With as much tuna as I’ve eaten over the past 48 hours I would not be surprised if the mercury levels in my body are just a bit high. After the auction action yesterday morning I wandered around the Tsukiji grounds until I found a sushi shop that looked decent. My parameters were pretty low – other people eating there and not too long a line – and I eventually found one that was pretty good. A nice sashimi bowl with some regular tuna and some chu-toro, a bowl of soup and I was a happy camper for the next several hours. Oh, and they made ordering very easy thanks to a large picture menu available showing the various combinations.
For breakfast this morning I wasn’t going to wake up early enough to get to Tsukiji for a repeat performance of the auction but the sushi was pretty good, and I had just enough money left on my PASMO card (Tokyo subway stored value card) for a quick round-trip back to the market area. So off I went. I found the same place as the previous day and had more tuna there. Then, as I was walking back towards the subway station, I realized that I really should try some other options as long as I’m here. I walked in to another random sushi shop in the market area, Isonoya. It was much nicer inside and most certainly not focused on gaijin as customers. I showed no fear, walked in and sat down at the counter. The sushi chef asked if I spoke Japanese and was not too excited by the response, but once he realized that I was comfortable pointing and (mis-)pronouncing the Japanese as best as I could, he started slicing fish and I settled in for a nice second breakfast.
It is hard to know if the quality of the sushi at this place was better than the other one as I had all different items, and it really was all pretty delicious, so I’m not complaining. Some sweet shrimp, scallops (I ate one before I remembered to take a photo) and yellow tail:
One nice difference was that the soup at the nicer place was also much better. It was not a typical miso soup that the other place served; this one had scallions in it and a prawn head floating on top. The flavor was definitely different and absolutely phenomenal.
After the nice sushi spread and the soup it was time for dessert, the delicious, buttery and smooth flavor of o-toro, the fattiest of the tuna options. The chef was a bit surprised when I ordered it, but I nodded and smiled and he realized that I knew what I was doing, at least on that particular topic, and served up a couple pieces of tuna heaven.
I also had one meal that, rather shockingly, did not have sushi in it. For lunch yesterday I was wandering the streets looking for something reasonably priced and remembered that many recommend the top floors of department stores for food options. I was near a store so I thought I’d give it a try. Up and up and up on 7 flights of escalators, through the toy section – which was awesome! – and then one more flight of stairs to the food floor. I walked around there, apparently lost, wondering where the great food bargains that everyone talks about were. They certainly weren’t in the department store I tried. So that plan was an unfortunate bust. But I had a Plan B ready to go: follow the crowd. Wandering around back outside I noticed a place with an awesome sign and what appeared to me to be a pretty steady flow of customers. I rolled the dice and followed the crowd down the stairs into an udon shop. It was a low-key, cafeteria-style shop and fortunately had a picture menu available. I chose the broth with noodles and an egg, picked up some tempura (the guy in front of me did and it seemed like the right idea) and then paid my several hundred yen and settled in to a seat for a meal that I am quite certain was, yen for yen, better than the department store options that I saw.
Oh, about the sign. It really was awesome. As best as I can tell it is the Japanese equivalent of “Eat, drink and be merry,” which is a style of living that I’m a big fan of.
I’m headed to the airport now and will likely get one last meal in the lounge. I’m certain I’ll get to at least play with the beer machine. And that will be the end of my dining in Japan. Not a bad meal to be found, at least not where I was looking.
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