Today marks 4 years that Jason and I have been together and to celebrate, we are doing NOTHING because our celebration occurred on our last night in Japan! As a great way to wrap up our month-long trip, we decided to splurge a little (and by “little” I mean A LOT) and go to our first Omakase dining experience at a two Michelin star restaurant.
Note: Now if you have any allergies or food sensitivities, you might want to forego this type of dinner because unfortunately, the chefs won’t be able to accommodate you. You won’t know what you’re eating until it’s right in front of you (often times you still don’t know what it is), they use the same knives, cutting boards and other kitchen paraphernalia for prepping all the food, and it would create quite the kerfuffle to refuse food from the sushi master. Great thing is, Tokyo has the MOST Michelin star restaurants in the world so there are many to choose from!
If you have the privilege of being allergy-free, I think that this experience is incomparable to any other dinner, because it is by far the most intimate, interactive and entertaining, and encourages you to step out of your bubble of food that you’re comfortable with and try things you’d have never thought to try before.
The restaurant will typically only seat 10 people and you need to make a prior reservation for a timeslot, sort of like booking a movie or a show, because Omakase really is a show. Most of these Michelin starred restaurants get crazy booked up months ahead, so that’s something to take into account when reserving your dinner. Lucky for us, Umi had a spot available (at 9 pm mind you) when we booked the week of.
When you make your reservation, you’ll typically be prompted to pay the full dinner amount. On the date of, be sure to not be late because guests will need to arrive within 15 minutes of their reservation time, and just like at the movies, these reservations are more often than not, NON-REFUNDABLE! With these dinners being not exactly friendly to your wallets, you want to be certain that you’ll be there and that you actually want this.
All right, so you’ve made your reservation and you get to the restaurant on the dot. What now? Just like many upscale places, there will be a host to offer to take your coat/bags, ask you what you’d like to drink, and offer you a hot towel. You’ll have your usual chopsticks, plate and soy sauce dish, but you’ll probably hardly use them. Why? Because you’ll be eating with your hands and having the food just the way the chef makes it. They will, however, plate some fresh wasabi for some of the sushi and some pickled ginger to cleanse your palette.
It’s time to start eating! The first few courses are typically a warm up, items that will ease you into the rest of the meal: a fresh seafood soup, common fish nigiri, seaweed-wrapped rice with caviar, that sort of thing. The master and his apprentice will prep each piece of sushi right in front of you prior to serving the guests one by one.
Watching the chef at Umi work through each of his dishes was like watching a violinist play all Four Seasons by Vivaldi. Seriously! The way he’d move his fingers, sway his head and shift the emotion on his face looked as if he were in the orchestra. It was amazing.
The food was so fresh, high quality, and prepared in such a high level fashion. You’ll see that often times, the chef will act spontaneously by switching up the order of the courses because even such a small deed like this can positively impact your dining experience, allowing your senses to change gears with every dish.
We dined on different types of tuna (including Bluefin), roe, and other fish I cannot remember, we had squid, octopus, shrimp, surf clam nigiri, uni sushi, one fantastic sushi roll, and after something like 24 courses, we finished with a miso soup and a sweet Japanese tamago omelet.
Although an expensive experience and after feeling incredibly full from eating something like 26 courses, I can honestly say that it was the meal of a lifetime. The liveliness and intimacy of being able to eat right in front of a prestigious chef is alone something you wouldn’t find anywhere else. I can honestly say that after this dinner, if I never have sushi ever again, I’d die a happy woman.