The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Japanese @ Itadori, Tsukiji (Tokyo)

One of the great things I love about the Japanese people is their willingness to share good and useful information, even to outsider foreigners. Rob's Japanese colleagues are a wealth of recommendations on good places to eat, and one of them suggested a place in Tsukiji Markets called Itadori. She actually recommended the kare udon (thick wheat noodles in curry sauce), but we also found out by experience that this little place also serves fresh seafood dishes, as is expected of a restaurant in such close proximity to the fish market.

The bar-style setting where we could watch the chefs do their magic:

This is really a hole-in-the-wall kinda place, situated in one of the many little alleyways of the market maze, and I am sure not many tourists would think of trying the food here. I know I wouldn't, so I'm glad for the recommendation. There are a few branches of this name, but we were recommended this particular one which has only counter seats with a capacity of perhaps no more than 12 people. It's definitely not toddler-friendly, and on this occasion I left Zak behind with Rob while I met up with my friend Chrissy. This is a popular place, and we waited in line for about 15 minutes for a seat. People move along quickly because it's not exactly a space conducive for hanging around chatting; they are here for the food, and the food is good.

We ordered from the Japanese menu because we can both read Japanese, but we had to ask for the English menu (which had a more limited choice than the Japanese menu) for the details on how to eat the Kaisen Hitsumabushi:

One of Itadori's recommended items is the Kaisen Hitsumabushi, where kaisen means "seafood", hitsu refers to a type of container for rice, and mabusu literally means "to dust" - so this means to "dust" small pieces of seafood on rice. This dish is also known as Kaisen-don, and is basically chirashizushi-style, topped with 12 different kinds of sashimi, including the delicious uni (sea urchin roe/gonad). There's also a side dish containing wasabi, gari (pickled ginger) and a mixture of mushroom, lotus root and kanpyo (dried gourd). As with most things Japanese, there is a method to eat this dish, and thankfully there was an English translation of the instruction available for us gaijins (foreigners). The translation wasn't perfect, but we got the general idea.

The main attraction: Kaisen Hitsumabushi:

The first step is to eat the kaisen-don as it is, taking only a little of the uni and reserving most of it for the next step. I love uni and I needed to exercise considerable amount of self-control to follow this instruction. I really enjoyed the fresh taste and firm texture of the various sashimi topping, and I almost ate more than two-thirds of the bowl before I remembered that I needed to leave enough for the remaining two steps. The second step is to eat it as bara-chirashi-sushi where you mix everything with the provided mixture of mushrooms, lotus root and kanpyo until the rice turns into the beautiful colour of the uni. I loved this step the best because the sweetness of the uni really permeates through everything, and I admit that I left only a small amount for the last step. The final step is to eat it as rice soup, diluting the mixture with dashi broth. I was glad that the dashi had a subtle flavour so that I could continue the goodness of the kaisen-don.

This was fun eating, and I had a great time catching up with my friend. Perhaps next time I'll risk offending the chefs by skipping the first and third step entirely and enjoy all the kaisen-don in the second step.

The other main attraction of Itadori: it's where the chefs are hotter than the food (Chrissy, this one is just for you!):


  1. Thanks Jeannie for that photo ;) the lunch was unforgettable and not just because of the hot chefs! I had great fun trying the different ways to eat hitsumabushi, but I agree the 2nd step was the tastiest!

  2. Hehe, did you get the full size image of the last shot? If you didn't, I'll be happy to resend ;)