A few articles ago, I mentioned having family visiting from California. One of their top requests was to eat the best sushi in town. I was a little nervous about responding because I am definitely not a sushi expert. Despite having lived here for four years, I consider dining at the local sushi-go-round pretty fantastic on an empty stomach. So, my first response was “You’re going to be in Japan, so you’re already going to be eating the best sushi in the world!” But, then I did a little research on the web and came across Sushi Iwa 鮨 いわ located in Ginza, Tokyo. A Michelin-starred restaurant, it was the ultimate sushi experience for us all, hands down!
Why did I recommend Sushi Iwa? After watching “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” the popular 2011 documentary on 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, my family did not waiver on going anywhere else but Sukiyabashi Jiro. This posed a few concerns of mine: 1) How much was their budget? 2) Were they willing to eat anything the Master Chef prepared? and 3) Would it be possible to even make a reservation given the short notice? Ultimately, out of a few reasons that were out of our control, we came to the conclusion that looking for an alternative was the best solution.
I called four weeks in advance to book a 13-Course Lunch reservation at Sushi Iwa. To my delight, a gentleman who spoke very good English received my call. The only request he had was that I reconfirm the reservation once my family from California set foot in Japan.
The day had finally arrived! With anxious tummies, we found Sushi Iwa in just a brisk 5-minutes walk from Ginza Station Exit B9. I admit to getting the group lost once in Ginza. But, after a quick call into the restaurant, a young gentleman named Shigeyuki Tsunoda personally welcomed us just outside of the noren curtain, in the rain. He escorted us into the intimate establishment and helped us secure our belongings into a closet. At this point, I was immediately in awe of their customer service.
Standing before us and behind the counter was Master Chef, Hisayoshi Iwa. It was difficult to contain our excitement, especially with seating just enough for six. But, even with two other guests not belonging to our party, the environment was so relaxed; we talked and giggled to our hearts content. Master Chef Iwa and Tsunoda san laughed, too, especially after learning that my nephew is not a fan of seafood!
After settling into our seats and advising on any allergies to shellfish, our 13-Course Lunch for 8,000yen each was reconfirmed and our selection of 2014 Nabeshima Sake with draft beers were on their way. Here is what Master Chef Iwa prepared for us:
- Sea Bream
- Maguro tuna
- Kampachi - Yellowtail Amberjack
- Bonita (Katsuo)
- Aji - Japanese Horse Mackerel
- Aoyagi – Japanese orange clam
- White Shrimp
- Anago – Saltwater Eel
- Toro & Maguro Tuna and Cucumber Kanpai-maki rolls
- Miso Soup
Wow! Best sushi experience ever. Each delicate serving was paced in a perfect amount of time, so we could fully appreciate the graceful hands that prepared our food and savor the unique, sophisticated flavors. Master Chef Iwa would announce the type of fish or seafood as he placed them onto our plate and would advise whether or not one should require a dip into soy sauce. He also noticed I was taking notes along the way, so to my surprise he pulled out “The Sushi Menu Book” for my reference. Another reason to love this guy! It was fascinating to watch his technique of slicing the nigiri, and our taste buds could not deny the impact of what now has been the most awesome sushi experience to date. My non-seafood loving nephew will even validate this message. We highly recommend it!