Tokyo Takeover: Sushi Three Ways

Edogin 4-5-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku

Edogin, right outside the Tsukiji Fish Market, is where we had our first dinner in Tokyo. It was chosen primarily for it's proximity to our hotel in Shibuya as well as its moderate price. The restaurant itself is pretty bare bones and, honestly, smells a bit like fish market when you first enter but don't let that dissuade you. Most of the staff seemed to have pretty limited English but there's plenty of English on the menu and pictures at which you can point. Despite our total lack of Japanese, the staff was very friendly and enthusiastic and gave us glasses of Sake as "service".

Dan ordered the Chirashi and I ordered a Tekkadon bowl. We also were given a cold soup side dish. The broth was incredibly savory with a lot of wilted leeks but I have no idea what the cold, fluffy pink ball was. The texture was a little bit too weird for me, and I gave it to Dan to finish. We were both extremely happy with our meals. Dan's Chirashi was incredibly generous and varied and he describes his mood afterwards as being "high on fishes". He didn't let me sample much from his bowl but I remember the yellowtail being especially delicious and the rich, salty roe to die for. My tuna was also beautifully tender and flavorful and seemed to be so freshly dyed, it was staining the warm, perfectly seasoned rice. It was a great first dinner in Japan. I definitely recommend Edogin if you're staying in Shimbashi or if you're looking for fish market quality but aren't interested in fish market breakfast. The only reason we only went there once was because there were so many other places in Tokyo we wanted to try.

Uobei Sushi 2-29-11 Dogenzaka, Shibuya

Uobei Sushi (or as we like to call it in our house, "Robot Sushi") was what happened a few days after Edogin when Dan asked "Where can we go where I can just keep ordering sushi until I explode?". Our Lonely Planet guide didn't have much to offer in the way of conveyer belt sushi places, so we both started searching on our phone and came across different articles mentioning Uobei. Most of the sushi at Uobei works out to being one dollar a piece (with a few specials that cost two dollars and rolls that work out to less) so this was exactly the place for Dan to order endlessly AND was way higher on novelty than your average conveyer belt place.

There was quite a line when we got to Uobei but it moved pretty quickly. When you get to the front of the line you'll get a small clipboard for each person with your station number on it. Once you find your seats, you'll see a small touch screen above you (which can be switched to English!) from which you can order up to three plates at a time. The plates arrive on a tray that will stop in front of you on one of the three tracks, you take your plates off, push a button that indicates the plates have been removed and the tiny robot goes whizzing back to the kitchen. Some plates definitely take longer than others, so they won't necessarily arrive three at a time, or in the sequence you ordered them. Most of the options are pretty standard but there are few fancier specials, including the "lean meat with foie gras" that I ordered. It was one of the most unfamiliar flavor combinations I've ever had but surprisingly delicious. Some of the fish, like salmon, have options at a few different price points and while even the cheapest is pretty enjoyable, you definitely get what you pay for.

Along with sushi, you can also order beer, miso soup and various sides from the computer (they even had my beloved fries smothered in mentaiko mayonnaise). There's cups, green tea powder and a hot water spout at each station as well as endless tiny packets of wasabi, soy sauce and plenty of pickled ginger. If you get a little over-zealous with the ordering, they even have to go boxes above every seat. When you've eaten sushi until you're ready to burst, bring your clipboards back up to the register and they'll scan them for you. I think even with ordering beer and some of the special plates we spent less than thirty five dollars total and left too stuffed to move.

Sushi-Bun 5-2-1-#8 tsukiji, chuo-ku

The place we went to for our fish market breakfast didn't allow pictures, so here's a business card instead. We weren't committed to get up for the tuna auction on our last morning in Tokyo but we did get to the fish market a little after 7:00 a.m. I'm not sure if it was because it was Golden Week or if we came too late, but most of the well known places already had lines way longer than we were willing to wait in. We basically made our decision by choosing a place that looked popular but not so popular we wouldn't make it back to the hotel in time to get to our early afternoon flight. Sushi-Bun has you choose one of the menu options while you're still waiting in line and we both went with the most basic set of eight pieces which I think was around $30 each. They were doing seatings every thirty minutes, which is fine, it shouldn't take you that long to eat eight pieces of nigiri but the interior was quite small and I was cramped in the corner. I couldn't tell you everything that we ate but it was all very fresh and I enjoyed watching the chefs work behind the counter. The selection that morning had a few more chewy things than was really appealing to me for breakfast (I generally avoid squid, octopus or anything similarly textured) and even Dan felt similarly. While I think fish market breakfast is an experience to be had, the quality and value of our meal at Edogin, right outside the market, seemed much better. Maybe we should've gotten in one of the mile long lines.