Maguro-Bito: premium sushi in Asakusa
Maguro Bito is a revolving sushi bar located in Asakusa, Tokyo. Many locals come here to partake of their otoro (belly tuna) and there is often a line in front of the restaurant just before it opens. In an effort to serve more customers and reduce waiting times, they have opened a sister restaurant in the shopping street nearby. Very little has changed since 2007 when I first visited it; the sushi chefs are just as boisterous, the sushi just as good as before, and the locals just as friendly and vocal about their favourite sushi.
The sister restaurant had more seating for groups and less for individuals but that’s where the difference between it and the main store ends. We were greeted enthusiastically when entering and the sushi was of pretty much the same standard as how we remembered it back in 2007 and 2009.
Although they do have a menu of sorts where you can order sets and special items but the regulars will order food by the plate (the same kind of small plate that goes around the revolving track). That way, you get your favourite sushi made on demand right away by the sushi chef and you don’t have to wait for it to come round on the track. Otoro in particular never makes it far as they get snatched up very quickly. As a foreigner who is weak at the local language, I defaulted to ordering my food the same way as the regulars as I couldn’t read the menu.
Different coloured plates of food fetch different prices, and predictably, the more premium sushi rest on the top two tiers at around 500-800yen. Each plate usually has 2-3 pieces of sushi on them so it works out to be considerably cheaper than the offerings at Tsukiji Fish Market. The quality and quantity of the sushi, however, does not differ by much as far as my unrefined gaijin tastebuds can tell.
The budget-conscious will find a niche in this restaurant too, with many types of cheaper sushi available. I usually grab a few tamagoyaki and inarizushi and at 120yen for two, they are quite reasonable.
On your first visit, you will undoubtedly be faced with “THE STACK” since plates don’t get cleared while you eat. This is to facilitate easy billing and if you keep your stack to yourself, you can request for individual receipts in the case that you and your travelling buddies don’t with to pay together. Each plate has a chip in it with information on its price which is scanned by the waiter/waitress. You will then be given a card with your total bill to bring to cashier and pay for.
As you leave, the sushi chefs and wait staff will greet you yet again, thanking you for coming. In our case in 2012, they even tried to humour us with English, giving us a “See you next!” as we left. Good service and good food.