Food

The Michelin Guide Tokyo 2020 List is Out—And It Excluded the World’s Best Sushi Joint

Why exactly did Sukiyabashi Jiro not make the cut for the first time in the list’s 13-year history?
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Some gourmand-wannabes and frequent travelers may look to the Michelin Guide as an itinerary drafted for them by restaurant critics, a directory of dining establishments worth their notice. That was its intention when the first guide to France was released over a century ago. But the guide hasn’t been all-encompassing, as we’ve read stories in the past of top chefs relinquishing their stars, or inspectors reportedly dismissing any method that isn’t up to par with the French standard. Once more, the guide has proved its shortcomings with the recent release of the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2020 selection.

This particular list, which focuses on Japan’s capital city, is highly anticipated as Tokyo holds the most Michelin stars than any other city in the world—even more than Paris. This year was not any different and the guide has recognized 226 establishments to flaunt its flower-like badges. In total, there are 11 three-starred establishments, 48 with two stars, and 167 with one star, as well as 238 Bib Gourmands. “This year’s selection sees the rise of young talents, as well as a large number of newly listed restaurants opened independently by chefs who honed their skills at long-established or famous restaurants,” the page notes.

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Eagle-eyed foodies, however, would be quick to notice the exclusion of two establishments that have graced last year's list—one of them being Sukiyabashi Jiro, hailed by media outfits as the ‘world’s best sushi restaurant.’ This is the same joint run by Jiro Ono, the main subject of the famous documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which propelled him to fame in 2011. It was famously known for its tight reservation process, 10-seater counter, and steep price points. One would have to book a month ahead, secure a reservation with your credit card, and consume the meal in 35 minutes, according to Fodor’s Travel. It’s been praised by the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Barack Obama, and an unending list of celebrities. Its exclusivity, perhaps, is the price it has to pay for its omission from this year’s guide and its succeeding selections.

Jiro Ono bows to former U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a lunch at Sukiyabashi Jiro in 2014.
Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.
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During the presentation of the Tokyo Michelin Guide, a spokeswoman explains the decision: “We recognize Sukiyabashi Jiro does not accept reservations from the general public, which makes it out of our scope. 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.”

These days, one can no longer make a simple reservation. Diners would have to either be a regular customer, have out-of-this-world connections, or book through a luxury hotel’s concierge, reports The Guardian.

The other establishment that did not make the 2020 cut is Sushi Saito, which garnered three stars in 2019, but was left out for the exact same reason as Sushi Jiro.

The list, however, makes spaces for many new culinary discoveries that deserve attention, too. Kadowaki earned its third star this year after a decade of maintaining two stars, a Danish restaurant called Inua two stars, while Italian restaurant Prisma makes it to the same tier, earning the distinction of being the only Italian establishment in Tokyo with two stars.

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For the complete Michelin Guide Tokyo 2020 Selection, click here.

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