Kyubei, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan – Restaurant Review
The name Kyubei (also transliterated as Kyubey) connotes a Mecca for sushi lovers. For decades, in a city where there are over 160,000 restaurants, Kyubei has consistently been ranked as one of the best.
Kyubei itself is an institution. The main location in the Ginza district of Tokyo has five floors, and it has expanded to an additional building across the street.
If you dine at Kyubei, you will, at some point during the evening, meet Yosuke Imada, whose father founded the restaurant in 1936. Unlike some restaurants, where it’s apparent that the owner only greets his “regulars,” treating them like celebrities, Kyubei is an exercise in democracy. Mr. Imada not only greets everyone, but also stops to chat for a while.
Indeed, Mr. Imada is seemingly everywhere, going back and forth across the street, checking on everything that’s going on. But when he is talking to a guest, he isn’t in a rush. He was very happy to hear that I lived in New York and urged me to tell my friends in New York to come to his restaurant. With that, he gave me several newspaper clippings of reviews in English. It’s clear that he knows the importance of good marketing and customer service.
Under his watch, Mr. Imada has transformed Kyubei from his father’s single Ginza location to a veritable enterprise with restaurants at top Japanese hotels and a catering business.
(Mr. Imada did not know I was planning to write a review; I was simply dining with one of my oldest friends, who happens to live in Tokyo, and his wife – I should add that Kyubei is my friend’s favorite sushi restaurant)
Most diners eat at the sushi counter where one chef serves no more than six people. Photography is allowed – in fact encouraged – but only without flash. Private dining rooms are also available and reservations are recommended for both.
The chefs are responsible for their guests and the enjoyment of their evening from start to finish. They entertain, schmoose (I’m sure there’s a word in Japanese for that), and, of course, prepare the food in full view of the customer. The chefs have reportedly been in training for over a decade before they are allowed to be on the floor, and over the years several chefs have moved on from Kyubei to open their own highly-rated restaurants with great success.
Don’t go to Kyubei if you have limited time, and don’t make plans for after dinner. Kyubei is the evening.
The restaurant typically offers more than forty kinds of fish in an evening, but let your sushi chef decide on your menu. He will ask if there’s anything you don’t like or cannot eat, but other than that, give him free rein.
Simply by watching, you will be treated to a course on Japanese sushi and sashimi making. While it looks deceptively simple, the devil is clearly in the details. Each taste sensation will be better than the one that preceded it. The service is extremely personalized – it’s almost like having a private chef for the evening. Even though there are diners around you, you feel like you are the only party in the room.
I’m not going to try to detail the meal (it was excellent) – but I did capture a good part of it and the dining experience in photos (see the virtual tour at the end of this article). Service was impeccable and it will be an experience you will probably never forget. Mr. Imada, would you consider opening up a branch of Kyubei in New York? Please?
VIRTUAL TOUR – DINING AT KYUBEI