December 23, 2016
Hello everyone, and welcome to our biggest project of the year. We’ve been given another very special opportunity to shoot a video with a master chef. Allow us to share with you Sushi Saito, arguably the best sushi chef in Tokyo.
Now, there are other sushi restaurants that are more well known to foreign audiences, but from all that we’ve heard and researched, Sushi Saito is regarded in Japan as amongst the best, if not the best of the best. We’ve consulted hardcore foodies here in Japan, even famous foodies in Japan, and they agree. Sushi Saito is on another level when it comes to sushi. And from our meagre yet not-to-be-scoffed-at experiences with high end sushi, we agree that he’s definitely something special about him. There’s a magic when watching Saito work. His sushi is something else. We ate there almost three weeks ago and I’m still remembering it with a sense of wonder. He doesn’t have many good videos based on his work, though, which is why you might not know of him. Hopefully we can change that. I really hope he likes this video!
Not that Saito is unknown. He’s big time. He’s got three Michelin Stars for many years now. He’s the second best restaurant of 2016 according to Tabelog. We went to Rachel and Jun’s place recently when we were in Nagoya: Jun opened up a book about Sushi: Saito was the first chef they talked about. He’s just out of this world.
I don’t even know where to begin when talking about him. The most profound aspect of the experience was, for us, watching how he moves. His level of concentration, his tight movements. We didn’t talk about this in the video, but I’m not sure if you noticed how hard he focuses. Take a look again if you can. There are some clips we put in there where, after he puts down a piece of sushi on our plate, he stares at the piece intently as he backs away and starts working on his next piece. It’s like he’s imbuing it with magic thoughts, or he’s forcing his supreme will upon the piece. There’s something happening at that moment. I haven’t seen that anywhere else.
One of the things I wish we caught on camera is how good of a talker he is. When we talk about his intensity and his focus, I don’t want you to get the impression that this is a sacrosanct ritual we’re watching in reverential silence. He’s a talker, and he jokes with everyone, and makes everyone feel very comfortable. Old school sushi joints aren’t like that. They’re mostly like “here’s your sushi. Eat it, shut up, and GTFO” but Saito isn’t like that. Because the experience he wants you to have isn’t just of taste. He wants you to feel good when you’re there. We asked him off camera how long it takes to be a sushi master. I think he said something around 9 years, if I’m not mistaken. Interestingly, he said two of those years are to train you how to talk to customers and make them comfortable. Funny: when we asked him why he wants to make his customers comfortable, rather than doing it old school and being curmudgeonly, he told us that you can’t be that way anymore, because of the internet. Ha! That could just be him being personable and funny. Either way, thank you, internet, for making sushi chefs nicer!
Back to my point, he does all of these crisp movements while talking to everybody. I’d have thought that I’d be pulling away from his focus, but his body has all of the movements fluidly down pat. There are no slip ups. He is the perfect machine for making delicious sushi. It’s almost like that scene from the Matrix, when Neo realizes he’s the one, and he’s fighting Mr Smith effortlessly while looking off at the distance. Saito has tapped into the Sushi Matrix. He is the One.
Shooting with Saito is super rare as well, let me say. He barely ever does video. One of our foodie friends is close with Saito, though, and he helped arrange this shoot. But again, Saito doesn’t need the publicity. He is literally booked forever. Though his schedule isn’t written out in a calendar for the rest of forever, the way it basically works is like this: Saito has two rooms in his restaurant. He serves in one of the rooms, while his sous chef serves in another. If you want to get a seat, one of the regulars has to introduce you, and that’s usually done when a regular has booked a few seats and can bring you in with him or her. Afterwards, you can make a reservation yourself, which is what we did. We ate with Saito on December 1st. We booked the next closest opening, and that was for the end of June. Again, though, we booked a room with his sous chef. Saito’s room is full of regulars who book with him every month. They always get first choice. I don’t know how to become one of Saito’s regulars. Only one of our foodie friends can call himself that. How he got it I don’t know. He might have challenged one of the former regulars to trial by combat.
So, then, how did we eat with Saito? Well, he was nice enough to open for us before his first service started, which was SUPER kind of him. He won’t do that again, though. I did try saying at the end of the shooting “oh no! All of the footage is corrupted! We have to eat here again. Is tomorrow ok?” but he could tell that I was joking and had a good laugh. Anyhow, if I do want to eat with Saito again, I’ll have to swap out with one of his regulars, but hell if they want to give up that spot! I mean, I sure as shit wouldn’t. I’ve actually heard of regulars being offered $500 just for their spot, and that doesn’t count for the cost of the meal afterwards. Other fun story: Larry Page, co-founder of Google, actually ate at Saito as well, but not in Saito’s room.
On another note, for those of you who might be concerned about us talking in a super high end and ultra rare place like this, please don’t worry. We had the place entirely to ourselves. Saito knew about the video, and we’re friends with everybody in the room. And we also apologized to Saito in advance when we were filming the video, because we know he really wants people to eat the sushi as soon as he gives it to you. He’s calculated the right timing for the temperatures and the firmness to be just right. So, if he gives you a piece and you sit and wait and chat with your friends, you’re not going to get as great of an experience. Each piece has a very short shelf life. But he knew we needed to get the shots and he was totally cool with it. Don’t worry guise! We handled ourselves as professionally as we possibly could.
We went for the lunch course, which, when you look at the menu below, is still a pretty massive meal. We didn’t actually show you all of the pieces we ate as well. We ate there for roughly two hours, and were completely satisfied by the end of it. Here’s the lunch menu:
Flounder, Yellowtail, Gizzard Shad (vinegared), Red Tuna (marinated), Medium Fatty Tuna, Fatty Tuna, Golden Cuttle Fish (Squid), White Sweet Shrimp, Mackerel (vinegared), Horse Mackerel, Small Scallops, Sea Urchin, Salmon Roe (marinated), Sea Eel (Salted and Sweet Sauce), Egg Omelet
The egg at the end was the best I ever had. Usually, sushi places give you something like an egg roll, but this was like a custard, but it was savoury with shrimp flavour. It was shockingly good. Just…wow.
Otherwise, I think it’s the most serious video we’ve ever made as well. We shot in a referral only, very exclusive, 3 Michelin Starred and overall extremely highly regarded restaurant, hung out with the chef, and ate his food. This is a big change from us just shooting street food. I have to say, I’m just amazed that we had this opportunity. Big thanks to Mr Udon and Tokyo Rocks for facilitating this. If you’re looking for more places to eat, these two know their stuff.
We have a few extra scenes as well, if you’re interested. We filmed a barebones talking part outside