The second day in our three week trip consisted of more food. In fact looking back, I wondered if we did anything else but eating. Starting from an amazing sushi omakase at Sushi Dai in Tsukiji, we travelled up to the exclusive suburb of Ginza and sampled yummy goodness from the Mitsukoshi department store’s food hall. The day ended with an artery clogging but satisfying Kushiage meal in Akihabara.
Itinerary: Tsukiji - Ginza - Akihabara
Breakfast: Dai Sushi (Tsukiji Fish Market)
Lunch: Mitsukoshi Ginza Food Hall
Dinner: Tatsukichi (Akihabara)
With less than 3 hours of sleep, we dragged ourselves out of bed at 4:30am in the morning to make a pilgrimage to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. With the help of a friendly policeman, we found the place fairly easily without getting lost. The market was bustling with activities, sellers transporting all sorts of goodness from the sea.
We headed straight to Sushi Dai, anticipating a long queue. After hearing a lot of stories about friends accidentally visiting the wrong shop, we made sure that we found the right one. Thankfully the kanji for this one is pretty easy.
We got there by 6am and thought that surely it wouldn’t take long…right? Wrong. We still had to wait for 1.5hours in line. A lady from the shop would check in on us from time to time to make sure people are queuing in line and are not blocking the road. As we get to the front of the shop, she explained about the omakase menu and asked for preferences. From then on it was just more waiting and drooling at the door, wishing that we’d get to be in front of the counter soon.
But before we know it we were finally seated! Our friendly sushi chefs apologised for the long wait and asked if the ladies will be ok with the normal rice portion.
“Hai" I said, confused. If anything, I was worried that it wouldn’t be enough as we are used to the two-piece servings at Shira Nui in Melbourne. And so it began - our amazing insight into just how good proper sushi can be. Highlights include the melt in your mouth, buttery soft Otoro, Ikura, and fresh and creamy Uni. I ended up choosing the Uni again for my last piece, just because I know I probably won’t get anything like it back in Australia.
Top row: Otoro (Fatty Tuna Belly) and Suzuki (Sea Bass)
Bottom row: Tai (Red Snapper) and Uni (Sea Urchin)
Top row: Aji (Horse Mackerel) and Maguro-zuke (Marinated Tuna)
Bottom row: Maki Rolls and Shira-ebi (White Shrimp)
Halfway through our meal I started to get full, especially after the Maki rolls. This was not unnoticed by the chef.
”Nee-san, onaka ippai?” he asked (Are you getting full?)
”Chotto…” I answered, slightly embarassed. Especially since I was so confident that we’d be able to get through this meal easily…not that he’d know.
"Ima kara gohan wa chiisaku shimasu ne" (From now on we’ll reduce the amount of rice) he said kindly, with a knowing smile. In other words, so you can eat more.
I don’t know if this is a common thing but personally I thought it was incredibly thoughtful of them to firstly, notice how the customer is doing with their meal but also to actually respond to it in a way that made us feel like they were really looking after us.
Top row: Tamago (Egg) and Ikura (Salmon Roe)
Bottom row: Anago (Sea Eel) and Uni (Sea Urchin)
Our very friendly sushi chefs entertained us throughout the whole meal and their attention to detail were just amazing. If only everyone who works in the service industry are as lovely and genuine as these guys, the world would probably be a better place (no, seriously)
By the time we left Sushi Dai (around 9am) the queue was even longer - these people would probably have had to wait for more than 2-3 hours.
After our meal we took a slow walk towards the Imperial Palace. There wasn’t much to see from the outside within the public area, but on the way there we did stumble upon an interesting scene. It was a very windy day and some of the decorative trees in this neatly organised court were getting blown away.
A couple of official-looking workers were already on it - setting up their working space, carefully pushing the slanted trees back into place with much consideration.
My mum was thoroughly amused.
We took a quick stroll and found ourselves wandering around the streets of Ginza. One of the things I love about Tokyo is just how distinct each of the suburbs can be. The atmosphere at Ginza gives off a very fashionable, exclusive and well, expensive vibe. Upon finding Mitsukoshi, the exclusive department store, we proceeded to the most logical place to visit: the food hall.
Oh, I think I could live off just any given food hall in Japan. The choices! We settled with Tenmusu (small rice balls topped with crunchy shrimp - although not so cruchy when we had it as it was cold) and to my excitement, a box of Katsu Sando from Maisen. I’ve always wanted to try the Tonkatsu at Maisen but never got the chance to - didn’t get to this time around either. The sandwich was yummy - the pork was tender, sandwiched between two fluffy bread and a sweet sauce.
We might have gotten slightly over excited and bought one too many deep fried goodness from Maisen. These were just okay though - in fact I can’t even remember what they were or how they tasted. On the other hand, these ‘Aurora Black' branded grapes from Atelier du Soleil, Sun Fruits were deliciously sweet . As they should be, at $15 AUD for a tiny box of 5. They were not as good as the similarly sugary sweet unbranded market grapes we had at Takayama's morning markets, though.
After we were done shopping (not that we could afford anything there!) we made our way to the famous Akihabara - known for their array of electronics and gadget stores, maid cafes, AKB48….and more otaku-ness. I’m sure we all know a thing or two about Akiba so I’ll skip through the usual fluff.
By the time we reached Akihabara everyone was pretty tired from all our ventures during the day, so we decided to split up at meet up for dinner. We went to look at cameras but quickly realised that they are not selling for cheaper at all, even with the tourist tax discount.
Right, on to dinner then. Since I missed out on Kushiage (breaded and deep-fried meat or vegetables on skewers) on my last trip, we made a point to visit a supposed hidden gem called Tatsukichi. They have another shop in Shinjuku, but the Akihabara branch was conveniently close.
We might have been early when we got there (around 6pm) as there was hardly anyone, but the first thing we noticed was that it was Izakaya style. Which meant…that people smoked inside. My mum wasn’t very keen but decided to just bear with it in the end. It wasn’t too bad, but I can imagine that it would have been worse had it been packed.
So how does it work? Similar to the omakase style at Sushi Dai, you basically tell the chef if you have any dislikes/allergies/preferences and he’ll make a note to not serve you those items. The only difference is that there’s no ‘set’ course, the chef will keep going, serving you up various delicious morsels until you tell him you need a break, or if you are done for the night. Being the gluttons we were, it took a lot of effort (or in this case, deep fried goodness) before we admitted defeat.
Definitely an interesting experience and one I would recommend. Given that everything was deep fried, they all look similar in photos so I’ve only picked a couple of items to give you an idea of what it’s like. What you get is a set of various sauces (mustard, soy, and a few more), lemon squeezer, drinks of your choice (I opted for cold Oolong tea) and fresh veggies to balance the oily goodness.
Some of the highlights include: Prawn head, camembert cheese, chestnut (oh so good!) and sweet onions (this is saying a lot coming from a hardcore onion hater like myself)
Not so great: Chilli. Just because…
Address: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Tokyo (Map)
Station: Tsukijijo Station (2 min) or Tsukiji Station (10 min)
Telephone: +81 (0) 3-3547-679
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 5am-2pm
Meal price: Omakase Set (3900¥)
Address: 4-6-16 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo (Map)
Station: Ginza Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza/Hibiya/ Marunouchi Lines)
Telephone: +81 (0) 3-3562-1111
Opening Hours: Daily 10am-8pm
Address: Soto-Kanda 4-14-1, Akiba Ichi 3F (Map)
Station: Akihabara Station
Telephone: +81 (0) 3-5289-8331
Opening Hours: Daily 4-11pm