Alright. After walking around the wholesale section of Tsukiji market, we should eat. That’s why we were here, right? There are restaurants in both sections of the market. My dream (dear god, what can I bribe you with so you can make this dream come true) is to eat at EVERY restaurant and stand at the Tsukiji market. It would take roughly about a month and a half, if I come every day for breakfast and eat at every restaurant both at the inner and outer markets.
The outer market has many sit-down restaurants like Sushi Zanmai that I blogged about earlier. The restaurants that belong to this chain are bigger and more comfortable, with a sushi bar and seating around the counter and seating at tables . The food is quite good but varies depending on the chef. Then there are a lot of smaller restaurants.
These are mostly specialty restaurants. Some only serve tuna (picture in the middle), maguro – tuna nigiri sushi, sashimi, Tekkadon – shirashi topped with tuna and may be even toro, Negi-toro maki – toro with scallion roll. They normally serve nothing else. Some will only serve shirashi with different toppings (picture on the left and the right). There are ramen, don-buri (rice with topping), oden and some other regular foods but most of them are seafood related.
Are these small shops good? Since my dream hasn’t came true yet, I have only eaten at a few places and most of them served either sushi or shirashi. The ones I had tried were pretty good. If you put them in the same scale with the sushi restaurants in the US, they are higher up on the scale for food quality. If you factor the price in, quality per dollar plus taste, they are way better. Most of these little restaurants don’t have tables. The customers will sit around the counter which has about 8-10 seats. Some of these restaurants are just a counter and don’t even have seats. You stand and eat.
This is a little shop on Harumi Dori, the street leading to Kachidoki gate, the entrance of Tsukiji market. This shop only sells grilled oysters, or scallops topped with either uni or mullet roe. They use a propane torch to cook the top part and the heat from the grill to slightly cook the oysters and scallops. They usually hand you small plates and chopsticks and you have to find your way to eat them.
The more famous restaurants are in the inner market. It’s not in the wholesale market itself but in the same gate. There is a row of old buildings across the street from the wholesale fish market toward the main gate, with numbers 5, 6, 7, 8 on them. I called this “Restaurants Row”. They can be easily spotted. Some of them have lines so long that they have to cut the line into two sections so the line won’t block the front of the other restaurants. People are waiting from 5am and some lines took about 2 hours before you got to go inside the restaurant.
These are the lines for 2 restaurants that serve only shirashi, the sushi rice in the bowl topped with the raw seafood of your choice. I don’t remember them having such a long line before but I haven’t been back to Japan in at least 5 years, so things change. Some media might have just introduced the restaurants to the public. I haven’t eaten there yet but am planning to do so in the future. The restaurant pictured on the bottom left seems to be more popular than the one pictured on the bottom right, judging from the length of the line in the front. Both restaurants are in building #8 (If I remember it correctly–if not then it will be #7.)
In the same building, down the row, there are 4-5 other less crowded restaurants. In this building, the restaurants seem to be selling shirashi and donburi or are coffee shops. I don’t remember seeing any sushi restaurant there. One restaurant seemed very interesting to me. I asked a Japanese friend to read the name of this restaurant for me. She said this place is called “Fukusen”. The restaurant seems to be more roomy than the typical restaurants in Tsukiji because they put the counter along both sides and not in the middle. So there is plenty of space for table and seating. What luxury! They served only grilled eels, so I decided to try that.
We ordered a set, which consisted of a bowl of rice topped with grilled eel, a bowl of “O-chazuke”, the rice with green tea, topped with grilled eel, also a bowl of miso soup (the Japanese eat miso soup with rice for breakfast) and a bowl of Tsukemono as side dishes. I wasn’t disappointed at all. Strongly recommend this restaurant for anyone who is tried of waiting in line.
Where are those “famous” sushi restaurants then, you might want to ask by now? They are in building #6. The pictures down below are lines to some restaurants at that building. There are three famous sushi restaurants. The one always with the longest line is “Sushi Dai”, pictured on the right. I had sushi there before. They were good, cut really big with a big piece of rice too. It’s quite difficult to eat for me.
The second one next to Sushi Dai is “Daiwa Sushi”, (pictures of the inside and their foods are going to be in the next blog). The next one is Sushi Bun, which got a lot of write ups from many non-Japanese guide book. Inside it’s almost half-Japanese, half-foreigner customers. Sushi Bun normally doesn’t have a long line like Sushi Dai or Daiwa Sushi. Warning: Sushi Bun is the only restaurant that won’t allow you to take pictures of their food. I think it’s a decent choice for sushi but also not my favorite.