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'World's best sushi restaurant' has been dropped from esteemed Michelin Guide
Posted on 04/12/2019

CultureJapan

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Sukiyabashi Jiro, the 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' restaurant, no longer has its three Michelin stars

Exclusive sushi restaurant in Tokyo dropped by Michelin

Exclusive sushi restaurant in Tokyo dropped by Michelin
© Segiy Tryapitsyn/123RF

Restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo has made a name for itself, not only because it serves some of the world's best sushi, but because of the acclaimed release of the documentary film "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" on Netflix in 2012 which plunged both chef Jiro Ono and his restaurant into the spotlight.

But on Tuesday, it was announced in Tokyo that its latest edition of the Michelin Guide would no longer recommend the restaurant. Yet this decision to exclude Sukiyabashi Jiro was not because of declining food quality or standards, but rather the restaurant has become so exclusive that the public can no longer dine there.

"We recognise Sukiyabashi Jiro does not accept reservations from the general public, which makes it out of our scope," a spokeswoman for the Michelin Guide, announced at the reveal of the Tokyo edition.

She added: It was not true to say the restaurant lost stars but it is not subject to coverage in our guide. Michelin's policy is to introduce restaurants where everybody can go to eat."

Famous faces

Famous faces
© Sergiy Tryapitsyn/123RF

The exclusive restaurant, the first sushi restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars, has seen some famous faces over the years. Perhaps most famously, then-US president Barack Obama dined in Sukiyabashi Jiro with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in 2014. Afterwards, Obama commented that it was the best sushi that he'd ever had, with the chutoro, a fatty and expensive cut of tuna, being his favourite from the chef-selected 20 course meal.

Demand has only increased ever since. French chef JoŽl Robuchon, award-winning actor Hugh Jackman and singer Katy Perry are among those who have succeeded in dining at the exclusive restaurant.

Yet hopefuls clicking onto the restaurant's website are now faced with a lengthy disclaimer in both Japanese and English.

"We are currently experiencing difficulties in accepting reservations and apologize for any inconvenience to our valued customers," it starts off saying.

"However, as our restaurant can only seat up to 10 guests at a time, this situation is likely continued. Please note that we will not be able to accept telephone reservations until further notice."

Instead, those who want to dine at this notorious restaurant must be considered regulars, have special connections or be able to book through the concierge of a high-end luxury hotel in Tokyo. What's more, diners will have to be willing to part with at least 40,000 yen (roughly £285) to be fed the famed chef's selection.

The man himself

The man himself
© Sergiy Tryapitsyn/123RF

Jiro Ono, the restaurant's namesake, continues to work in the restaurant alongside his son, despite now being in his 90s.

Yet Allan Jenkins, editor of Observer Food Monthly, believes that the news of Michelin's Guide decision would probably not faze Ono or his team of chefs.

"Not sure they are bothered, though presume some tourists might be," he told reporters at the BBC. "Truth is since the film and Obama he is the most famous Japanese sushi chef alive and he will be fine. He is ancient and only has to fill 10 spots anyway."

But it isn't the first time that the Ono clan has landed itself in some controversy. Yoshikazu Ono, son of Jiro Ono, once declared that women make inferior sushi chefs because their menstrual cycle affects their sense of taste, a claim that has since been challenged and dismissed multiple times by Japan's up-and-coming female sushi chefs. Indeed, the number of Tokyo restaurants run by female chefs featuring in Tokyo's Michelin is steadily rising every year, with 25 establishments in the 2020 guide led by women, including three with Michelin star status.

Although Tokyo may have lost one of its top Michelin-starred restaurants, it's safe to say that there are plenty more from where that came from with the city of holding more Michelin stars than any other location recognized by the guide.