Gastronomy, Japan - Tokyo, Sushi

Sawada, A Man Who Puts His Soul Into His Sushi

April 20, 2009
The chef - Koji Sawada (澤田幸治)

The chef – Koji Sawada (澤田幸治)

It’s indeed not easy to get a seat at Sawada. Think about this – 7 seats only, Michelin 2 stars, one of the hippest Sushi places in Tokyo. I was lucky enough to get in there and be seated right in front of the chef Sawada Koji (澤田幸治). Sawada is 38 years old, the same age as RyuGin’s chef Yamamoto. He used to work for one of the top Sushi places in Ginza – 青木 (Aoki). Some Japanese media even claim that Sawada is the most difficult sushi place to get a seat which really tempted me to go there.

The entrance of Sawada

The entrance of Sawada

I arrived at 13h50, 10 minutes earlier than my reservation scheduled at 14h. There were another 2 guests who had just arrived. There are only 2 people working at Sawada – the Chef himself and his helper. Sawada speaks a little English. He asked me if there is anything I don’t eat. I told him I even ate ball fish, then he laughed.  Before starting the meal, his helper brought this sake – “醸し人九平次 別誂(べつあつらえ)純米大吟醸 Eau du desir” to me.

醸し人九平次 別誂(べつあつらえ)純米大吟醸 Eau du desir

醸し人九平次 別誂(べつあつらえ)純米大吟醸 Eau du desir

It’s my first time to taste this sake, and it’s an unusual one. Why?! It’s the first sake being introduced to a few Michelin 3 star restaurants in Paris, i.e. Pierre Gagnaire and Guy Savoy. This sake is really good and I would not hesitate to say it’s the best one I had so far in this year.

I-Ku-Ra, the loose salmon eggs

I-Ku-Ra, the loose salmon eggs

The first appetizer Sawada brought to me is I-Ku-Ra, the loose salmon eggs with a bit citrus sauce which offers a very light and elegant touch to the salmon eggs. The quality of salmon eggs is impeccable. They just easily melted in my mouth.

赤貝 Akagai (Red Clam)

赤貝 Akagai (Red Clam)

Afterwards, the Sawada style sushi feast started. I totally enjoyed looking at how he worked with his knife and shaped the sushi with skillful hands. He’s like an artist! Every sushi is just incredibly great and delicious. Sawada only uses the best fish he can get on the day (he has very limited sleeping time ‘cz he has to choose fish by himself every early morning). This sushi place totally blew me away. Even now, I could still remember how those fish tasted in my mouth… How that great O-toro brought the heavenly pleasure to me… The wild sea eel, the different unis (sea urchin) from Hokkaido and Kyushu, …everything is just incredible. Even the simplest atsuyaki tamago (egg cake) demonstrates what perfection would be.

大トロ (Otoro)

大トロ (Otoro)

Although our communication wasn’t much, by his genuine smile and extremely serious attitude to his sushi, I can tell that he really cares about his guests. Sawada, a man gives sushi with a spirit…! P.S. The 3 star sushi places are Mizutani (鮨 水谷) and Sukiyabashi Jiro (鮨 すきやばし次郎). At beginning, my first choice was Mizutani and 2nd choice was Sawada. I didn’t put Jiro as my first choice after doing reserach on several Japanese websites. The ratings of Mizutani or Sawada are the highest. Michelin Guide is worth it as a reference to, but when it comes to the end, I would rather trust a local insider’s taste.

さわ田 Sawada
5-9-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
東京都中央区銀座5-9-19

+81 3 3571 4711

Here are more pictures –

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22 Comments

  • Reply scubagolfer April 21, 2009 at 5:54 am

    hiya,saw ur mail & got here afap^^
    Sushi Sawada definitely has its own style & character(which is quite different from many orthdox Edomae sushiya-sans)
    now if only the darn M*chelin Guide hadn’t come to Tokyo, it’ll be much easier to get a reservation there
    on the other hand, Tokyo(especially that Ginza area) is teeming with quality sushiyas, waiting to be explored ~ “Life IS good”^^

    • Reply Cathy Ho April 21, 2009 at 6:37 am

      Hi SG,

      Thanks for your comment. Indeed, it’s so difficult to get a reservation at those nice restaurants now! It really took me quite an effort to get a seat at Sawada. 😛 Originally, I was trying to book at Mizutani, but it’d been fully booked. Yes, thanks to Michelin Guide’s super broadcasting power. Bon… I really love Ginza area, so many incredible sushiyas hidden there. Life IS good, I couldn’t agree with you more. 😀

  • Reply FourSeasons May 11, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Hi Cathy:

    Just discovered this site, good job, nice blog!!! What a coincidence, I was at Sawada on 25th April, just 5 days after you were there. My favorite sushiya in the world, I even prefer it to Mizutani, more varieties and unconventional preparation. Another one you should try is Sushi Saitou at Akasaka. Will slowly read your blog for interesting reviews, notice you also went to Ryugin, another one of my favorites.

    • Reply Cathy Ho August 5, 2009 at 9:37 pm

      Originally, I planned to go to Mizutani; however, I couldn’t get a reservation there. Therefore, I tried Sawada… It’s also very difficult to get a reservation at Sawada though. Luckily, Sawada accepted my reservation just 1 day before I went there. 🙂 It’s indeed an incredible and unique Sushi experience to me. 🙂

      • Reply KK April 16, 2012 at 8:10 am

        How did you make reservation? Call? I tried calling 03-3571 4711 but there is no one picking up the phone.

        • Reply Cathy Ho April 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm

          Maybe you should try again before the lunch/dinner time.

  • Reply GBC 火星熊貓 (Jimmy from FB) May 19, 2009 at 2:45 am

    Sawada’s sushi looks magnificent, but too difficult to obtain a reservation. Now i’m motivated and will try when I visit Tokyo in June.
    Always thought he doesn’t allow sushi photos to be taken cuz he prefers the guest to enjoy the sushi at its prime, but i guess rules can be bent for beautiful gals. 😛

    • Reply Cathy Ho August 5, 2009 at 9:40 pm

      Hi hi Jimmy,

      Wondering if you had been to Sawada yet. I also heard that he doesn’t allow guests to take photos. Guess I was pretty lucky. 😉

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  • Reply Disco Asian November 28, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Wow the sushi and preparation looks amazing! I would defenitely like to try Sawada when I visit Tokyo again. The last time I went, I tried Sushi Saito and it was pretty good stuff.

  • Reply ChuckEats » Sawada (Tokyo) – There are only Two Stars in Heaven December 21, 2009 at 6:35 am

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  • Reply jc April 29, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Hi,

    may i ask how much does this cost? im thinkign about going to one of these places but im not sure if its in the $200 range or $500+.

    thanks

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  • Reply Madeleine October 11, 2012 at 3:51 am

    hello, how were you able to take photos. i was there and they do not allow photos. are you a friend of the chef?

    • Reply Cathy Ho October 11, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      Hello Madeleine,

      Re your question – honestly, I would say that I was lucky. That’s all. 😉

  • Reply sjsiswojo September 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Hi Cathy,

    I read the comments below. Did you say you that Sawada accepted your reservation a day before you dined there? When did you make the call?

    Please let me know.

    Thank you,
    Sander

    • Reply Cathy Ho September 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      Hi Sander,

      It was in 2008, and I would said I had very good luck. I went back to Sawada in 2012 & this year. I made the reservations 1 month ahead. So, I would really recommend you to book it in advance.

      Cheers,
      Cathy

      • Reply sjsiswojo September 8, 2013 at 3:28 pm

        Hi Cathy,

        So you made your reservations through the concierge or via international call?

        Sander

        • Reply Cathy Ho September 8, 2013 at 3:33 pm

          Hi Sander,

          I think it’s better that you do it through the concierge, unless you speak Japanese & have a local phone no.

          Cheers,
          Cathy

          • sjsiswojo September 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm

            Great!

            Thank you so much Cathy. 🙂

            I had a chance to try Sushi Saito and RyuGin in April. It was life changing. I really would love to try Sawada’s Otoro Aburi. It looks amazing and I’m sure it tastes even better. 🙂

            I’m exciting for my visit in November, I’ve got reservations at Den and Sushi Saito. I’m going to physically make more reservations when I get there.

            Where are you based?

            Sander

          • Cathy Ho September 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm

            Hi Sander,

            I’ve just replied you by email. 🙂

            Cathy

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