Special Dispatch: Daiwa Sushi, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo
Central Ward 6
Tsukiji Fish Market
by Hashley Brown on location
Very few great breakfasts start at 4:30am, but the sleep sacrifice required to dine in the world’s greatest fish market is nothing when compared to the sublime gastronomic event that shortly follows.
A teeming fishy empire that grinds awake at 3am to grade and trade arguably the greatest fish in the sea, the tuna, is a fish lover's paradise. Men wielding 6 foot knives carve huges sides of fat marbled yellowfin amidst a veritable cornucopia of octopus and squid. Foot long clams jostle for space with piles of still wriggling prawns and mountains of fish roe, whilst all around the rest of the undersea world is haggled and sold.
It is amidst the briny turmoil that those who come to shop and look can feast on the freshest sushi breakfast imaginable. Surrounding the market innumerable restaurants take the fruit of the sea and transform it from its flapping primal state into the delicate form that is sushi. From amidst the sea of restaurants a few stand out – those marked by the queues of people waiting from 5am in the sharp New Year air for a taste of what’s inside.
And so after an hour in the cold, with expectations growing after every queuing minute, we arrive at the counter of Daiwa Sushi. ¥3000 (£15) buys the house set menu and so begins a flurry of activity, as hot green tea and miso soup with tiny clams are brought to the counter at which we sit. From behind this counter chefs craft gems that are eaten by hand from a wooden shelf, accompanied by a rosy pile of pickled ginger. And what a feast! Nigiri of Toro (fatty tuna), Buri (yellowtail), Uni (sea urchin) and Anago (grilled eel) each take their turn as do Maguro maki (tuna roll) and Ika (squid) - small mounds of rice topped with sumptuous cuts of fish as fresh as the hour they were pulled from the sea.
Unlike any other meal of the day this breakfast is imbued with magic. As the furore of the market roars on and the queues outside grow longer, from the peace of the sushi counter comes the realisation that no other breakfast can quite compare.