Japan- Mizutani- ✪✪


SERVICE: 7.5/10

FOOD: 8.0/10




Hachiro Mizutani is in his mid-60s, and by the looks of things seems to be entering his prime years. Finding his restaurant was no small feat (I had to ask an incredibly nice woman who worked in a store across the street, who vaguely pointed me at his building) and I'll issue the warning to anyone following in my footsteps- please use the elevator. The steps, especially slicked with rain, are essentially a tourist death trap, and I almost broke my neck in Ginza. 

You enter a tiny alcove space (not visible in the photo above, because in order to take this photo you have to occupy the entire space yourself) that is clean, neat, and ordered. The dining room occupies an impressive amount of the total overall space- you can catch glimpses of the stainless steel support equipment in the background (to the left and out of frame in the above), along with a sense of several invisible beings working hard behind the curtain.

Chef Mizutani himself and an understudy who appeared roughly 15 years old occupy the main sushi preparation area. As I sat and began my 35-minute lunch next to a few locals and tourists, a ballet of movements and orders began taking shape. The 15-year-old (we'll call him the sous chef, because I never caught his name) would begin washing the shrimp, and minutes later progress the shrimp into his boss' hands for final assembly. Wide-eyed and clearly excited about his job, the sous chef was extremely helpful with the English translations. "Needlefish," "Fatty tuna," etc. 

The meal was extremely traditional- roughly 15 courses of extremely fresh fish- anchovy, red clam, saba, and tuna with the signature hand-rolled rice, hand-dabbed wasabi, and minimalist plating.

What really struck me about the experience was the great deal of solemnity in the space. Mizutani would utter a word, just above a whisper- "wasabi," or, "drinks," and the appropriate team would give a hearty, "hai!" and fulfill the order. It wasn't quite militaristic- no one seemed marshaled or yoked- but combined with the musicless quiet of the 9th floor location, it was more a feeling of watching a master librarian at work. 

Mizutani seemed a very traditional man- at one point, he asked the two teenage girls sitting across from me to put their iPhones down and start paying attention to their experience- and was fully engrossed in his work. He would uncover and bring to his cutting board a massive rectangular slice of tuna as big as a nightstick, carefully cut a generous diagonal slice, and then leave it off to the side for the sous chef to return. Not particularly exceptional as an individual act, but he repeated almost precisely the same gesture every time he built that dish. 

You probably noticed I wasn't allowed to take photos- and to be quite honest, this definitely was not the best fish I had in Tokyo. While fresh and clearly bought from the Tsu-jiki market very recently, it lacked the powerful depth of flavors and colors I had seen elsewhere. This was certainly a good restaurant experience to chalk up, but I won't be back.