To the layman, you might think becoming a celebrated sushi chef, or even a sushi master (as the very best are known), involves little more than opening a couple of prepacked salmon fillets from the local supermarket and putting them on a plate. Serve with soy and wasabi, perhaps a little ginger, and you have top notch sashimi. Oh, how wrong you can be.
Sadly the self congratulatory pats on the back for becoming an accomplished sushi chef overnight must stop, because there’s much more to it than that. To all you novices out there, a little ball of rice accompanied by a slice of raw fish may look like child’s play, but even the most dedicated sushi students can take two years to master the art, while many will take four.
So just who are the sushi grand masters? In this list of the world’s top 5 we shan’t rank the chefs in order (we’d rather not annoy them as they have extremely sharp knives!). Instead we shall introduce you to five that are among the very best.
- Jiri Ono
Despite its humble position in a Tokyo subway station, Jiri Ono’s three Michelin-starred, ten-seater restaurant Sukiyayabashi Jiro is widely considered to be the world’s best. The 89-year old master chef serves a tasting menu of roughly 20 courses and asks that diners make their sushi choices before they arrive to ensure the freshest possible fish.
And the cost for a meal prepared by arguably the world’s greatest chef? The small part of 30,000 Japanese yen (about £170)!
- Hiroyuki Urasawa
You probably wouldn’t associate great sushi with Beverly Hills, but L.A is perhaps surprisingly renowned for its array of top class sushi spots. None can compete with Urasawa’s eponymous restaurant. The tasting menu includes raw rarities such as firefly squid from Japan and oruni from Hokkaido, along with other more traditional elements of Japanese cooking.
- Mitsuhiro Araki
If you’re looking for some unbelievably good handmade sushi in London, you’re in luck, because sushi master Mitsuhiro Araki has decided to close his three Michelin-starred Tokyo restaurant Akari, and open its namesake in London. Seating just nine people, this revered sushi superstar personally serves diners across the sushi counter.
- Yoshiharu Kakinuma
Yoshiharu Kakinuma is a third generation sushi chef at another three Michelin-starred restaurant, this time in Hong Kong. Despite both his father and grandfather being accomplished sushi chefs, Yoshiharu did not want to train under a family member to ensure any success would be his own. He trained under the sushi master Mr Yoshitake. Yoshitake obviously spotted Kakinuma’s talents early, as it is very unusual for a sushi master to train an apprentice directly.
Yoshiharu Kakinuma now runs the Sushi Shikon restaurant in Hong Kong, one of the island’s best.
- Elji Ichimura
NewYork, like London, is a city teeming with sushi delivery and sushi takeaway joints, but for sushi aficionados, the hidden Ichimura restaurant, home to Tokyo trained chef Elji Ichimura, is just a little bit special.
Ichimura is an expert in a technique called shime (curling, pickling and aging fish). This practice enhances the flavour of the fish to produce an extraordinary taste. Ichimura’s specialities include Edomae-style omakase, which includes small bites like grilled Asian eggplant and pressed herring roe.