Note: No photos were taken during my meal at Sushi Mizutani, as they were prohibited at the time. In late-2016, Mizutani-san closed his shop. He was truly one of the most legendary sushi chefs in Japan, and his departure leaves a distinct void in this universe.
- Cost: JPY 31,000, before drinks
- Size: 10 seats
- Reserved: About 5 weeks in advance
Hachiro Mizutani, along with Jiro Ono, was the first sushi chef to ever receive 3 stars from Michelin. This fact made Sushi Mizutani, for a number of years, the rumored "most difficult reservation in the world" - a mythical place where god-like sushi could be purchased at the bargain price of JPY 30,000. Not coincidentally, Mizutani-san is also probably the most famous of Jiro's itamae - he ran an offshoot of Jiro in Yokohama in the early-2000s, and he features a few times in that movie about sushi.
In the past few years, Mizutani has moved out of a basement building (which now houses Sushi Tokami) and to a larger, more open space a few blocks away. From what I understand, Mizutani-san's formative years as a chef were at Yoshino, one of Tokyo's most historic sushiya. Accordingly, and like Jiro, the style of sushi at Mizutani is very simple and traditional - just sashimi, and sushi.
The nigiri themselves are a cross between the larger "traditional" style and more dainty "Ginza" style that are most often seen at high-end sushiya. They are simply seasoned (either shoyu, salt, or yuzu), and are distinctively "long" in shape - likely due to the shape of Mizutani-san's hands. I found them overall to be very good in terms of balance, though the shari was not very firm and in some cases almost gummy. Some neta, such as the shiromi and sumi-ika, were excellent.
However, I did notice that several items you would typically see prepared freshly - particularly kuruma ebi and anago - appeared to be pre-cooked and sliced for diners. At a sushiya in this price range (and with this reputation), I find it hard to believe that such an oversight wasn't an intentional part of the style, but these items in taste paled in comparison to other versions I've had, both in Japan and America. A sushi chef I know mentioned that on his last visit to Mizutani the craftsmanship there seemed "less serious" than it had in the past. I wonder if this fact is the reason that, during my visit, the counter at Mizutani appeared to be comprised of tourists from Hong Kong and Singapore, and was only half-full.
Don't get me wrong - Sushi Mizutani offers an experience that certainly ranks in the "very good" or even "excellent" categories, but there are other sushiya in Tokyo (and even America, for that matter) with more precise technique, and certainly more of a "wow" factor. When the price for admission is JPY 30,000 and up, those are pretty important considerations.
Sushi Mizutani 鮨 水谷（すしみずたに）
Chuo, Ginza 8-7-7 Juno Bldg. 9F