Nov 21, 2015

Japan Travelogue: Hunting Around Tsukiji before Shibuya (1 Nov 2014)

Barely 5 hours of sleep we had before we woke up in sleepiness and prepared ourselves to go to Tsukiji Fish Market. Based on Google map, supposedly our hotel was situated right opposite Tsukiji Fish Market, so we had our leisure time looking for some snacks to fill our hungry tummies.

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Onigiri Shopping @ Onigiri-ya Marutoyo, Tsukiji

Onigiri-ya Marutoyo was one of the stalls outside Tsukiji selling a wide assortment of rice balls, filled with e.g. roasted fatty mackerel, shiokara (salted fish innards), nintama miso, oyster, octopus, and clams. You bet we had a hard time deciding which two to purchase.

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Our Pick #1 of Onigiri from Onigiri-ya Marutoyo (216yen)
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Our Pick #2 of Onigiri from Onigiri-ya Marutoyo (216yen)
Truth be told, I did not remember what exactly we had but it looked something like these (refer to pictures). #1 carried a strong curry flavour and more savory than sweet, comparing to #2. Though personally I wasn't a fan of onigiri, these onigiri were huge and definitely a go-to option whenever you need a quick and filling bite.

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上井 @ Tsukiji
After our onigiri tasting, we chanced upon this random ramen shop, 上井, which was packed with crowds even before 5am. Curiosity led us to join this long queue to order our bowl of Chinese style ramen.

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Ramen in the Making @ 上井, Tsukiji
The Chef was working tirelessly behind the counter, producing one bowl after another bowl of piping hot ramen to his customers. The heat and aroma filled the chilly air. Barely 5 minutes had passed when we received our bowl of ramen.

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Finally our bowl of Chinese style ramen! (700yen) @ 上井, Tsukiji
For 700yen, I must admit it was super value for money. As you see, there were 3-4 pieces of sliced pork in the bowl of crinkly wantan mee like noodles and heavy garnishing of spring onions. Despite its clear broth, its flavour was not compromised. It was indeed an enjoyable experience having this random bowl of ramen in the morning autumn chill.

After finishing the ramen till the last drop, we headed to "Tsukiji Fish Market", which was empty before 5am. We suspected the worst had happened, hence we wandered around, without a clue. If it wasn't because of this random Japanese guy whom so kindly offered direction to us, we wouldn't have found the real Tsukiji Fish Market. However, the quota ran out and we missed the fish auction.

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Outside Tsukiji Fish Market
I was so distraught that we went back to Tsukiji Business Ban Hotel and crashed for another 3 hours before exploring the nearby vicinity of Tsukiji Fish Market. It was a bad call.

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Long Queue @ Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し, Tsukiji Fish Market
I should have continued to Daiwa Sushi. By the time we arrived, the queue was so tremendous that staff had to stop us from queuing! The locals recommended us to try Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿しinstead.

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Interior @ Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し, Tsukiji Fish Market
Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿しis a small "shop" with 14 counter seats for diners, which explained the queue outside the shop. After we were seated, we had to tuck the bags between our legs and sit upright to allow sufficient space for the waitress to move around.

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Uni Don @ Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し, Tsukiji Fish Market (2,700yen)
Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し took my first time with this loaded uni don. I did not know what to expect but at least I had the comfort that it would be one of the freshest in Tsukiji Fish Market. I wasn't wrong. Their uni was so fresh that it was sweet. Texture wise, you could almost relate it to gelato, sans the creaminess.

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Omakase Set @ Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し, Tsukiji Fish Market (3,900yen)
Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し also took my first time with their omakase set. The risk of ordering an omakase set is having seafood that you do not like. Luck must be on my side as the 12 nigiri-zushi handpicked by the chef was more to my liking.

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Omakase Set @ Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し, Tsukiji Fish Market (3,900yen)
Since we were sharing an omakase set with a piece of each type of nigiri-zushi, we had to bargain what to take. The best part of the omakase set was none other than the tuna belly. I must give it to Iwasa Sushi for their top notch freshness. I could definitely help myself with more of the bellies!

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Omakase Set @ Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し, Tsukiji Fish Market (3,900yen)
Each of the nigiri-zushi was perfectly made such that you can take the sushi, turn it around, dip into the soy sauce, and still have it in one piece. Unlike Malaysian's version, you can bet the nigiri-zushi sushi to tear apart the moment you start tilting 90 degree!

Total Damage for 2 Pax = 6,600yen

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Spiny Leg Spider Spotted Along Streets of Tsukiji
After our scrumptious meal in Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し, we packed our luggages and checked out of Tsukiji Business Ban Hotel. Our one night stay in Tsukiji Business Ban Hotel was lovely: not only it was spacious, their bed was ultra comfortable (which made it difficult to get up in the wee hours for fish auction!).

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Roaming in Shibuya
Next stop, we took trains to visit one of the famous cities, Shibuya. We roamed and explored Centre Gai, Tokyu Hands (art shop for art nerds!) etc. Though Shibuya is the centre for youth fashion and culture, I did not shop much.

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Tonkatsu Rice Set @ Ootoya, Shibuya
Few hours later, our legs screamed for a break, so was our tummies. Not knowing what to have, we ended up in Ootoya 大户屋, one of those restaurants serving teishoku (set meals).

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Tonkatsu Soba Set @ Ootoya, Shibuya
Though their portion was generous, their tonkatsu fell short of expectation as it was parched due to overcooking.

Total Damage for 2 Pax = 2,218yen

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Hachiko Statue @ Shibuya
Right after our disappointing meal in Ootoya, we did our only shopping at Don Quixote before heading to Shibuya Crossing and Hachiko Statue. It was stupid of me to be standing at the wrong location to people watch, of which I only found out almost a year after this trip when I was looking at the photos! So now, hear me out, when you are at Shibuya Crossing, look for Starbucks and head right there.

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Ippudo Ramen 一风堂, Ebisu
For dinner, we decided upon Ippudo Ramen 一风堂, which was painful to find. After 30 minutes of walking from Ebisu Station that we realised that we were on the wrong direction. You can imagine the joy when we finally spotted Ippudo Ramen 一风堂!

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Ippudo Karaka @ Ippudo Ramen 一风堂, Ebisu (880yen)
To complement the cold weather, I ordered a bowl of Ippudo Karaka with level 5 ultra extra spices, which aroused much curiosity in the kitchen. For fear that I couldn't handle the spiciness, the kitchen staff actually offered chilies in a saucer for me.

With Shiromaru Classic pork soup as its base, Karaka introduces spicy miso topping, mixed with herbs and spices. It offered the best of both worlds: that complex layers in pork soup and added dimension (spiciness), which I personally enjoyed very much.

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Shiromaru Special @ Ippudo Ramen 一风堂, Ebisu
The tanner half ordered Shiromaru Special, which uses Ippudo's original pork soup and ultra thin noodles. I found it similar to Ippudo Karaka, sans the spiciness.

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Gyozas @ Ippudo Ramen 一风堂, Ebisu (220yen)
To top up, we ordered 5pcs gyoza, which was decent, though still couldn't match those of Harajuku Gyozaro 原宿餃子樓.

Total Damage for 2 Pax = 2,080yen

IN SUMMARY,

My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • Onigiri-ya Marutoyo, Tsukiji - 1/5
    • 上井 -2/5
    • Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し 4/5
    • Ootoya 大户屋 - 3/5
    • Ippudo Ramen 一风堂 - 4/5
  • Price 
    • Onigiri-ya Marutoyo, Tsukiji - 2/5
    • 上井 - 5/5
    • Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し - 4/5
    • Ootoya 大户屋 - 2/5
    • Ippudo Ramen 一风堂 - 5/5
  • Food
    • Onigiri-ya Marutoyo, Tsukiji - 3/5
    • 上井 -  5/5
    • Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し - 5/5
    • Ootoya 大户屋 - 2/5
    • Ippudo Ramen 一风堂 - 5/5
  • Verdict
    • Onigiri-ya Marutoyo, Tsukiji - If you are not a fan of rice ball, you may well skip this and save your calories for some other goodies in Tsukiji
    • 上井 - Good ramen at super cheap price
    • Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し - Try it, you will like it!
    • Ootoya 大户屋 - Definitely not recommended if you have better alternative
    • Ippudo Ramen 一风堂 - I would definitely come again.

My personal attractions verdicts for:
  • Tsukiji Fish Market - Wake up very early to go to the fish auction market. Ask beforehand where exactly it is to avoid disappointment
  • Malls around Shibuya - If you are not planning to shop, you may as well save your energy to Shibuya Crossing and people watch
  • Shibuya Crossing and Hachiko Statue - Go to Starbucks and have a cuppa while people watching

DINING INFO:

Onigiri-ya Marutoyo, Tsukiji
4-9-9 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Operation Hours: 3am - 2pm (Mon - Sat), closed on Sun
Tel: N/A
Credit Cards: No

上井
4-9-16 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Operation Hours: N/A
Tel: +81 3-3542-0620
Credit Cards: No

Iwasa Sushi 岩佐寿し
5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
Operation Hours: 6am - 2pm (Mon - Fri), 6am - 3pm (Sat), closed on Sun
Tel: +81 3-3544-1755
Credit Cards: No

Ootoya 大户屋
1 Chome-20-7 Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0041, Japan
Operation Hours: 11am - 11pm
Tel: +81 3-3770-5063
Credit Cards: Yes

Ippudo Ramen 一风堂
Japan, 〒150-0012 Tokyo, Shibuya, Hiroo, 1 Chome−1−3−13, ハイネス恵比寿
Operation Hours: 11am - 3am (Mon - Thurs), 11am - 4am (Fri, Sat & Holiday Eves), 11am - 2am (PH)
Tel: +81 3-5420-2225
Credit Cards: No

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