservation to come by (~1 - 2 months in advance), and this was our first encounter with a true fine dining establishment in Tokyo. I didn't want to offend anyone.

And if you thought Urasawa was intimate, Sushi Mizutani is even more intimate and up-close!

Mizutani-sensei was also really personable and humble, and we had continuous conversations with him and the other 2 couples the entire evening! From the moment we entered, Mizutani-sensei and his wife, and the rest of the staff were welcoming us, seeing to our needs, and then I started chatting with Mizutani-sensei after the introductions, and I just felt that I'd rather focus on enjoying his food and his conversation, rather than interrupt it with a photo every few minutes with each piece of Sashimi or Sushi.

I wanted to be careful and respectful; it was very intimate, and a total pleasure as well. And just watching his knifework was great.

Next time I'm in Tokyo, I'll go back and if Mizutani-sensei remembers me, I'll try taking photos (^_~).

Nicolas said...

I am going there in a week or so.
I strongly encouraged my guests coming from paris to eat at some real sushi beforehand, to train their taste.

Sawada, 2 stars sushi in Ginza, is already an exceptional sushi, I really wonder how this one can outdo it... !

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Nicolas,

Very nice! :) I hope you and your guests enjoy the sushi with Mizutani-sensei. :)

Please report back on how it went if you get a chance. Enjoy! :)

Anonymous said...

After reading your review of sushi mizutani, I am even more excited and can't wait to try it. We were very lucky to get a reservation (went through our hotel and less than 2 week in advance) coming up. I've been to Urasawa and Zo (defintely deserves the michelin 1 star it received this year), which I believe are the best in LA, so I'm super excited to try Mizutani. One question, is it going to be a big problem since we don't speak japanese at all?

Gordon said...

I submitted the last comment on sushi mizutani. I forgot you have no way of replying to me since I was anonymous, but my question again is, will it be a big problem if we don't speak any japanese at all when we go to sushi mizutani?

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Gordon,

Congratulations on the reservation! :) It's usually pretty hard to get on short notice.

A few things to keep in mind: Remember that Mizutani-sensei is a traditional itamae - Urasawa is a hybrid Kaiseki and Sushi experience so there are some things that Urasawa does that you won't find at a pure Sushi restaurant like Sushi Mizutani (you may know that, but I just wanted to put it out there). :)

And you'll be OK if you don't speak Japanese (unless you have some allergies that you need to communicate to him; then you'll need to have someone write it down for you to give to him). Otherwise, a simple greeting when you see him - "Konbanwa! Hajimemashite" - and when you sit down a simple "Omakase kudasai" and a "Zenbu O.K." ("Everything's OK to serve us") would suffice. :)

Oh, they may ask you for what you want to drink, and you can respond with either: "Ocha kudasai" ("Tea please"), "Omizu kudasai" ("Water please"), or "Sake kudasai" ("Sake please"). They only serve one type of Sake (it was outstanding, but the name escapes me).

Just sit back and watch his knifework. Please let me know how your visit goes. (^_^)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I enjoyed reading your review!

I was planning to visit Sushi Mizutani this May and so I tried to make a reservation from overseas but apparently they only allow Japanese people to place resevations there?

Does that mean I cannot make a reservation at Sushi Mizutani unless I have a Japanese friend in Tokyo or I ask the hotel to book on my behalf?

Exile Kiss said...

Hi alkanphel_

Thanks for your kind comments. :) I'm not sure about their policy, but I think it's probably just to make sure that they're able to understand all the details of your dinner reservation (e.g., if you have any allergies or certain fish you don't like, how many in your party, etc.).

If they didn't allow you just now, you should go ahead and have the Concierge at your hotel book it for you. Please let me know how your dinner turns out! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply Exile Kiss! Unfortunately my hotel (Toyoko Inn) requested that I ask them in person so I guess I will have to see my luck. Luckily Sushi Saito accepted my overseas reservation so all is not lost :)

Exile Kiss said...

Hi alkanphel_,

Sorry to hear that your concierge wouldn't help you arrange for reservations (very strange). I hope you enjoy your visit to Japan regardless! :)

Anonymous said...

When I booked it was supposed to be 15,000 fixed price - as is also mentioned in the Michelin guide. When I paid the cost was 23,000. So the chef must charge 8,000 for green tea.

Everyone in the room was served the same things. No unique dishes at all. The rice was salty and the tamago was soft and airy, but overly sweet.

Mizutani is an elderly gentleman that has an amazing technique and speed in creating the sushi.

This is not value for money. I also tried "Sushi Iwa" (one star in Michelin) and that was a much more pleasant experience. The chef treated all customers differently, which was a nice touch. Also more creative, but still classic sushi. The price was 27,000 including five small glasses of beer. Much better choice than Sushi Mizutani

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Anon,

Thank you for your report back. That's interesting to know: When I went to Mizutani, there was no menu or option (I'm used to doing a pure Omakase option and letting the chef take care of things). I had no idea they actually offer a 15,000 Yen option (is that Lunch only?).

So far what I've noticed at some key sushi-yas in Japan is that their Lunch Omakase is cheaper than their Dinner Omakase, and you get different cuts of Fish / Less Options, etc. Just curious.

As for the variety... I would imagine each day's options are different. If everyone is relatively new to Sushi Mizutani, I'd imagine Mizutani-sensei would be serving whatever's fresh that day to everyone (minus any personal restrictions (if someone didn't want something or were allergic to it)). I'm not defending him, but just noting that I'd feel left out if I went to a Sushi restaurant and the Itamae is serving certain fish only to his favorite customers and I didn't get to try it.

But thanks on the recommendation for Sushi Iwa. I'll have to try it next time. :)

alkanphel said...

Hi Exile Kiss, I managed to eat at Sushi Saito and it was pretty damn good! It's hard to describe how good the sushi was but you probably know what the feeling is like since you have eaten at Mizutani.

I thought that the sushi I had at Sushi Dai was one level above the normal sushi I eat but Sushi Saito was yet another level higher!

Photos here:

Exile Kiss said...

Hi alkanphel,

Thanks for the report back! :) Sounds like you had a good dinner. :) I can't wait to try all their offerings.

Anonymous said...

Between Sushi Mizutani and Sushi Saito, which would you recommended? Thanks.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Anon,

I haven't been to Saito yet, sorry. When I do go, I'll post back here and let you know. :)

Mushi said...

I will be in Japan from Jan 1-7. I heard Mizutani was the place to go for sushi but that you need to make reservations ahead of time. I've been having a lot of trouble figuring out how I can make reservations - do they have a website or anything? I went to but of course I can't understand any of it... any suggestions?

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Mushi,

Mizutani doesn't seem to have a website.

Your best bet would be to ask the Concierge at the hotel you're staying at (or if at a friend's place, ask them) to call (local phone call for them) and book the reservation for you.

Let me know how it goes. :) Enjoy~

S Lloyd said...

I love Sushis, although I haven't got the opportunity to get a taste of what is known to be the best sushis of our Planet. I feel fortunate to stumble upon people like you who are sharing such precious informations, paving the way to people like me to be better informed about excellence in the domain of Sushis. Ironically, my wife and I were in Japan not too long and all we did is trying L'Osier (which is not Japanese) + many street food spots (that were very nice though). But now, upon reading your posts, we shall know where to go if a future visit overthere takes place

Exile Kiss said...

Hi S Lloyd,

Thank you so much for your kind compliments. :) No, no, I count on everyone around me as well, to chime in and let me know how their dinners turned out, what they liked and didn't. :)

How did your visit to L'Osier turn out? Was it worth going? Thanks.

S Lloyd said...

Thanks for the reply, Exile Kiss. L'Osier was satisfying on all accounts (successful blend of European/Oriental fine dining gourmet with classic touches brought up to date, service was without reproach, decor classy), but I regret to not have focused on the high end Japanese tables. Hopefully, that gap will be filled on a next tour there.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi S Lloyd,

Ah thanks. I may have to try L'Osier the next time I'm in town. :) And yes, definitely try out places like Sushi Mizutani and Ryugin and let me know how your visit goes. Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...


I am going to Tokyo between 16th till 25th. Though my chances of getting a reservation are very slim, I will give it a shot. you mention I can get my hotel to book it for me but I'm not in Tokyo yet so I would like to check if I call the number directly, are they able to to understand English?


Exile Kiss said...

Hi ES,

Hm, that's a tough one. Possibly. Mizutani-sensei's wife is really nice and spoke a few words of broken English (we spoke w/ her in Japanese mainly). At the time we went, Mizutani-sensei's Assistant spoke some English, but I'm not sure if he's going to be there when you call. If he is there, then you'd have a chance.

Otherwise, what you might consider doing is if you think you will be staying at a certain hotel, you can certainly call them and tell them you're coming in soon, and just want them to help you lock down a reservation first (because it's so hard to get).

Let me know how your visit goes. Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Exile Kiss,

I have just tried to call the restaurant.

He only managed "only japanese" when I asked "Hi, can you speak English?"

It's so upsetting and frustrating as it's my husband birthday and a visit to a good sushi restaurant will be a good birthday present since it's his first time to Japan. there any other way?


Exile Kiss said...

Hi ES,

I'm sorry to hear that you weren't able to speak with someone in English. Hm...

If you're booking your travel with a Travel Agency, you might ask them to go ahead and contact one of the prospective hotels you'll be staying at, and ask them as a favor to speak with their Concierge and have them book it for you. Either that, or the previous suggestion I had of just calling one of the hotels you might be staying at directly and speaking w/ their Concierge to help you.

If those don't work, then naturally, as soon as you do lock down a hotel for sure, call their Concierge immediately and ask them to help you arrange a meal and be flexible about the date / time (i.e., if you can open up any day during your vacation, let the Concierge know). They might be able to use their relationships or find an opening for you somehow. Good luck! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post - and all the others you have put up on ChowHound.

I'm already planning for my trip to Tokyo this year end, and reading all about the best Tokyo restaurants have made me so excited that I want to learn basic Japanese so I can at least communicate with chefs like Mizutani!

Only problem is that I will be in Tokyo from 31st December till 6th January 2011. I know New Year's is a big thing in Japan, so I can only hope Ryugin, Mizutani, Kanesaka etc are all open from 2 or 3 January...


Exile Kiss said...

Hi DL,

Thank you for your kind comments. :)

The end of the year in Japan, especially Jan 1 - 4 or so is tough. The majority of businesses close down (including restaurants).

Definitely call ahead now (or have your concierge do it) and see which restaurants you can book (and that are actually open).

I hope you enjoy your trip and please let me know how it goes! :)

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