The road to becoming a top sushi chef is notoriously long and winding. Just ask Hiroyuki Sato. His discreet little 10-seater restaurant, Sushi Tokami, is only three years old and Sato already ranks among the best sushi chefs in the city. But he had to take a circuitous route to get there.

It is not just the quality of Sato's seafood that has put Tokami on Tokyo's culinary map; it's the understated way he goes about his business. Still in his late 30s, what distinguishes him is the relaxed way he interacts with customers, especially those from abroad. This, he says, comes from having a much wider experience of the outside world than most local chefs of his (or any) age.

Despite being born into a sushi family, Sato didn't initially consider following in his father's footsteps. It was not until he went to the U.S. that he became interested in Japanese cooking and decided to begin formal training.