Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku: Late night sushi in Tokyo

Sushi-Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku in Tokyo, Japan
Late night sushi at Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku in Tokyo, Japan

Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku is part of a popular sushi chain found in Japan. It’s well known for its quality sushi at reasonable prices.

After traveling for 12 hours from California to Tokyo, I was tired, jet lagged, and in the mood for sushi. Since it was midnight, my options were limited. Exhausted from traveling, I almost gave up and went to sleep.

It was then that I remembered Sushi Zanmai. With certain locations open 24 hours a day or open late, I knew this was the spot for me this night.

On my recent visit to Tokyo, I visited the Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku branch, located not far from Shinjuku Station.

Arrival at Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku

I arrived at Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku around 2:00 AM. As I approached, the bright lights of the restaurant stood out.

Even at this time, the restaurant was busy, mainly with guests hungry after a night out drinking in Shinjuku.

Kiyoshi Kimura, the president of Sushi Zanmai
Kiyoshi Kimura, the president of Sushi Zanmai

The signature photo of Kiyoshi Kimura, known as the “tuna king,” was on the signboard above the entrance. Kimura is the president of Sushi Zanmai. Some locations even have a life-sized statue of him outside the restaurant.

Kimura is also known for his purchases of blue-fin tuna. He often spends millions on the first tuna auction of the New Year, as it is thought to bring good luck.

Since I was dining alone, I asked for a seat at the sushi counter. After about 10 minutes, a staff member led me to a seat at the counter. At that moment, they told me that the food would take about 30 minutes to arrive after I ordered it.

While I was hungry and tired, after traveling for so long, another 30 minutes was no big deal to me. I also had a cold beer in front of me, so I was in no rush.

Interior of Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku

Simple interior of the restaurant
Simple interior of the restaurant

The interior was cozy and casual. The restaurant’s wooden tones and utilitarian décor suggested the focus was on the food.

Traditional Japanese music played in the background, adding to the ambiance.

While simple, the decor was modern, clean, and bright, reminiscent of sushi restaurants I have been to in Japan.

On the left-hand side of the dining room was a seating area with a few tables. On the right was the sushi bar. There was also a downstairs seating area, but I did not go down there during my visit.

On my visit, since I was dining alone, I sat at the sushi bar. I enjoyed sitting at the bar where I had a front-row seat of the sushi chefs at work. The counter is always my favorite spot to sit.

Besides watching the sushi chefs, I enjoyed viewing all the fresh seafood in front of me.

Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku Menu

First page of the menu at Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku
First page of the menu at Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku

The first page of the menu at Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku featured a large selection of various nigiri sushi.

Options included tuna, salmon, and yellowtail, along with more unique options, including ark shell, surf clam, and horse mackerel.

Set Menu, Sashimi Bowls, and Drinks
Set Menu, Sashimi Bowls, and Drinks

You will find set menus on the second page of the menu. There were four set menus, each with various sushi, perfect for those who want to try a little bit of everything.

There were also two sashimi bowls. All bowls and sets came with miso soup.

This page also had a good selection of drinks, including beer, highballs, soft drinks, shochu, tea, wine, and whisky.

Physical menus were available for viewing, but I had to place my order using a QR code and my smartphone. I noticed that ordering through smartphones has become more common in recent years.

While I used my smartphone to order, I paid with the cashier at the front at the end of my meal.

Kokoro-iki Sushi Set with Miso Soup

The Kokoro-iki Sushi Set with Miso Soup
The Kokoro-iki Sushi Set with Miso Soup

While the menu had many great options, I wanted something easy to order after traveling all day. Instead of ordering à la carte, I settled on the Kokoro-iki Sushi Set with Miso Soup.

This set came with 12 pieces of sushi, a half tuna roll, and miso soup, as mentioned before. Like many sushi restaurants in Japan, the sushi chefs placed the sushi on a platter and put it on the counter in front of me.

The set was beautiful, making me forget the long journey to get here. At that moment, I knew all the trouble was worth it for the meal I was about to enjoy.

What came in the Kokoro-iki Sushi Set?

Instead of writing a long paragraph, I will write my review in an easy to read list. From top to bottom, left to right:

Tuna Roll: The tuna in this simple roll was fresh. The rice was delicately sweet, with a subtle hint of vinegar complemented by salty seaweed.

Egg: The egg was massive. Its texture was light and moist, while its flavor was salty and sweet. Rice and seaweed, cleverly placed, lay hidden under the egg.

Squid: While not my favorite, the squid stood out with its slightly sweet flavor, saltiness, and firm yet somewhat chewy texture. Topping the squid was a piece of shiso leaf, which added a fragrant, floral taste. If you are adventurous, I recommend the squid.

Scallop: If I could only eat one piece of sushi on my trips to Japan, it would be scallops. The delicate scallop was sweet in flavor with a hint of saltiness. Even better, its texture was buttery and almost melted in my mouth, but it had some texture when I chewed it.

Snow Crab: I found the slender piece of snow crab soft, moist, and slightly spongy, with a hint of saltiness. On top was an interesting salty paste with a slightly bitter note reminiscent of miso.

Bonito: The bonito had a firm texture and a distinct, fishy flavor. It is an acquired taste. Although the bonito was much more intense in flavor than other milder fish on the platter, the added ginger and green onions helped balance its strong flavors.

Huge Red Shrimp
Huge Red Shrimp

Huge Red Shrimp: As the name implies, this was a large piece of shrimp that looked beautiful. I enjoyed the creaminess and saltiness of the fresh shrimp. The included wasabi added a nice kick of heat.

Salmon Roe: While salmon roe might sound strange, this gunkanmaki (boat-shaped sushi) is one of my favorite types of sushi. Though simple, when each egg exploded, it released a fresh, salty ocean flavor that complemented the sweetness of the sushi rice.

Minced Tuna with Green Onion: This was the second gunkanmaki sushi on the platter. It featured fresh and creamy minced tuna with a slight hint of the ocean. A piece of green onion topped the sushi, adding a fresh, spicy flavor and a pop of color.

Medium Fatty Tuna: The medium fatty tuna, also known as chūtoro, comes from the back and belly sections of the tuna. This tuna was bright pink with a fatty, creamy texture. Because of its taste and fatty texture, chūtoro can be expensive.

Yellowtail: Also known as hamachi, the yellowtail was thick and meaty with a rich, buttery taste and smooth, creamy texture. Its sweet flavor reminded me of scallops, while its richness was similar to salmon or tuna.

Red Tuna: The tuna was thick and melted in my mouth, yet retained a good texture. It had a fresh, salty ocean flavor with a hint of sweetness. The wasabi complemented the vinegary rice and the sweet and salty notes of the tuna.

Eel: Eel is another one of my all-time favorites. The combination of smoky and savory flavors was delicious. The eel, charred more than usual and lightly sauced, had crispy edges while remaining moist.

Miso Soup

A simple miso soup, Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
A simple miso soup

A bowl of miso soup was served on the side. The soup had to be one of the simplest I have ever had in Japan.

Simple as it was, the dish was surprisingly tasty. With just seaweed in the bowl, it delivered a salty taste with tender pieces that almost melted in my mouth, providing a delightful salty umami flavor.

I also enjoyed how the miso soup was refreshing and warm on a cold night in Tokyo. After hours of traveling, it hit the spot.


As mentioned before, I arrived at Sushi Zanmai late at night. Even this late, there was a wait. Luckily, the wait was only 10 minutes for a counter seat.

Instead of a tablet, I used my phone to view the menu and order food. Using my phone to order made the process easy, as I did not understand Japanese.

The only downside of ordering through my phone was that my interaction with the staff was limited to watching them behind the counter and paying my bill.

And, because they were busy, it took about 30 minutes for my food to arrive.

After finishing my meal, I paid with the cashier at the front, a common practice at restaurants in Japan.

Other than that, I had no issues with the staff or service and enjoyed my visit.


I have visited Sushi Zanmai several times and found it to be the perfect balance of affordability and quality.

It’s neither a conveyor belt sushi spot, which some might see as cheap, nor a high-end establishment that costs hundreds of dollars.

Sushi Zanmai is perfect for a first-time visitor to Japan who wants to experience eating at a sushi counter with chefs preparing food right in front of them.

Even though the sushi was affordable, that didn’t mean it was low-quality. The Kokoro-iki Sushi Set I ordered was fresh and offered a good variety and amount of sushi for the price.

I also enjoyed how I could sample various sushi without spending a fortune.

If you’re searching for a sushi restaurant that combines affordability and freshness in a casual setting with a sushi counter, then Sushi Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku is an excellent choice.

Additionally, most locations are open late, perfect for satisfying those late-night sushi cravings.


  • Affordable
  • Fresh sushi
  • Open late
  • Casual atmosphere


  • Often a wait for a table
  • Sushi took 30 minutes to arrive


Monday - Sunday: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM


1 Chome-1-15 Okubo, Shinjuku City, Tokyo, Japan
GPS Coordinates: 35.69848,139.70524



Last Updated on April 30, 2024