During our recent visit to Tokyo we were staying in Korea Town, Shinjuku (we’ll recommend Shinjuku as a location, but not so much Korea Town). We were incredibly lucky that one of the roughly 40 Sushi Zanmai branches (nearly all in Tokyo, some in other parts of Japan) was located one minute’s walk away from our hotel, literally just across the street. Many of them rank in the top 1000 of Tokyo’s 100,000 restaurants on Tripadvisor and hold Certificates of Excellence, the best-ranking of them is currently placed at #82 (and #6 out of 4,300 Sushi restaurants).
‘Zanmai’ is the Japanese word for luxury. Different from most other sushi restaurants, Zanmai is outrageously good value for money, despite all ingredients being super-fresh and top-quality. Another benefit is that many of the restaurants, including ours, are open 24 hours, so it’s perfect for a little snack between meals or after a night out.
We ended up eating there three times during the three days we stayed in town, always at the branch next to our hotel. Many reviewers say that while the quality is very good throughout, the best branch is the first one that opened (in 1990), the so-called head branch (‘Honten’) in the Outer Market of the world’s formerly largest fish market in Tsukiji (it relocated recently and now only some of the retail stalls are left).
The chain is owned by the famous Kiyoshi Kimura, or “the Tuna King,” who, among other things, is known for once having spent USD 1.5mln on a single 222kg blue fin tuna. We’ve heard rumours that the fish was sold as sushi at his Zanmai restaurants with the standard price tag for blue fin tuna (even though we strongly doubt that the good man would have been willing to take a hit of around USD 250 for every blue fin tuna sushi he sold from that fish). Most of the restaurants, just like our branch, are traditional sushi bars where you either sit at one of the tables or, if you’re lucky, you watch the sushi chefs go about their business in front of you at the bar. A few of the restaurants have sushi conveyor belts, but chances are your sushi there will not be as fresh as the one prepared in front of your eyes, so best to avoid.
We are really good eaters and always ordered different meals and then shared them between us, so we must have tried out a fair share of the menu during our three visits. In terms of value for money you can’t go wrong with their sushi bowl or, indeed, any of their meal deals. However, we also greatly enjoyed the sushi we ordered one by one for significantly higher prices, like Abalone, Sea Eel, or Fatty Tuna (JPY 400 each).
We’ll most certainly visit Sushi Zanmai again more than once during our next visit to town. 5 out of 5 in our book.
For some more restaurant reviews, feel welcome to have a look at our posts about the local Robot Restaurant, Gruvelageret near the North Pole, Classico, Frankfurt, and the Cotswold House Hotel and Spa, Chipping Campden .
Other fun things we’ve blogged about include our trip to the New Forest & Poole, driving supercars around a race track, powerboating, rock-climbing, off-roading, and or our desert camp and camel ride in the Sahara.