Waking up at 5:00am is not my idea of fun (especially not on a vacation), none the less, Thursday morning, with dawn breaking through the storm clouds over the grey and dripping streets outside, we readied ourselves for a trek across town to see the famed Tsukiji Fish Market.
Tsukiji Market is the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the WORLD, and where restaurants across Japan source their catch of the day. If you are procuring fish for your establishment you want to be here at, if not before, 5:00am, as that is when auctioning of the best fish begins.
There are two parts of the market, an “outer market” and an “inner market”. The “inner market” is where the auctioning begins and if you get there early enough, as one of the first 120 tourists you can watch this process unfold. We, unfortunately, did not (sorry, for a complete Tsukiji Market experience, see Anthony Bourdain)
We did begin to explore the “outer market” though, which consisted of stores and stalls selling goods ranging from t-shirts to Japanese kitchen tools to yummy, yummy sushi.
We had heard that there were several specific sushi restaurants that were excellent, and when we rounded what was basically our first corner we spotted a very long line. Assuming we had found our holy grail without even really trying, we jumped right in and set up to wait, well, at least a little while….
Three hours later, with angry stomachs (no breakfast!) and shirts soaked through (those storm clouds never did go away, and of course decided to break loose), we made it into Sushi-Dai!
What awaited us inside was one long, narrow counter, three smiling sushi chefs and ten gorgeous, glistening pieces of nigiri presented one after another in rolling fashion, both art and sustenance to be admired and savored simultaneously.
Accompanying the meal highlights were miso soup (with fish bones in for flavor!) green tea (SO good here, the kind made from powder that leaves residue at the bottom of your cup) and friendly conversation. Mo struck up some chatter with the chef and learned a bit about the fish. Even though all of what we ate came from the market, not everything was served straight out of the boat. For instance, the tuna. “Toro. Fresh. No taste!” said our chef. He explained that the tuna is aged like good beef. Here, about two-three days.
In addition to their culinary discussion, baseball and golf were preferred topics between Mo and the chef. Turns out they are both Tiger Woods fans. They spent the meal trading, through broken English (on the chef’s side, not Mo’s ;)), stories of courses played and type of clubs used, proving that language barriers aside, sports talk truly does bring people together.
As does a good meal. :-)