All about Shimbashi Shimizu
Kunihiro Shimizu, the owner of Shimbashi Shimizu, is the most popular man within the sushi world, and notably so among sushi chefs.
Inspired by the autobiography of chef Yukio Morooka who was the legendary sushi master and predecessor of "Tsuruhachi," chef Shimizu apprenticed for 11 years under chef Hisataka Ishimaru of "Shimbashi Tsuruhachi," who, in turn, was a disciple of the legendary master.
In 1999, he set up his own restaurant at his present location, which is in the immediate neighborhood from where he had himself apprenticed.
The restaurant became instantly famous and he, together with two of his contemporaries - Koji Sawada from “Sawada" and Mitsuhiro Araki, from “Araki" (now known as "The Araki”) -, were called the "three young stars of the sushi world".
However, he can, arguably, be considered to have made a greater educational contribution than the other two, given his achievements to date including the training of apprentices such as Daisuke Matsumoto of "Sushi Matsumoto" and Fumie Takeuchi of "Sushitake".
Moreover, his influence is not limited to the sphere of his disciples.
In fact, within the sushi world, there are many chefs who revere "Shimbashi Shimizu," otherwise referred to as the "Shimizu Respect Army".
These include chefs like Takaaki Sugita from “Sugita", Taichi Ishikawa from "Sushi Taichi", Shintaro Suzuki from "Sushi Shin", Kentaro Imamura from "Sushi Imamura", Satoshi Ichijyo from "Sushi Ichijo", Hiroyuki Sato from "Sushi Tokami", and Yuichi Arai from "Sushi Arai”, to name but a few.
Hirokazu Igarashi, the chef-owner of "Shinbashi Tsuruhachi" and a fellow-apprentice of chef Kunihiro Shimizu, also praises the latter’s sense of craftsmanship, stating that he has “never seen anyone as dexterous as Mr Shimizu”.
Sushi at Shimbashi Shimizu
Shimizu is a sushi chef known for his authentic Edo-mae style of sushi preparation.
Sticky-sweet Aori-ika (Bigfin Reef Squid); Kohada (Gizzard Shad), firm in texture and rich in flavor; sweet, odorless Torigai (Japanese Cockles); crispy and crunchy Tairagai (Fan Mussels); Anago (Conger Eel), which melts away softly in the mouth without any effort; Hamaguri (seasonal Clams) which taste better and better with each bite... the list goes on and on.
The sushi courses served at Shimbashi Shimizu are all exquisite, well-crafted masterpieces.
What elevates them to the pinnacle of sushi excellence is the traditional shari seasoned with a refreshing red vinegar and a pinch of salt.
The firmness and temperature are consistent, and the feeling of the rice gently unraveling in one's mouth is a result of the craftsmanship of chef Shimizu.
The generously sized nigiri also makes you feel as if you are eating sushi.
You do not have to be a sushi chef to appreciate the quality of this restaurant's sushi.
Customer Service at Shimbashi Shimizu
Chef Shimizu is a very astute gentleman.
For instance, if any customer were to say that he or she got lost on the way to the restaurant, the chef would jokingly remark that getting lost is a part of the course at the restaurant.
When I stated in admiration, "Kyō wa kai ga īdesu ne! (I like the shellfish today!)", he replied jovially with the pun "Sōkai…? (Really?)".
When the customers start getting full and ask, "how many more pieces are still to come?”, he jokingly replies, "I guess I have about 15 pieces left," and offers half-portions of salted conger eel instead of tsume.
When a customer praises him by saying that one “can only get sushi like this here!”, he replies in agreement: "That's right. There is only one of me, so my sushi can only be served here. It is the same at any restaurant. Sushi from any restaurant can only be eaten at that same restaurant. The only thing that matters is whether the customer enjoys it or not.”
When a customer further praises him wondering whether the chef “enjoys watching the customers eat and smile", the chef smiles wickedly and says that he has “the most fun when (he is) counting the money”.
If I were to visit this restaurant every month, in a year I could publish a book entitled "Shimizu's Linguistic Anthology".
That is a testament to how witty his remarks are.
I was particularly impressed by some of his memorable expressions below.
“I think being a sushi chef is a lenient profession. For instance, if an athlete were to fail to produce results in a game, that would be the end of their career, would it not? It is a world where even if you practice hard, if you do not produce results, it is meaningless. But sushi restaurants can demonstrate their work to customers before they serve the sushi. Besides, you can sell stories. If a married couple is running a successful business together, surely everyone would want to cheer them on and support them, right? For this reason, I think that running a sushi restaurant is quite forgiving.”
I found it to be a quote with profound connotations.
On one of the days when I went to the restaurant, it was already full with eight customers shortly after opening.
But what is great about this restaurant is that even during these busy times, you don't feel the stress of having to wait at all.
Chef Shimizu, while engaging in a comedic dialogue with the regulars, simultaneously kept a constant eye on the customers from the right to left of the room too.
The technique of indirectly viewing and picking up the fish from the seafood box, bringing it to the cutting board, cutting it without hesitation, rhythmically gripping it, and smoothly serving it to the customers is a God-like art that cannot be imitated by anyone else.
What's more impressive is that he manages to achieve this despite different orders from different customers from the "omakase nigiri", to the "omakase tsumami", to the “à la carte (okonomi)”.
He does not rush through his work, but there is absolutely no delay at all.
His brain is truly an eight-core CPU!
Shimbashi Shimizu's price list
The omakase lunch nigiri is 13,000 yen (excluding tax)
The omakase evening course is priced at around 18,000 yen (excluding tax) (note: the price varies slightly depending on the day).
À la carte orders available for both lunch and dinner.
How to book a table at Shimbashi Shimizu
The reservation system at “Shimbashi Shimizu” is unique.
Various gourmet websites state that same-day bookings are required, but this is outdated information; in fact, reservations can be made up to one week in advance.
All the same, he also always ensures that there are same-day reservation slots available.
Therefore, if you suddenly have a craving for authentic Edo-mae Sushi and call Shimbashi Shimizu at 8:00 a.m. on the same day, you are almost guaranteed to be able to eat at the restaurant.
“Shimbashi Shimizu” deserves praise for adopting such a customer-friendly system, as many restaurants force customers to make reservations up to six months in advance, or fail to take reservations, or, in some cases, even fail to answer the phone.
List of Shimizu-Graduates' Sushi Restaurants
Unfortunately, " Shimbashi Shimizu" does not currently accept foreign tourists who do not speak Japanese by themselves.
(Because chef Shimizu does not speak English and is unable to serve customers adequately.)
For those who want to taste the "Shimizu"-style of sushi, which is known for its uniqueness among the many sushi restaurants in Tokyo, we recommend visiting the following sushi restaurants run by chefs who were trained at "Shimizu”.
◆Sushi Matsumoto, Gion
This sushi restaurant is run by Daisuke Matsumoto, who trained for five years at “Shimbashi Shimizu” at Gion in Kyoto.
Although the restaurant's setting has a Kyoto-like elegance, the workmanship of the shari and its strong acidity are a faithful reproduction of the sushi at “Shimbashi Shimizu”.
While the quality of the sushi selection may be slightly inferior to that of Tokyo's top-class sushi restaurants, it is a rarity in Kyoto, where there are few decent Edo-mae sushi restaurants.
The 13-piece 10,000 yen omakase nigiri course for lunch is a great value, and is highly recommended.
Address: 570-123, Gionmachiminamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Business hours: 12:00 - 14:00 / 18:00 - 21:00
Phone number: 075-531-2031
Chef Fumie Takeuchi, who trained at “Shinbashi Shimizu” for over 15 years, runs this sushi restaurant in Ginza.
Nearly eight years have passed since it opened in 2014, and since then chef Takeuchi's feminine sophistication has grown this restaurant into a comfortable and, overall, wonderful, sushi establishment.
The style of sushi is distinctly in line with the traditional and rigid style of " Shimbashi Shimizu," but with a somewhat milder finish.
No wonder there are so many female admirers!
Following the example of her master's restaurant, she is happy to accommodate both omakase and okonomi.
Address: Ishii Kishuya Building 4F, 7-6-5 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 11:30 - 14:00 / 17:00 - 22:30
Phone number: 03-6228-5007
◆Takagaki no Sushi
This sushi restaurant was established in Nihonbashi by chef Nobuhide Takakaki, who trained at “Shimbashi Shimizu” for nearly five years.
The restaurant's interior decor, muted customer service style, generous portions of shari with a pronounced sourness, and the traditional Edo-mae style of “Nimono" - Hamaguri (seasonal Clams) and Anago (Conger Eel) - and “Shimemono" - Kohada (Gizzard Shad) and Saba (Mackerel) - are all faithfully reproduced from “Shimbashi Shimizu” and have earned the restaurant a high reputation among hard-core sushi fans for its delicious taste.
(However, Takagaki was excommunicated by "Shinbashi Shimizu" (details are unknown), and it is strictly forbidden to talk about this restaurant in front of Mr Shimizu).
When the restaurant first opened, it offered omakase nigiri for lunch for 11,000 yen, but as of April 2022, the price has doubled.
Address: 1-30-2, Nihonbashi Kakigaracho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 12:00 - 14:00 / 18:00 - 22:00
Phone number: 03-6231-0923
The owner, chef Satoshi Ichijo, is a veteran sushi chef who trained for more than 20 years at the long-established sushi restaurant "Rokubey" in Ningyocho, but he has been a fan of " Shimbashi Shimizu" for a long time and spent a month at "Shimizu" to learn the Shimizu style of Edo-mae sushi before he decided to open his own sushi restaurant.
When you visit this restaurant, you can certainly catch a glimpse of how they prepare the shellfish and braise the seafood.
The good thing about this restaurant is that reservations are easy to get despite the fact that it offers a high level of Edo-mae Sushi supported by a solid technique.
The omakase nigiri lunch menu, priced at 10,000 yen for 12 pieces, is well worth the price.
Address: 3-1-3 Higashi Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 12:00 - 14:00 / 18:00 - 21:30
Phone number: 03-6661-1335
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My only restaurant wish is to visit Shimbashi Shimizu with Saito san. It felt like yesterday when we visited Sushi Matsumoto and Sushi Sugita together. It was such a great experience dining with a true connoisseur.
By the way, I’d like to add that Shimizu cook the best abalone. I have had lots and lots of abalone. Shimizu san can cook abalone like nobody else. It’s succulent, soft, and tender while maintain the right texture. I recommend place an additional order of abalone. It’s a slice of heaven in one bite.
I'm pretty sure I've had his abalone before and it is fantastic but I think my most favorite has to be his ni-hama(guri). Especially the top center part that has the consistency of a 63 degree egg yolk. With the right amount of hama tsume on top, it is explosively good. With the right sake (depending on what Shimizu san has available that day) together with the ni hama, the pairing is unstoppable and a major force to be reckoned with. I would say one of the utmost best sushi sake pairings I've ever had in my lifetime. It is truly a pleasure to have Shimizu san's shellfish and clams on any visit. The nimono master stock for simmering and his tsume are just insanely well done.
I wish I could visit Shinbashi Shimizu with Saito san too.
My favorite story is when someone asked Shimizu san where his tuna came from, he quickly responded "7-Eleven".
Leo Saitochief editor, TokyoTableTrip
Igarashi-san trained under Ishimaru-san for 19 years.
Saito-san, I think @guest above is referring to this line in the article above,"Hirokazu Igarashi, the chef-owner of "Shinbashi Tsuruhachi" and an apprentice of chef Kunihiro Shimizu, ". Maybe you want to amend the article?
Leo Saitochief editor, TokyoTableTrip
I see. Thank you for pointing that out. I will correct it!
Thank you for the article. I do wonder whether the foreign tourist can be accompanied by Japanese to the restaurant? Thank you
Leo Saitochief editor, TokyoTableTrip
Foreign tourists can visit if accompanied by someone who can speak Japanese.
Leo Saitochief editor, TokyoTableTrip
An article is about Shimbashi Shimizu, a prestigious sushi restaurant that has influenced many young chefs.
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