Despite cringing a bit whenever I see the word in someone’s twitter “bio”, I would label myself a foodie (instantly recoiling from keyboard). This does not mean that I should be lumped in with the increasingly annoying clan of self-ordained food experts who turn up their noses at chain restaurants and take to yelp the second their steak is served a little on the pinker side of medium rare. But it does mean that I love food, cooking, fresh ingredients, and new restaurants and am willing to try (virtually) any new dish or delicacy. For those of you who fall in the latter of the two ‘foodie’ camps, you need to get on a plane and go to Tsukiji, Tokyo’s largest fish market.
The market is bustling, to say the least. It offers no reprieve from the beautiful chaos that engulfs the city. The labyrinth of streets inside is littered with vendors displaying the catch of the day, some on large fruit de mer displays and others just in a polystyrene box on a small foldable table. There’s plenty to nibble on, both raw and cooked as you walk around the stalls but if you’re smart you’ll get there early and go to one of the spectacular restaurants tucked away in the maze.
One in particular offers the dining experience of a lifetime. At Tsukiji no kinoshinge you will easily be waiting for an hour and a half to be seated. The tiny restaurant offers a sushi bar accommodating just 12 guests and each sitting lasts around 45 minutes. When our crew of the 12 patient diners were finally seated we were greeted by the larger than life head chef, who talks you through each of the dishes as they are created for you by one of the two worker bees buzzing around behind him.
So passionate, was he about the food he was serving that a series of strict rules were imposed on those enjoying their lunch; miso was to be drunk the second it was served so as to avoid it getting cold, you were not allowed to eat the ginger unless it was in between sushi pieces and heaven forbid someone put more than a pea sized serving of wasabi on their food. One girl actually took a bite of a nigiri and then served the rest to her boyfriend, this kind of tomfoolery does not go down well. Despite being concerned that, as the only non-Japanese resident in the restaurant I would be making faux-pas left right and centre, the experience was an exceptional one. While the chef was passionate and strict, he was also jovial and charismatic. Or at least that’s how he came across to someone who doesn’t speak a word of Japanese.
But the star of the show was without a doubt the food. The sushi on offer would melt in your mouth the second you tasted it. The fish was fresh and plentiful and succulent and the flavour combinations were like something I have never tasted before. I would go as far as to say that I don’t think I’ll taste sushi like it again in my life. For that reason, and that reason alone, all serious foodies must flock here, I defy you to find a better sushi restaurant or a more entertaining host.
For more information:
Kinoshige Tsukiji Honten