It’s considered one of the best sushi restaurants in all of Japan, yet a famous restaurant bible won’t recommend it. What gives?
Tokyo’s Sukiyabashi Jiro is legendary, not only for its top-quality sushi but for the 2011 documentary film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” which made chef Jiro Ono an international name.
But the newest edition of the Tokyo Michelin Guide will no longer recommend Ono’s restaurant — not because the quality has declined, but because it’s nearly impossible for a regular person to eat there.
“We recognize [that] Sukiyabashi Jiro does not accept reservations from the general public, which makes it out of our scope,” a Michelin representative said in a statement. “Michelin’s policy is to introduce restaurants where everybody can go to eat.”
The 10-seat restaurant, which was the first sushi spot in the world to score three Michelin stars, is notoriously difficult to get into. Demand has only continued to increase as celebrities and heads of state have been photographed at Sukiyabashi Jiro.
Most famously, in 2014 then-US President Barack Obama dined there with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Obama stated that the sushi was the best he’d ever had.
Restaurant culture in Japan is markedly different than in other countries like the United States.
Many bookings at top restaurants are marked for regulars and friends of the chef, rather than saved for walk-ins. Some top tables will only accept reservations for foreigners through concierges at high-end hotels.
An English-language message on Sukiyabashi Jiro’s website also cautions erstwhile visitors that it might be difficult to dine there.
“We are currently experiencing difficulties in accepting reservations and apologize for any inconvenience to our valued customers,” it says.
“However, as our restaurant can only seat up to 10 guests at a time, this situation is likely continued. Please note that we will not be able to accept telephone reservations until further notice.”
Ono, who is 94, still works at his namesake restaurant, although he now does so in tandem with his elder son.
The news of Sukiyabashi Jiro’s removal from the Michelin Guide caps a busy and controversial month for the renowned food bible.
Last week, Seoul chef Eo Yun-gwon announced his intention to sue Michelin for including his restaurant, Ristorante Eo, in their guide.
He alleges that the company listed the restaurant against his wishes. Eo filed a complaint in South Korea, citing the country’s law against public insult.
“Michelin Guide is a cruel system. It’s the cruelest test in the world. It forces the chefs to work around a year waiting for a test [and] they don’t know when it’s coming,” he told CNN.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit against Michelin filed by French chef Marc Veyrat kicks off this week in the city of Nanterre. Veyrat’s suit alleges that he lost one of his three Michelin stars due to a miscommunication about souffle, and the chef is claiming that the incident caused him personal strain and depression.
Michelin is known for being secretive, particularly about its criteria for judging and evaluating restaurants.
CNN has reached out to Sukiyabashi Jiro and to Michelin for comment.