Tsukiji Japanese Restaurant
130-135, 4751 Garden City Road
(604) 276 2628
In some foreigner’s minds, the words TSUKIJI SHIJO – for those who are aware and/or can first of all even pronounce it correctly – conjures up the image of the immense market in the unglamorous, working class Tsukiji district of Tokyo that is considered the largest wholesale seafood market in the world. I had the pleasure many years ago of spending two weeks here, working with some seafood buyers, specifically learning the ins-and-outs of the domestic and import (mainly from Taiwan) UNAGI market, and exploring the hidden back tunnels and hallways that make up the inner workings of the market. Oh, and not to mention having the chance to eat some of the freshest sushi on a daily basis!
Thus I found it interesting that a restaurant had chosen to use this well known ‘brand’ as the formal name of their business. Would most Canadians just think of it as some hard to read/pronounce Japanese word, perhaps believing it was a surname or a city name in Japan (given all those places that use such generic geographic references in their naming)?
To combat this or to maybe spread the knowledge/rationale, the proprietors of Tsukiji Japanese Restaurant have included an image of the tuna auction area of the market on their business card, and as well have provided a direct link on their website to the Wikipedia entry for TSUKIJI SHIJO. What’s that worth, I’ll leave it up to you, the reader…
Half order 4 pcs. ($12.00) of KANPACHI. With the general confusion that arises with this fish in Japan, with its strong physical resemblance to its close cousins such as BURI and HIRAMASA, I turned to a friend of mine who works as a buyer for a major player in the Japanese seafood business called Nippon Suisan (better known as Nissui) to get a layman’s explanation.
The return message was longer than I was expecting and too detailed in a marine biologist kind of way, but to sum, he told me that for KANPACHI, the best season is summer through late autumn, whereas BURI is more summer to autumn, and HIRAMASA is just summer. He tells me that for most people, its really difficult to differentiate between this trio of fish, but that clues do lie in the body colour, the roundness of their bellies, the shape (sharpness) of their noses, and a structural variation in a small area around their eyes.
Not being an expert, but I did notice in the slice that I ate here, that there was an absence of a good layer of fat, that would suggest it was caught more in the warmer months. I tend to find that this distinction of “seasonality of catch”, is more easier to pick up when the fish is eaten in a cooked form. In Japanese, they often say “ABURA GA NOTTERU”, which literally translated could mean “the fat is on”, and is used to describe when the fish meat is at its seasonal best.
I did not get a chance to really review their seasonal seafood selections, but they do claim to make fresh choices available – perhaps a return visit will yield more. Unfortunately, on this visit, we were very pressed for time, and thus no further sampling was conducted.
CHAWAN MUSHI ($4.50) – steamed egg custard with chicken & seafood. As a child, this was a dish that I enjoyed immensely, easily eating three or four of them in a single setting. So whenever I see it on a menu, I am more than happy to try it out, and I was pleasantly surprised with the Tsukiji version, as it had a tame mild flavoring throughout, without an overpowering salty base as often happens, and it was clear they had incorporated an authentic dashi element in its creation. The custard itself held together nicely with neither too soft or too dense a consistency and the other ingredients (eg. shiitake, chicken, etc.) was distributed generously inside.
CHIRASHI SUSHI ($18.50) – we later realized that almost the exact same components in this dish were in the one below (sushi): maguro, shake, amaebi, uni, tobiko, hokkigai, ika & tamago – aside from the California roll of course.
As I was the one dining on this – the DELUXE ASSORTED SUSHI ($19.50) – I’ll make my comments on the individual components. But overall, as you can see from the image, some of the nigiri were very small. The amaebi almost looked like it was a mini-version and the accompanying rice was just as narrow and tiny. The ika followed the same downsized cut and was almost paper thin. Of the rest, nothing was really special nor anything that I would say you couldn’t get at any run-of-the-mill place in Vancouver. So for sushi, I’m thinking that its probably not their strong suit.
In closing, I would say that I did like the interior layout and total asthetic, as it had a nice earthy feel with all of the light colored wood used, and it was better quality that the same type of look that I found at Suga Sushi.