WHAT IS THIS ABOUT? I visited the sushi shop run by the second son of the legendary sushi master, Jiro Ono.
There are two branches of Jiro. The main one, at Ginza, is run by the famous Chef Jiro Ono, while the other, in Roppongi, is run by his son, Takashi, a Michelin 2-star sushi chef. I had the rare chance of visiting them both on consecutive days and I have already written about my experience at the main branch. As you might expect, there are similarities between the two. Both reserves the right to refuse late arrivals, so I again arrived more than half an hour early just in case, and both are tiny places, counter seats for 8 diners.
GOOD SUSHI? Absolutely! Extremely fresh fish, light acidity to the warm rice, and each piece was perfectly made.
But while there are some similarities, there are also many differences. For example, though both establishments claim to source fish from the same place each day, they actually serve several different types of fish, and the source of the sea urchin is also different.
The superb quality of the sushi served at Jiro Roppongi was evident from the very first dish, which was flounder – the moistness of the flesh was is a clear indication of its freshness. This was followed by squid which coincidentally was also my second sushi dish the night before at Jiro. And what a contrast! It was night and day. While it was tough and dry at Jiro’s, here it was soft and creamy! And this same theme continued throughout the whole meal. . . akame, chi-toro, clam, and tiger prawn where each bite was more enjoyable! In particular, the explosion of flavours from the prawn head was simply exquisite! What’s more, I found the rice itself much more enjoyable here, where the heavy use of vinegar had made me consider finishing my meal at Jiro’s.
But it wasn’t just the fish and rice that impressed me – the preparation of all ingredients was simply perfect. The gizzard shad had been marinated to give a delicately savoury feel, while the salmon roe had been bathed in fish stock to reduce its saltiness, leaving an elegant salmon aftertaste without being unpleasantly fishy. Then, the chef showcased a whole smoked bonito, which he sliced into pieces for our sushi. Every bite was so delightful that, by half-way through my meal, I had got the distinct impression that I had been ripped off the night before at his father’s shop!
OVERALL EXPERIENCE COMPARED TO JIRO? Easier to book, friendlier service, much better quality sushi. Oh, and for half the price!
The sushi here was so satisfying that we were all happy to pay for more (compare this with Jiro, where I’d been happy to have ended the meal early!). In fact, I ordered an extra three bites – flounder fin, geoduck clam and o-toro! I closed my eyes to bask fully in the heavenly flavours and textures of these rare examples of perfect sushi. At the same time, I reminded myself that the Michelin again is not that reliable in Japan. I’m not all that surprised that Michelin was under pressure to hand out 3-stars to Chef Jiro Ono, as he’s the oldest – and certainly one of the most respected – sushi chefs in Japan. As I mentioned in my review of Jiro, I’m not convinced that sushi, in general, should be Michelin star-rated, but if I had to give stars based on the sushi alone, Jiro Roppongi would be 3-star versus a single star for his father’s place at Ginza!
As to service, Takashi was not merely very friendly, he’s willing and able to have chats with diners, as he speaks some English. He even poured our tea and give us his business card at the end. Also, in contrast to his father’s establishment where photos are forbidden, Takashi was perfectly happy to allow photos of his food, and pose with guests for souvenir snaps. Basically, the whole thing was a fantastic experience! After visiting many high-end restaurants in Japan, and more than 100 Michelin 3-star places, I can only say that this place is a true bargain for such high quality sushi.