The beloved wholesale fish market may have packed up and moved to Toyosu, but Tsukiji, with its charming labyrinth of market stalls, restaurants and shops, is still very much worth your time. While most of the action in Tsukiji goes on in the morning when the remaining outer market is operating, the neighbourhood is now slowly establishing itself as an after-dark destination, where excellent food and drink can be savoured on the cheap. Here are some superb restaurants and bars, which are all set on ensuring that Tsukiji remains an essential stop on the Tokyo foodie trail even in its post-market era.
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Nightlife in Tsukiji
Opened in July 2018 just as many joints around it were preparing to close their doors forgood due to the wholesale market’s impending move to Toyosu, this bar is run by an event-planning business based in Tsukiji. Worried about what the future of the neighbourhood would look like once the market left, the company’s staff decided to do their part in keeping the streets alive.
The resulting tavern specialises in craft beer, with five or six brews on tap at all times. The selection changes regularly, so you can always look forward to something new. Beers are available in both regular (¥800) and small (¥500) sizes, so you can work your way through more of the selection. The bar also has a popular billiards table allowing you to combine craft beer with shots.
Most Tokyoites close out an evening of drinking with a bowl of ramen, but in Tsukiji you’ll do well to opt for udon instead. And not just any old bowl of the thick wheat noodles: specifically, the curry udon from Itadori Uramise. Served in a creamy but not too heavy curried soup made with bonito broth, the dish is available in regular (¥800) and half (¥520) sizes – opt for the latter if you’re concerned about overdoing it. If not, consider topping your bowl with a piece of shrimp tempura (¥400).
The quintessential old-school Tokyo cafeteria, Takeno has been keeping locals well-fed on cheap classics such as stewed fish, katsudon (pork cutlet over rice) and yakisoba (stir-fried noodles) for a good 80 years now. Approximately the same number of dishes can also bespotted on its ‘menu’, which consists of hastily scribbled slips plastered all over the shop walls. While lunchtime is its busiest time, many people also frequent Takeno for its small izakaya-style dishes, which make up the majority of orders in the evenings.
For a seasonal speciality, you can’t go wrong with one of the sashimi platters – the one with three kinds of fresh fish (two whitefish plus tuna) for ¥1,250 is particularly good value. And if you’re visiting between October and April, don’t miss out on the deep-fried oysters, made with seafood fresh and premium enough to be eaten raw. Expertly prepared to be crunchy on the outside and rare on the inside, these creamy and flavourful bivalves are addictive.
Noodle shops serving shrimp-based soups aren’t uncommon in Japan, but few joints can compete with Ebikin. A remarkable 50 sweet shrimp go into every bowl of soup for the Ebisoba (¥830), which is served with homemade noodles and a generous amount of ground shrimp. All that is topped with soft char siu, a boiled egg, leek and fried onion, plus the obligatory handful of mini-shrimp. Although you’ll be compelled to slurp up every last drop, hold your horses: when you’ve finished the noodles, ask the staff to convert your leftover soup into one very shrimpy rice porridge instead – it’s free, so why wouldn’t you?
Kaisendon (sashimi over rice) is probably still the single most popular meal in Tsukiji, and Marukita does these bowls of seafood with panache. While it’s famed for serving them from 5am almost every day, a lesser-known fact is that the restaurant actually turns into an izakaya from 3pm. That means the menu, which in the morning only lists kaisendon and sushi, expands to include seasonal seafood appetisers, grilled scallops and other booze-compatible eats, in addition to about a dozen types of sake.
But the kaisendon here is the major draw: while the popular ikura (salmon roe) and tuna with salmon options start from ¥1,000, we recommend spending ¥2,500 for Marukita’s ‘omakase-don’ – a luxurious bowl topped with a daily selection of 11 kinds of seafood. The exact contents vary by season, with typical choices including super-fresh shrimp, fatty tuna, salmon, scallops, salmon roe and uni (sea urchin).
There’s only room for ten diners along the counter at this intimate French restaurant, hidden away on a backstreet towards Namiyoke Shrine. When slipping into your seat, the first thing you’ll notice is the row of bottles with spices and herbs lined up in front of you, providing a hint of things to come. Seafood of the quality you’d expect from a fancy sushi joint is prepared with extreme attention to detail, and turned into unconventional but utterly delicious French-style dishes using the aforementioned array of seasonings.
Our personal favourite dish is the abalone steak (¥4,800), steamed for an impressive eight hours before grilling. This time-consuming process results in a wonderfully soft meat, which is then served with a sauce combining abalone liver with fermented sansho pepper to really bring out the umami. All mains come with simply grilled, naturally sweet seasonal vegetables, which are some of the best in Tokyo. For the full experience, have your meal with a ‘spicy highball’, made with Japanese whisky plus a sprinkling from those ever shaking spice bottles. If you ask, the staff will even switch things up with a pepper or herb of your choice.
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