Obama Drops in at “World’s Best Sushi” Restaurant

Food & Drink - April 24th, 2014

Coming from his flight from Washington, US President Barack Obama kicked off his Tokyo visit with the “best sushi in the world” in a side trip ahead of his full schedule.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed the visiting US leader with a casual 90-minute dinner at the three Michelin star Sukiyabashi Jiro, a hole-in-the-wall sushi restaurant in the Ginza district.

Entire blocks of the famous shopping and entertainment district were closed off to let the two leaders enjoy a lavish meal at the underground restaurant located in a basement next to the Ginza subway station.

Reservations at the restaurant are hard to come by and there’s only one thing on the menu—the Chef’s Recommended Special Course with a hefty price tag of 30,000 yen ($300) for a set menu. The experience is short and sweet, with the average meal lasting little more than 20 minutes. But Jiro Ono, the 88-year-old sushi master, seemed to have made an exception for Abe and Obama’s party.

The two leaders were joined by US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Japanese officials said that the intimate dinner paved the way for “frank exchange of ideas” ahead of a series of negotiations and talks.

The tiny restaurant, which sits only 10 at the bar, was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s popular television show No Reservations and David Gelb’s 2011 documentary film Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Jiro has been learning and perfecting the art of sushi since age nine. He spent decades mastering the proper temperature to serve sushi. His sushi is meant to be eaten with bare hands and there’s no additional soy sauce or wasabi to apply.

The dinner was seen as a strategic move to promote traditional Japanese food as part of Abe’s “cool Japan” policy.

Japanese cuisine, or “washoku,” was recognized as an Intangible World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: “Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)” by 18r/Flickr