Tokyo | Sushi Saito 鮨さいとう

If the legendary chef Jiro Ono featured in ‘Jiro Dreams Of Sushi’ is the Leonardo da Vinci of sushi, reaching the pinnacle of his culinary journey in later years, then Chef Takashi Saito of Sushi Saito should be considered the Picasso of sushi. He is widely recognized as having achieved the height of his success at the early age of 40′.

Takashi Saito began his career as an apprentice at Ginza Kyubey, one of Tokyo’s oldest upscale sushi restaurants favored by locals. In 2000, another disciple Shinji Kanesaka left and opened his own sushiya Sushi Kanesaka* in Ginza, where Saito worked as the sous chef. When Kanesaka opened a new branch in Akasaka, Saito-san was appointed as the head chef. In 2007, Saito-san found himself skilled and confident enough to helm his own sushiya, thus Kanesaka Akasaka was renamed to Sushi Saito.

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Sushi Saito is one of only three Michelin-3-starred sushi restaurant in Tokyo. It is also the top-ranked sushiya according to Tabelog. Moreover, Sushi Saito is also very famous for To become one of the eight guests here is such an honor for sushi lovers around the world, however Sushi Saito doesn’t take reservations from first-timers. And even you have been there, you may not be able to get in as it is always fully-booked.

My reservation was made right after my last meal here with Saito-san’s apprentice at the private room [review]. Luckily I got a slot with master chef Takashi Saito, this was literally the main reason I flew back to Tokyo again!

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Expect to pay JPY 20k for a complete Saito experience. The Omakase menu is available for both lunch and dinner, which includes assorted Tsumami (appetizers) and nigiri sushi. Other options includes three sushi sets (without appetizers) available only during lunch, priced at JPY 5k (10 pcs), 10k (15 pcs) and 15k (18 pcs) respectively.

It is not easy to get a reservation at Sushi Saito, so yes, Omakase please!

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白海老 / Shiro-ebi 

Frankly speaking, I thought Sushi Saito is possibly over-ratted especially by regular customers because it is extremely hard to get a reservation. But I was totally wrong – my experience with master chef Saito-san was extraordinary.

Although my last visit at Saito was handled by his apprentice, the Tsumami (appetizers) was really impressive. It was even more amazing this time. Starting with one of my all-time-favorite appetizers, Shiro-ebi, or baby white shrimp (from Toyama 富山). Look at those shinning baby white shrimps –  so fresh, creamy and sweet!

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蛸の桜煮 蒸し黑鮑  / Cooked Octopus & Steamed Black Abalone

I have had tako (cooked octopus) and a lot of Sushiyas, and Sushi Saito arguably serves the best in my life. It was so perfectly cooked with a jelly texture on the outside, it was incredibly tender and slight chewy, packed with umami flavors with bursting of sweetness. Steamed kuro-awabi (black abalone) was very aromatic and tender as well. Speechless.

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雲丹 / Uni

Next were three varieties of uni (sea urchin) from the Kumamoto, Ehime and Hokkaido regions. Each has a distinctive texture and flavor to impress me. Followed by Isobe Grilled Tairagai (Pen shell), served with seaweed to give an extra mouthful .

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平貝の磯辺焼き/ Isobe Grilled Tairagi

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鰹 / Katsuo

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北海道の毛蟹 / Hokkaido Kegani

It was not the peak season for katsuo (bonito) while its deep flavor still made up for it, rolled with scallions to elevate the flavor to another level. I also enjoyed every bite of the kegani (hairy crab) mixed with some ovaries, so juicy, umami and sweet. Tsumami (appetizer) game ended strongly with grilled Tachiuo. This was the best-preparation of grilled fish I’ve had at a sushiya in recent memory. Beneath the crispy skin was a layer of delicious fat, the meat was succulent and delicious.  Before the arrival of the sushi, two pieces of pickled eggplant were served to cleanse my palate.

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太刀魚塩焼き / Grilled Tachiuo

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茄子の浅漬け / Pickled Eggplant

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1. 鰈 / Karei

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2. 金目鯛 / Kinmedai

Among all the sushiyas I have been so far, Saito-san honestly serves the most balanced nigiri for my liking. Unlike some sushiyas (not mentioning which ones) where sushi have sharp flavors, heavily marinated or aged, Saito-san knows the trick for the best balance to make the flow comfortable for most customers. All the fish were well-prepared, the shari was perfect in texture and tastes.

I really loved the Kinmedai (golden eye snapper), it was rich in oils and really appetizing. Kohada (gizzard shad) was other amazing piece, so tender and enticing. Followed by everyone’s favorite tuna: Akami, chu- and o-toro, the high flavors and the rich oils of toro melts. Divine.

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3. 小肌 / Kohada

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4. 赤身 / Akami

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5. 中トロ / Chutoro

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6. 大トロ / Otoro

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7. 車海老 /  Kuruma-ebi

Kuruma-ebi (prawn) was just boiled and Saito-san peeled its shell in front of us. The large shrimp was lusciously hearty and meaty. Saito’s ika (squid) was also my favorite so far, clean, creamy and has a sweet hint. Uni (sea urchin) was definitely palatable , the high tastes and tenderness of Aji (horse mackerel) was spectacular too.

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8. 墨烏賊 / Sumi-ika

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9. 雲丹 / Uni 

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10. 鰺 / Aji

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11. 穴子 (塩) / Anago (shio)

Anago was freshly-cooked and served in two ways. With shio (salt) to enjoy its best original flavors, and tsume (sweet soy sauce) to bring a sweet twist. Both were moist and wonderfully melted in my mouth, the aromatic aftertastes was delectable.

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12. 穴子(つめ) / Anago (tsume)

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お椀 / Miso soup with scallions

 

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干瓢巻き / Kanpyo-maki

Kanpyo-maki (sushi roll with dried gourd) arrived right after the aromatic miso soup with scallions. Saito’s Kanpyo matches my tastes buds very well, very nice balance of acidity and sweetness.

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とろ手巻き / Toro-temaki 

The meal supposed to end here with tamago, but my craving stills. However i was a bit slow on the draw because everything here was marvelous. Seeing Saito-san was slicing toro thus decided to have one more toro-temaki (hand roll). With the help of the crispy seaweed, the hand roll with fatty tuna was nothing but lip-smacking. You can never leave a sushiya without having the tamago (egg custard), let alone at Saito. Nothing is better to end a meal with this silky pudding-texture tamago.

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玉子 / Tamago

Chef Takashi Saito-san is surprisingly friendly and outgoing, he communicated a lot with the guests and the whole dining room was full of happiness. The ambiance, the people, the food – everything was top notch here. What else can i say?


Sushi Saito 鮨さいとう 

Address: 1F, Ark Hills South Tower, 1-4-5 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo

東京都 港区 六本木 1-4-5 アークヒルズサウスタワー 1F

Hours: 12:00-14:00 (L.O.), 17:00-22:00 (L.O.),Closed mid-August, late December-early January, Sunday and Public Holiday Mondays

 

4 comments Add yours
  1. Hi Melody

    Sushi Saito seems quite mysterious how the booking process works. Except from Mizai in Kyoto, Sushi Saito is the only place I have been unsuccessfull getting a reservation for my upcoming Japan trip starting late October. I know Sushi Saito is extremely difficult but still the saying is they open for reservation on the 1st for the following month. My hotel in Tokyo called them on the 1st but was informed they were fully booked for october. However they didnt say that you needed an introduction to even get a seat in the first place. Maybe its still hope for a “first timer”? Possibly they could still have some last minute cancellation. It seems a lot more difficult than the some years back at their old location in the parcark. So, there is no “trick” for Sushi Saito? 🙂

    On the positive side I got a reservation for Ishikawa! Also I got a reservation for “Sushi Tokami” since I was not successfull with Sushi Saito.”Kondo” was no problem either. And I got a reservation for “L effervescene” (one of the places I’m looking most forward to) Any suggestion for a second susi-ya? I’m considering Sushi Iwa. Any places you recommend which put so much focus at the vegetables? (DEN was my first choice in this regard but unfourtenately I was informed the restaurant will be closed while I’m in Tokyo because the chef will be abroad on business. Takazawa unfourtenately doesnt accept single diners)

    In Kyoto I’ve got a reservation for “Kichisen”, “Tempura Matsu” and “Shoraian” with no problems with the great help of my hotel.

    Your blog has been of great use to me finding reviews about the places I was interested in, and places I didnt hear about before reading your blog (“Shoraian” was new to me. thanks a lot for the wonderful pics!) Thanks for sharing and for the lovely photos! Besides Andy Haylers website this site has been the one I’ve returned back to the most times and you seem to have covered it all. I only have 2 Nights in Osaka at the end of my long Japan trip and considering to dine at Fujiya 1935 for lunch, but still havent made up my mind whether I should just go stricly local (that crabrestaurant I forgot the name for, and all the great streetfood around Dotonbori and everything)

    1. Hi Apollon (?)
      Thanks for your suuuuuper long comment. So glad that you found my blog useful.
      For Saito, I have no idea about whether any hotels can get a reservation as my regular friend invited me.
      I have never been to sushi Iwa. Not a big fan of Tokami. A lot of people loves Hatsune, I’ve been twice and found it is quite unique.
      For vegetables, I normally just go salad bars.
      For Kyoto I loved Ogata and Kitcho, I’m not impressive with the other restaurants I’ve been. Some reviews haven’t been updated yet. Instagram is more updated.

      If you are going to Osaka and visit Fujiya, do visit Kimoto in Kobe which is only 30min by train from Osaka. It is the best Kaiseki restaurant in Kobe, quite similar to Matsukawa. The chef is a very good friend of mine.
      Enjoy Japan!

  2. Hi Melody,

    Yes I’ve been trying to get a reservation for Sushi Saito about 2 months ago for my upcoming trip but they said it’s fullybooked. Can you ask your friend how did they get the reservation?
    I even asked japanese company to try booking.
    Is sushi sawada any good?
    THank you

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