TOKYO (Reuters) - The tiny basement restaurant that hosted U.S. President Barack Obama and featured in the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” is not included in this year’s Michelin guide to Tokyo because it no longer accepts reservations from the general public.
Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, the 10-seat counter restaurant run by the 94-year-old Jiro Ono, widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest sushi chefs, had held a three-star rating since Michelin published its first guide to Tokyo dining in 2007.
Along with another tiny three-star restaurant, Sushi Saito, Ono’s restaurant was not included in the 2020 guide because they no longer accept bookings from the general public, the Michelin Guide said in a statement.
Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten appears to have become the victim of its own renown, particularly among tourists. In the 2011 documentary about Ono and his establishment, the bespectacled chef describes how he massages octopus to make it tender before cooking.
The restaurant, in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza neighborhood, was established in 1965 by Ono who still works as a chef, along with his son. The 20-piece “omakase” tasting menu starts at 40,000 yen ($368) plus tax, not including drinks.
“It’s a shame. It is one of Ginza’s best-known restaurants and people from all over the world have visited,” said 59-year-old Yuko Ikeda, who was having lunch with her mother at another spot in Ginza.
“I think people visited because it had the three stars.”
On its homepage, Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten said it was no longer taking reservations by telephone, and overseas diners would have to book through their hotel concierge.
“As our restaurant can only seat up to 10 guests at a time, this situation is likely to continue,” it said. “We will not be able to accept telephone reservations until further notice.”
A call to the restaurant before regular opening hours was met with an answering machine message apologising for no longer accepting bookings.
Many Japanese restaurants maintain a policy of admitting visitors only through prior introduction, to avoid trouble over cancellations and payments.
Obama dined at Sukiyabashi Jiro during a 2014 visit, taking a stool alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the narrow wooden counter. The U.S. president declared the meal the “best sushi” he had ever had, according to reports at the time.
Despite the exclusion of arguably the world’s most famous sushi restaurant from the guide, Michelin said that Tokyo once again is the city with the most starred restaurants in the world, with 226.
“Taking full advantage of its position as a centre for high-quality food, and highly skilled domestic and international chefs who prepare it, Tokyo is likely to continue to lead the world as a city of gastronomy,” Paul Perriniaux, the chief executive of Nihon Michelin Tire Co. said.
A total of 11 Tokyo restaurants were given the highest three-star rating, Michelin said.
($1 = 108.6400 yen)
Reporting by Ami Miyazaki; Additional reporting by Akira Tomoshige and Shiori Ozawa; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell