US President Barack Obama has dined at a tiny Tokyo sushi restaurant, a revered spot with three coveted Michelin stars, but only a handful of seats, ruled with an iron rod by its redoubtable 88-year-old owner.
The world’s most powerful man, dining at the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was entirely at the mercy of Jiro Ono, whose exacting standards and tireless work ethic have made him legendary among global foodies.
The commander-in-chief of one of the planet’s most fearsome armed forces, who sits at the helm of a multi-trillion dollar economy, had no menu to choose from, even if he could read it, because Jiro selects the dishes he serves and won’t take orders from his customers.
And for a man used to the finest presidential suites in the plushest global hotels, the setting may have come as a bit of a surprise.
Sukiyabashi Jiro has only 24 seats, sits in a slightly scruffy basement of an ageing commercial building and is connected to a Tokyo subway station.
But that has not been enough to deter even the most discerning diners, who must book months in advance to secure a seat.
Obama made the pilgrimage to the restaurant just after touching down in Tokyo at the start of an Asian tour, taking along US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and his national security advisor Susan Rice.
“That’s some good sushi right there,” he remarked as he emerged from the restaurant after the 90-minute dinner with Abe and headed back to his hotel.
The establishment is the proud bearer of three Michelin stars, awarded for the first time when the Tokyo edition of the gourmet guide was launched in 2007 and renewed every year since.
The restaurant offers set courses only, consisting of 20 pieces of sushi, with prices starting at 30,000 yen ($A315) per person.
Along with world-renowned chefs like Joel Robuchon, Sukiyabashi Jiro also counts Hollywood A-listers including Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway among clients.
Tokyo and Washington are engaged in delicate trade talks, with wide disagreements remaining particularly over farm and auto products.