What do you get when you combine a Tokyo subway station, an 86-year old sushi chef, and a whole lotta press? You get a three-star Michelin rating and a blockbuster movie in the makings.
The much-anticipated film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” examines Jiro Ono, owner and master chef behind the 10-seat restaurant which is oddly (and modestly) located in a Tokyo subway station. The film is an homage both to Ono, who is possibly regarded as the world’s best sushi chef alive, and also to omakase, a traditional Japanese offering in sushi restaurants where the head chef himself offers a tasting menu of only the finest, freshest foods available.
Omakase may be seen as just a sushi tasting menu, almost like a prix fixe selection from a sushi joint, but it’s much more than simply subscribing to a “chef’s special” of the day. In fact, it’s often said that the best—and truest—form of omakase is when a customer dines regularly at a sushi restaurant, gets to know the chef, and in turn, is offered the omakase by the chef himself. It’s a symbol of mutual respect and trust, in this regard.
But, of course, it’s customary today to simply ask for omakase at higher-end sushi restaurants. You will certainly be awarded with the freshest raw fish display the chef can offer, and you may also find grilled or sautéed dishes included in the offering.
Depending on where you’re dining, omakase may run anywhere from $40 a person to $400 a person—cheap omakase isn’t automatically going to be of poor quality; just make sure you know ahead of time that the place has a reputation for producing quality sushi.
Wondering where you can find some quality omakase before you rush out to see the film? Our resident “LA Foodie” Kimberley and “NYC Foodie” Sarah have gathered some of the hottest spots in each of their cities that folks are getting their fill at. Check it out:
Omakase in NYC:
Sushi Yasuda: Very traditional sushi, with many specialties flown in from Tskuji fish market daily. Known for their exceptional rice.
15 East: Traditional sushi and unique fish like monkfish liver. Call ahead for the live lobster sashimi done three ways.
Masa: The gold standard of sushi in NYC. Omakase is the only way to order, and you eat what they want you to. Luxury fish and supplements like foie gras, but don’t expect to get out of there for under $400.
Omakase in L.A.:
Hirozen Gourmet: Here you have find various omakase offering ranging from $35 to $85 per person. We hear that the cheapest one is actually the best value for your money.
Hayakawa Restaurant: You’ll have to trek out to Covina to get to this place, but it will save you some money, as omakase here is a bit cheaper than in the city. Opt for either the five-course or seven-course omakase.
Shibucho: Tucked away in southwest Silverlake, this sushi restaurant is known by very few but loved by all that actually do know it. This place is almost as real as it gets; there’s no real written menu, and we hear that the chef himself prefers to know the guests he serves omakase to.