The last time I set foot in Tsukiji, I was 12. Now it’s like almost 2 decades later and I’m back. When I was 12, I remember seeing a shitload of weird seafood and stuff. To be honest, at the time, I didn’t really think it that much different from going shopping at the market in Chinatown back in Singapore. Fast forward to today and it’s kinda like a mecca for me in more ways than one. To start with, there’s the shitload of weird seafood on sale. Then there’s the knife shops (or katana shops when I was 12). Then there’s the food. When I was 12, I had the gyudon at the gyudon shop in Tsukiji with the old lady and I don’t mean Yoshinoya. It’s actually Kitsuneya. And they serve gyudon and motsudon, which is the offal version of gyudon. This time round I went by and the gf tried to take a photo but we got rejected by the bosslady. I didn’t eat it this time but I somehow remember how it tastes now. Amazing!

Anyway, first priority is filling my stomach and satisfying my fickle tongue. Nothing else will do but a sushi breakfast at 6am. We arrive at Tsukiji via train, the Oedo line to Tsukijicho starts just after 5am. Actually, the train came early and took maybe 30 minutes to get there at most. When we got to the market proper, there was a long queue outside Sushi Dai, which is probably the most Youtubed joint in Tsukiji. Look, I’m sure it’s really good but most people who have tried Sushi Dai, Sushi Daiwa and Sushi Bun amongst the myriad other sushi joints in Tokyo alone all say the same thing. That the famed Tsukiji trio is at around the same standard and offers good quality but there’s many other shops even around Tsukiji itself that are just as good, if not better.

Anyway, I suppose I wanted to herd it and join the queue but then I noticed Sushi Daiwa next door had like zero queue. So I walked in and got seated. It’s 3500Y for 7 pieces of sushi, some maki, some egg and tea. First up was chutoro and ika. Jezus cries! Chutoro is sublime. Ika is divine. So fresh. Never had better. Then ebi alongside otoro. Yeah! Sweet shrimp is ok, my least favourite. I like raw ama-ebi but cooked shrimp less so. The otoro is well, otoro. Fatty goodness. Next the chef props up some cold egg, uni gunkan and maguro maki. The egg is nice and sweet but honestly, it’s not something I’d grab given the opportunity. You can talk shit about how people judge a sushi chef’s skill by the tamago etc etc and with my professional perspective I can say that it is well executed. However, my personal opinion is that it’s cold sweet egg. The maki is good filler. The uni though. Probably my second fave. Pow. The quality is like heaps up over the uni I had in Busan, Korea just recently but it also costs a little more here. They’re really generous with it though, a good sized mouthful of urchinness. To finish, we get anago and hamachi. Both really good too. I gotta say though. Mind is not blown. Sushi Daiwa was great but I think I had some insane expectations. Or maybe I’m actually ready for Sukiyabashi Jiro or Sushi Saito or Sushi Mizutani.

During breakfast there was this white guy who looked like he was jogging round the area and stopped in for a quick eat. He had some cucumber maki, 2 pieces of sushi and that was it. He also asked for salmon but they don’t do it. In and out sushi. Next to us was this guy who looked like he was destroying the place, piece by piece. He musta dropped 10000Y at least. Then came a group of 4, probably American. They ordered a la carte, piece by piece. One Asian guy spoke good sounding Japanese on the surface and held a Canon 5000D at the ready. All of the group asked for wasabi and dropped that shit in the soy sauce. Two of the group then proceeded to drop the sushi into the soy sauce because they were too clumsy with chopsticks. Honestly, after my first piece, I realized I didn’t need much extra soy because the chef already brushed the sushi glossy so I can only imagine how salty it would have been for those two guys eating out of the sauce plate. Then the dude with the big camera takes the kohada off the sushi, washes it in the soy sauce and props it back on the rice with a bundle of ginger. Jeezus! Then the photos commenced. It soured my dining experience because I had to squeeze my extras in between these mofos.

The gf summoned up the stomach space for once to get hotate and otoro once more. This was her first proper sushi meal and she was lovin’ it. I got extra otoro (shoulda got chutoro!), akagai and maguro. The tuna is just intense and strong flavored. I’ve never had better sushi anywhere else yet. But I think there’s a much higher ceiling. I really liked everything, the rice and fish were perfectly proportioned, seasoned and freshness was superb. Flavour was also really good. I can’t complain a single bit but much like Fuunji, mind wasn’t quite blown. That’s fine though since Sushi Daiwa is really a value for money proposition rather than the best of the best. It is really really good and I reckon anything better would suffer exponentially in terms of value. We politely thank the chef and make our way. It was probably the best meal of my holiday.

Time to knife shop. Again. There’s a few knife shops around Tsukiji, which is itself separated into several different parts. There’s the inner market, which has the fish market, tuna auction area, vegetable market, fresh food market, the famous trio of sushi shops, many other little restaurants and other shops selling mostly food related stuff and the outer market, which has more food and other stores. There’s a coupla tourist focused shops selling tee shirts and the like. I kopped a blowfish tee for my brother and a salmon tee for my housemate. They’re around 1500-2000Y each. Anyway, with regards to the knife shops, these are the following brands available.

Of these five, I found four easily. Aritsugu and Masamoto are the two biggest names. Both have smaller stores in the inner market and bigger ones in the outer market. In general, I’d suggest going to the outer market stores because they’re just bigger and might have more in stock plus they’re set up to do the engraving and all that. Sugimoto are famed for their Chinese style cleavers and I didn’t really look in their store. Masahiro was very friendly and tried to explain a lot about the knives but I think I preferred the big two. Nenohi I didn’t manage to find. At Masamoto Tsukiji, they don’t do the KS so I wasn’t into it. They did have another wa-gyuto for like 27000Y that was interesting maybe but a little pricey. I settled on an Aritsugu A-Type 240mm Wa-Gyuto for a paltry 11500Y, which is less than AUD150. To compare, the price on online websites sell the same/similar thing for about 20-25% more. Unlike what I was reading online, it’s not particularly hefty or thick. In fact, it’s medium thickness down the spine and after getting it sharpened by the store, I think it works pretty well so far. Pretty pleased for the relatively low cost because it feels like a big step up from my Tojiro and Wusthof. Aside from the knives, I also got myself a fish tweezer, for pin bones.

We spend a good amount of time just looking at all the restaurants and vegetables stores and just soaking in the sights. The fish market itself is a wonderful spectacle. I didn’t bother with the tuna auctions because I didn’t really fancy waking that early just to watch a buncha guys yelling indecipherable shit at each other and people draggin big frozen fish on the floor. It’s way more interesting watching the shops set up for sale, the tuna filleting, guys slicing/prepping all kinds of fish and the mind boggling variety of seafood. The tuna filleting involves at least 2 guys. Actually, at the stall we were watching, there was like this dude who either bought the tuna from the store or owned the store. He just sat down with a cigarette watching the men work, breaking down a whole tuna into loins. One guy starts with what has to be like a 400mm knife just going down the top and then they break out the longsword. Another dude grabs a towel and holds the tip whilst the other dude does the sawing motion to sever one loin. This they place onto a long wooden board before they carry on. When they’ve got just the massive carcass left, they start using a spoon to scrape all the leftover flesh into a tray. No waste concept. That tuna mash is great anyway. Another cool thing I saw at one shop was these guys using a specially designed paper with segments and perforations to fit over the tuna loin and kinda sheathe it. It fits perfectly. It’s incredible that there’s such attention to detail and such dedication. I guess for them, this stuff is just normal but honestly, nowhere else in the world do they give a shit about stuff like this. Respect for food and with it, their livelihood, is in their blood.

We don’t have much time post Tsukiji. I’d intended to make a trip to Tokyu Hands but ended up spending an hour walking to a discount store so my girl could load up on cosmetics and healthcare shit. Again. Ah well, guess there’s alway next time! Tokyo was a blast and I really hope I’ll be back sooner rather than later.

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