President Obama's first mission upon touching down in Tokyo: a fish expedition. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe joined Obama at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the three Michelin-starred restaurant made (even more) legendary by the 2011 documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."
Jiro Ono, the 86-year-old chef/owner, still presides over every bite of the set menu. Obama seemingly approved, telling the pool of reporters assembled outside: "That's some good sushi right there."
Japan's first state visit by an American president in decades comes as the United States works to reassure Abe and other Asian leaders that the U.S. remains committed to turning foreign policy focus on them. The weeklong tour will also take Obama to South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
CNN's Dan Shapiro dined at the three-Michelin-starred restaurant in 2012 and shared a dish-by-dish account of his extraordinary 39-minute, $375 dinner of a lifetime:
World-renowned chef, author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visits Tokyo, Japan in the next episode of "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," airing Sunday, November 3, at 9 p.m. ET. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.
"Maybe the most important thing you need to know about Tokyo, from my point of view is, every chef I know – every high end chef, from Spain, France, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles basically every chef I’ve ever met. If you asked them, 'If you had to spend the rest of your life, in one country, eating one country’s food for the rest of your life, where would that be?' They’re all gonna say the same thing. Japan. Tokyo. Period," says Anthony Bourdain.
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.
You know the drill. You’re on line at Starbucks, you order a mocha cookie crumble frappuccino from the barista, give him or her your name and wait impatiently for it to be called out so you can grab the last available armchair.
Ask five Tokyoites to name the best sushi restaurants in the city, and you’re likely to get five different answers - the old "how long is a piece of string?" quandary.
That's because the sushi experience is a very personal one that can include not only raw seafood, but also things like unmatched service, chefs whose skills were honed by years of apprenticeship, an atmosphere that screams “traditional Japan” and, in many cases, a whopping bill. Because of all this, any one traveler’s favorite sushi experience is going to largely depend on budget, interests and previous experience with the cuisine.
Making good sushi depends on a number of things, but for Silla Bjerrum, founder of British restaurant chain Feng Sushi, where her ingredients come from is key.
“I serve a lot of fish. I buy a lot of fish,” she explains. “Ten percent of my turnover is spent on buying fish, so I think I have a duty of care to the fish and the people who eat the fish.”
Each year the award-winning chef teaches small groups of enthusiastic foodies traditional and not-so-traditional sushi-making skills in one of her London restaurants.
From maki rolls to more daring “inside-out” rolls, she offers helpful tips to like how to wash sushi rice (at least 10 to 12 times!) and how covering your sushi-rolling mat in plastic wrap will make it easier to clean up later.
So, how do you eat sushi, the quintessential Japanese delicacy of vinegared rice topped with raw fish and other ingredients? With your fingers? With chopsticks? Dipped into soy sauce; daubed with wasabi? One mouthful or two?
The only certainty, it seems, is that its proper consumption demands both etiquette and practicality. To put the matter to rest, we enquired at the top: Sushi Sawada, on Tokyo’s most prestigious intersection of Ginza 4-chome.
With two Michelin stars and only seven seats, Sawada is a shrine to this single wondrous dish - and to straight-talking master Koji Sawada’s constant quest for perfection.
Read - How to eat sushi
Q: Can you really get mercury poisoning from eating too much sushi?
A: Believe it or not, you can. Mercury – a toxic heavy metal that can cause neurological problems – exists in high levels in such sushi staples as tuna (bluefin is one of the worst), mackerel, yellowtail, swordfish, and sea bass. (Other fish can contain a lot of mercury if they swim in polluted waters.)
So if you're eating sushi, particularly these bad-news varieties of it, more than six times a week, you could be getting too much mercury, as actor Jeremy Piven claimed he was.
Read more at What the Yuck: Mercury poisoning from sushi?