Akomeya, by rice retailer Sazaby League, is like a Japanese Dean & DeLuca on steroids, in the best possible way. With thousands of rice-related products, including wooden boxes used for measuring rice and sake, rice pots, beautiful utensils, food products such as crackers, and much more, the shop celebrates the elegant simplicity of the food that is so characteristic of Japan. The rice bar in front of the store allows you to choose the grade of brown rice you want before choosing how much you’d like it polished, which they do on the spot—the highest level removes the entire hull, leaving you with white rice (which most Japanese customers prefer), while a lighter polish will leave a bit more fiber. This shop is a must for the food lover while in Tokyo.
Bar High Five
104-0061 Tokyo, Chūō
This is a bartender’s bar. Spend an evening here and you’re likely to be seated next to another mixology professional, as High Five has a global reputation for excellence. Its founder, Hidetsugu Ueno, used to work at the Star Bar before striking out on his own. As at his former workplace, there’s no menu here: Drink selection will be based on a conversation between you and your bartender. It’s a small place, so keep your party to four or fewer, but plan on spending some time here; the second drink you get will be different—and likely even better—than the first.
If you remember only one thing, remember this: Go straight here. Sushi Sawada is tucked away in a third-floor office location that’s not easy to find, but good God, is it worth the hunt. The six-seat restaurant has two seatings, one at lunch and one at dinner (so get your hotel concierge to secure a reservation). Guests will be hosted by chef Sawada and his wife, no one else. While chopsticks are offered, the Sawada-san’s preferred method for eating his sushi is with your hands. The twenty-course omakase will take you somewhere around two and half hours to complete, but the experience of eating quite possibly the finest sashimi and sushi in the world will stay with you for all your days.
5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chūō
Sushi Dai is located at Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Fish Market, where chefs and tourists show up at the crack of dawn to get their hands on the freshest fish in the world. You can either get up at 4 a.m. to get there by 5 a.m., or just let your jet lag work for you and stay up all night (sake and beer help in this effort). For around $40, you can have an omakase meal of the freshest sushi anywhere. Afterward, tour the market and watch the auctions for tuna, salmon, and other cuts of fish. Also be sure to check out the Aritsugu knife shop around the corner. But move fast—Tsukiji is scheduled to be relocated starting in the fall of 2018.
Sushi is deceiving. Thinly sliced raw fish dressed in a spoonful of sauce or placed atop a mound of rice sounds simple. Enthusiasts know better. Achieving the delicate balance of flavors that complement but don’t overwhelm the fish is a complex art form. Chef Takaaki Sugita keeps his omakase menu interesting by including unusual cuts like ankimo (monkfish liver), iwashi (sardine rolls), and his famous kinmedai (golden eye snapper)—a prized fish in Japan. Sugita had his heart set on becoming a sushi master since his school days. The twelve years of training are discernible in his impeccably seasoned and sliced fish. It’s a Michelin-starred restaurant, so be sure to book well in advance. Images courtesy of luxeat.com.
Tsukiji Fish Market
5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chūō
Arrive around 5 a.m. if you want to watch all the haggling between buyers and sellers, the chefs scoping out the best catch, and the auctions in which a bluefin tuna may go for thousands of dollars. (The sheer volume of fish here will leave you wondering how any are left in the ocean—best to avoid if you get queasy.) The seafood is unlike anything you’ve seen before: buckets of prehistoric-looking sea snails alongside tanks of crab and lobsters the size of well-fed house cats. Indulge in multiple sushi breakfasts at the bars nestled within the market (Sushi Dai is the best).