Jiro dropped from Michelin guide: 5 things to know about restaurant where Obama had the 'best sushi'

A photo taken on April 23, 2014, shows Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and former US President Barack Obama at the Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant in Tokyo.
A photo taken on April 23, 2014, shows Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and former US President Barack Obama at the Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant in Tokyo.PHOTO: AFP

A famed Tokyo sushi restaurant, where former United States president Barack Obama is said to have enjoyed the best sushi of his life, has been dropped from the city's latest Michelin gourmet guide.

Sukiyabashi Jiro was dropped from the city's guide, which was revealed to the media on Tuesday (Nov 26), after it stopped accepting reservations from the general public.

The restaurant, which seats up to only 10 guests at a time, has earned three Michelin stars every year since 2007.

A spokesman from the Japanese branch of Michelin said: "It was not true to say the restaurant lost stars but it is not subject to coverage in our guide. Michelin's policy is to introduce restaurants where everybody can go to eat."

Here are five things to know about the exclusive restaurant, its owner Jiro Ono and its sushi.

1. FAMILY BUSINESS

Sukiyabashi Jiro is owned and operated by sushi maestro Jiro Ono. The 94-year-old has been learning the art of sushi and honing his skills since he was nine years old. He has two sons, Yoshikazu and Takashi.

Eldest son Yoshikazu helps him to run the restaurant, which opened its doors in 1965 in the basement of a commercial building in Ginza and has remained there since.

Meanwhile, Takashi runs another branch in the modern Roppongi Hills complex, which is a two Michelin star restaurant that is still listed in the gourmet guide because it is open to public reservations.

2. THE ART OF SUSHI

The restaurant prides itself on its ingredients, and makes its own vinegar for its sushi.

 

"The most important thing for nigiri is vinegared rice. The temperature is also very important for this sharpness... If it's hot or cold, you won't be able to grab it," said its website.

Jiro Ono eats the ingredients served every day to determine whether there is any difference in their flavour, he told Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun last year.

"I serve only what I feel is delicious and what goes well with shari vinegared rice... I never make sushi with unusual toppings. Even though customers ask me to make such sushi, I never do it because their flavours never go well with vinegared rice," he said.

3. TRAINING HARD

The journey to being a sushi chef at Jiro is long and challenging. Apprentices train for at least 10 years and are not allowed to slice anything until they first learn how to hold the fish.

"My restaurant has many trainees. I tell them to observe, emulate and absorb everything. I do not teach them everything," Jiro Ono said in the Yomiuri Shimbun interview.

4. RISE TO FAME

Sukiyabashi Jiro shot to fame when it was featured on the late American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain's television show No Reservations. The restaurant was also immortalised in the 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

5. A-LIST CUSTOMERS

When then US President Barack Obama travelled to Tokyo in 2014, he joined a long list of Ono's celebrity guests, including French master chef Joel Robuchon and Hollywood stars Hugh Jackman and Katy Perry.

As Mr Obama and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thrashed out trade talks, Ono senior served them his own selection of 20 pieces as he does to every diner, according to son Yoshikazu.

Mr Obama reportedly liked the chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) and said: "This is the best sushi I've ever had in my life."

SOURCES: Time, The Yomiuri Shimbun