Review: Sawada

3 September 2016

Okay, this is gonna be a different kind of a review…you’ll see why…

I was still smiling from that fabulous return trip to Ichi last night…my happy place. I had a busy Saturday planned, and it starts with lunch at one of the most intriguing sushi-ya in Tokyo, the 2-Michelin Sawada.

Why is it intriguing? First of all, there is a strictly-enforced no-photo policy that everyone respects; you’ll not find photos on any blogs, foreign or Japanese. Nor will you find any for this review, except this… That adds to the mystique I think. For one, I found putting the phone down a nice change…

I got to Sawada a little sweaty as you may expect, as I walked to the other end of Ginza from my hotel. But I chilled out with some beer as the small place filled up quickly. All my fellow diners were foreigners, being Ginza during a Saturday lunch, but half were Japanese speaking (I tried my best and used minimal English).

We started with hirame (flounder), the traditional start. Nice and tasty. Next was kisu (whiting), not often used for sushi and chef actually talked about this (from my very limited Japanese I caught some of it). Excellent.

Next up was baby sumi ika (cuttlefish), which was excellent, the prep gave it perfect texture, not too crunchy, not too soft. Lovely stuff. Then we had some aged shima-aji (striped horse mackerel). The aging really brought out the stronger flavours of this fish. Liking it so far!

Tairagai (pen-shell clam) was next, and again chef did wonders with the texture that balanced the necessary crunch with ease of eating. Fabulous, amazing knife skills here. Then we got a very generous bowl of ikura — and chef explained (this time in English, which he speaks surprisingly well) that it’s totally in season and is absolutely fresh, which explains how different it taste even from mid-winter.

The fabulous lunch continued with the tentacles of the previously-served baby sumi ika (cuttlefish), which were wee cute but tasty. Then he brought out the red stuff, and everyone got excited…

We started first with some aged zuke maguro, or soy-marinated lean tuna. Was excellent, lovely flavours. I am such a fan of aged tuna these days, though only in Japan. Then we had an absolutely mesmirising (and generous) piece of chu-toro. Oh my, this was fab…

Then an oddity — he gave us a piece of toro that was between chu and o, which was interesting and luscious… And of course, the o-toro to close this part off, and everyone was beyond happy… To be honest the chu is always my favourite and that was the best out of an amazing series. Wow…

Next up was the kohada (gizzard shad), which was good — and as usual, photogenic (for our eyes). Then awabi (abalone)…yes, raw. Chef did some magic with this usually tough item to make it very easy to eat. Excellent.

Chef then brought out the uni box, and we had some glorious ones from Aoyama. These were fluffy as a down pillow, and the very generous proportions — almost a double-tall cone — was dreamy for any urchin lover. My drema pillow…

They had shown us some very large amaebi earlier to double check if anyone had allergies to these prawns, and of course no one said yes. They had steamed it and served it with the brain too…wow. These were amazingly good. Wow…

As everyone was still enjoying that prawn Chef was busy working on squid — and this was one of the special items, an old edomae item — the squid was stuffed with rice. Oh this was drool-enducingly good, one of the best pieces from an amazing selection…

Then Chef brought out one more tuna surprise, a piece of o-toro that was quickly seared by a piece of wood. Wow, this was just amazing, like a bubble of oil that just melted in your mouth…

Next up was mirugai (geoduck), which I really like. Me and Chef had a fun time explaining this to some of the diners what they looked like naturally, and how these were the rare ones from Japan (not North America) that were actually smaller… Yes, some people snickered here…

Then Chef brought out another uni box for some Hokkaido stuff. Again, a very generous portion. Then we enjoyed a very known aroma, which also saddened everyone… The anago was next, presented in 2 pieces in 2 ways — 1 with sea salt, 1 with eel sauce. Both were fantastic, though we knew that also meant we were near the end…

Indeed so, as the tamago hit the table. Chef did ask if we wanted more, but for lunch this was a fantastic selection and good volume. I happily said kekko des‘ and chilled out. Chatted with Chef for a little afterwards and he was just such a nice guy too.

I headed out the door so happy with this lunch. No photos, but the memories are incredibly vivid in my mind because it was so good. I have a new favourite sushi-ya in Tokyo, which means a favourite sushi-ya in the world.


Sawada [さわ田]
3F, MC Building
5-9-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tokyo, Japan


7 thoughts on “Review: Sawada

  1. Another great review and I’m jealous – my favourite too. Only problems are securing a booking and Sawada-san supports Manchester United😤. Which Hotel got you the reservation – we used the Peninsula but I was hoping somewhere else might be on the magic list?

    • Thank you! I think timing is the trick here. You need to do it probably 2 months in advance, and lunch is usually safer (esp Saturday) — and plan around foreigners’ travel patters (esp from Korea/HK/Singapore). I use the Park Hotel Tokyo and their concierge are magic workers! Email me or tweet me and I’ll send you the info! They are good!

      • Many thanks Mel for the hotel tip. The Peninsula were v good and got us a Sat eve reservation last November (requested 3.5 months in advance) – I just prefer to spend my money on more interesting things than hotels. Btw – if you ever go back to Sawada and he asks if you want anything else (& you feel rich!) ask him for his best tuna roll – we we given the most OTT handheld maki creation he said he always serves to the head of the tuna broker he uses. It’s at least as good as the “toro mountain” Araki used to do!

      • Nice! I’m sure I’ll be back there next trip! As with hotels, I totally agree. Good thing about Park Hotel is price (not high), location (right above Shiodome, steps to Shimbashi, walking to Ginza), drinks (amazing bar), and nice rooms — and of course the awesome concierge. It’s become my home away from home, I have my fave late-nite izakayas nearby, the usual FamilyMart, and it’s not too far from a 7-11 for cash. So it’s like home now. 🙂

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