Sushi Iwa is arguably one of the most talked about sushi restaurants in Tokyo. The One Michelin Star restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo, has an elusive shop front and an even more “exclusive” reservation list.
It took us numerous attempts over a period of two years before we finally succeeded in scoring two seats on one of those weekday afternoons for lunch.
So, are they really worth all the hype? You will find out in a while.
One Michelin Star Sushi Iwa in Ginza is a small sushi restaurant that is famed for its fine omakase. Our first walk-in attempt two years ago was a complete failure. We were rejected right away and the staff was unapologetic about the restaurant being completely booked.
A few months later when we found ourselves in Tokyo again, we went down personally on the first day of our trip to make a reservation for about six days later; alas, we were rejected. This time round, the host told us to get our hotel concierge to make a reservation.
We thought the third time would be a charm. A fortnight before our trip to Tokyo, we got the concierge of the hotel we were going to put up at to make a reservation for us. Guess who was rejected again?
We will skip the subsequent failed attempts. Eventually, we managed to get a table for two this year but that was probably only because they made lives easier—all you have to do now is to simply call them up, then they’d send you an SMS containing a booking link where you can make a reservation via TableCheck.com, and voila!
Came the day when we were finally headed to Sushi Iwa for our sushi omakase lunch; we were ecstatic, to say the least. We were welcomed by the very hospitable chef and his team of servers. And we told ourselves it was going to be a good meal (well, this was to be argued), except that we weren’t too pleased to be sitting in the basement—which we later learned that it was meant for foreigners.
The main dining area is on the second level and is solely for Japanese. Discrimination, much? Is it fair to say this alters the entire ambience and experience? We’d like to think so.
After our appetiser of vinegared seaweed, our 13-course lunch began. Course by course, nigiri sushi were prepared fresh before our eyes. The chef sliced the fish with finesse and upon serving, he took the effort to introduce the sushi in English so that everyone could understand what was about to go into our mouths.
While the fish was fresh, what disappointed us was the lack of build up. You would think that a sushi omakase experience meant the flavours and intensity would build up. But at Sushi Iwa, little thoughts were put into the order of the courses and it was very apparent.
That said, some of the courses we had stood out.
Our favourite was the Shima-aji (striped horse mackerel). It was so very fresh, lightly flavoured with quality shoyu and a little bit of grated ginger; neither of the elements overpowered each other.
The Chutoro (medium fatty tuna) was definitely memorable for its fats really melted into a lovely, creamy taste on the tongue.
The Tai (sea bream) was aged for 2 days, hence retaining the flavours and boasted a slight saltiness of the ocean.
The Anago (conger eel) had a subtle smoky flavour to it but we wished there was a little more sweet sauce for it.
Our 13-course sushi omakase lunch at Sushi Iwa cost us ¥8,640 per pax. Would we go back again? Well, if our dining experience wasn’t confined to the “foreigners/ tourists” basement, we might overlook the part on the lack of flavours build up and give it another shot.
Sushi Iwa Ginza
8-4-4 Ginza, Miura Bldg. 1F, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Tel: 03 3572 0955
Tue to Sun: 12pm – 2pm, 6pm -10pm
Nearest Station: Shimbashi