Tsukiji Fish Market & Marukita TokyoPosted By Jennifer Ho Dec 24 2012 · 0 comments · Dining Out
Tsukiji Fish Market is the central hub for the buying and selling of fish and seafood in Tokyo. Anything that lives in the sea can be found here – from above average quality to the most premium sashimi grade kind of stuff that is not only hard to find but costs an arm and a leg too. There are also fish auctions that are held here. If you’ve seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the scene where Jiro’s son attends the tuna auction at the market is pretty spot on. Although we were unable to see any auctions in action (closed from December 1 to January 19), we did find the auction room and see the aftermath of one, with dozens of tagged fish lying of the ground, waiting to be processed and taken away.
The hustle and bustle of the market can be overwhelming. We arrived at 5 a.m. and first explored the outer market where kiosks selling dried fish, bonito, pickled vegetables, cutlery, special fish knives are plenty. Restaurants sprawl about – some with spaces so cramped that diners must stand around a communal table to eat. People are everywhere. At this hour, so early in the morning, most are chefs, restauranteurs, locals and foodies looking for the freshest produce available. After a good hour of walking around, we stopped by Marukita for some early morning breakfast.
Marukita has an eye catching set-up – a relatively long, wooden L-shaped bar and a separate metal counter to the left, shielded by a plastic hut-like structure covered in high definition photos of the food. Like many other restaurants in the area, Marukita’s menu offers dishes that emphasize the fish because of its freshness and superior quality. Can you guess what kind of dish it is? That’s right, rice bowls! Providing a sort of blank canvas that allow the fish to really shine, rice bowls seem like the perfect base to build the dish. There are a variety of toppings and fish combinations to choose from – tuna, salmon, roe, shrimp, sea urchin, scallop… The list goes on. Because we loved it so much, we went twice over our four days in Tokyo.
Our combined trips had us ordering the bara chirashi don twice (a medley of different sashimi, mushrooms and shrimp), the ikura uni don (sea urchin and roe), the omakase don (scallop, shrimp, tuna, salmon, sea urchin), the kaisen don (yellow tail, tuna, shrimp, roe) and the negitoro don (fish belly, shallots). The ikura uni don was my personal favourite. I can never pass up a chance to eat uni. It’s almost always amazing – this time was no exception.
After our first visit, we befriended one of the head chefs at Marukita. He kindly offered to take us to the inner market and get us in – visitors are only technically allowed to enter after 9 a.m. He led us several blocks over to the main entrance and pointed us in the right direction. On our way there, a truck almost ran into him but he paid no mind, sticking his palm out, forcing them to hit the brakes. That gives you an idea of how rushed and busy the market is – people will walk/drive right over you if you don’t pay attention.
Once in the inner fish market, we observed fish mongers preparing their wares for prospective customers, haggling and negotiating with restaurant owners and chefs, cleaning and gutting fish. People are left, right and center. There is hardly any time to stop – if you want to pause and look around, you’re going to have to make sure you’re not in anyone’s way – which you probably are. Here, the traditional notions of Japanese niceties and formalities are thrown out the window. People will shoulder by you, yell at you so that you get out of the way and come very, very close to hitting you (on bike, motorcycle, electronic lifting carts) as mentioned before.
Walking through, the fish displayed is absolutely beautiful. Check out the gallery below for more photos.
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