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, 2 August 2007

Sushi Zanmai, Tsukiji (Tokyo)

Back home in Perth, I often hear Japanese people comment that the sushi they had in Perth was better than back home in Japan, and I'd often be quite curious as to why that would be the case. We were lucky in that my JET placement landed me in the Noto - the land of wonderful fresh seafood - and that when we do eat sushi during our travels around Japan, the sushi places we went to (mostly by recommendations) were pretty good and fresh. Indeed, we were spoilt, and I truly did not think that anywhere in Japan could do so bad with sushi. Then Rob moved to Tokyo, and he said that the sushi he's had here was actually pretty bad, and went on to explain that with the massive population of Tokyoites, bad sushi would still be consumed. I actually thought that it couldn't be worse than the quality at kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi), until I myself ate not-that-great sushi a couple of weeks back when I visited Rob. And then it clicked why many Japanese admired the quality of sushi in Perth - most of them probably came from big cities where the quality control of sushi is not very good.

So then my mission last weekend after moving from Noto was to find a good sushi place in Tokyo. I did not want to have even another mediocre sushi experience, so we headed straight to Tsukiji, where the famed Tsukiji Market is located - what better place for sushi than where sushi bars (at least in Tokyo) get their source of seafood from, right? Sushi Zanmai has 4 restaurants in Tsukiji, two of which are open for 24 hours a day, which, according to a Tokyo guide book, is the first and only 24hr sushi bar in Japan. I heard of this place from a reliable source, so I was looking forward to it. We weren't disappointed - the seafood was fresh and, like every other time we sat at the counter, we had fun.

The Sushi Zanmai we walked into was very busy and doing very well. We came a bit before 12pm and did not have to wait to be seated. When we left about 45 minutes later, there was a huge line of people waiting for seats, and a short walk around the streets afterwards showed us long lines outside all of the other Sushi Zanmai stores. High patronage certainly ensures that fresh seafood is always served.

We ordered our usual favourites, as well as some new things we hadn't tried before. Reasonably priced, with the most expensive sushi pieces costing 398yen (~AU$4) a piece - that was the o-toro (fatty tuna belly) and joh-anago (good quality eel). Both were the star of the meal, and worth the price. Here are some of the shots.

Ikura (salmon roe) and Uni (sea urchin); Amaebi (raw sweet prawns) and Hotate (scallop):

O-toro (fatty tuna belly) and Joh Anago (high quality eel grilled with white sauce). The anago was really good - the meat had a tender texture and literally melted in our mouths. Rob loved it so much that he ordered another one for himself.

All up, we paid under 7000yen for the both of us, and walked away quite happy and with a full tummy. I've heard of a smaller sushi bar located in the market itself, which has the reputation of the best sushi bar in Tsukiji - but like the market, it's shut on Sundays. I can't wait to try it next time when we're here again, hopefully not on a Sunday.


  1. Do you notice anything about the rice of sushi? Because for me I think that the taste and texture of rice makes or breaks sushi. That's why I think over here Jaws has the best sushi - the rice is sticky (but not too sticky), flavourful and the ingredients they use are quite fresh (I generally stick to the raw salmon). Taka is probably the worst because the rice is dry and tasteless and it falls apart when you eat it. But it's also the cheapest so the taste and cost evens itself out.

  2. Rice is a BIG deal in Japan, and so far I've not had bad rice in Japan. The rice is always sticky and 'mochimochi' here, even the ones I cook at home on my humble ricecooker. Not very suitable for fried rice though since it's quite moist - the older long grains like the ones used in SE Asia tend to be drier and better suited for that. BTW, it's easy to make your own seasoned sushi rice at home :)

  3. Oooh, thanks! I'll have to try that out soon!