This is the question I have not had the right answer for yet.
I was taking a guest to Tsukiji the other morning to see the market. As we wandered around, she asked “Can we go for sushi?” It was 8:30 in the morning.
I replied, “Sushi? Well, I don’t think we can get in. But let’s see. If the line is short, maybe…”
We weaved through the crowded narrow streets full of people, bicycles, or occasional crazy giant Segway-like carts rushing through, finally getting to check out the lines in front of the sushi places. As expected, they were pretty long. So, I took her to Takahashi, a tiny seafood restaurant with a counter that seats 10 people or so. That kind of tiny restaurant is pretty typical here.
With only 20 minutes or so wait, we were inside and I ordered Kinme-no-nitsuke, alfonsino cooked in slightly sweet soy and katsuo broth while my guest had big bowl of anago don. All good.
Where to eat breakfast at Tsukiji always presents a serious and difficult question–Always. I had eaten at Sakae Sushi around 11:00 in Tsukiji jogai, the previous week, and that was good. I found them in what is my own personal restaurant search method. To tell you truth, I asked a bean shop owner where I should go. He lead me to this tiny place in the alley behind his shop. It seats two at the counter and about 10 more on chairs at tables spread in the alley. By the time I got my first plate of nigiri, there were other people waiting or being turned away for being too busy. Good sushi.
A couple months ago, a friend took me to Tsukiji Shokudo, also in jogai, well before the lunch hour rush. Tsukiji Shokudo is one of the larger restaurants that tends to fill up quickly. They are so busy that, as soon as we walked into, we were greeted like this, “Have you been here before? We do not accept any new customers.” My brunch partner had been there before, so we managed to get in. I ordered fish cooked in broth and the food was excellent as well as being good value.
On one other visit, I had anago tempura-don at Tenbo at Tsukiji jonai, in the market area. I did not have to wait to get in and as I recall, it was excellent. Nutty tempura!
After all that, my guest, who was completely overwhelmed by the number of people at that early hour of the day, asked if I had a favorite place to eat in Tsukiji. I paused for a moment and said, “Actually, this is kind of boring, but I like the sandwich shop next to Mosuke-dango.” If you don’t spot the sweetshop, keep an eye out for the very first Yoshinoya restaurant: my sandwich destination is just a couple stores down the alley from there.
This sandwich shop sells jam sandwiches, katsu sandwiches and so on: nothing special. One day at Tsukiji, I was so hungry and could not find any onigiri, so I settled for a katsu sando. As soon as I paid, I started to devour the sandwich on the spot, standing in front of the shop. The guy at the register called out from inside the cashier’s window, “You can sit inside and eat. Goyukkuri dozo.” What a relief it was not to be interrogated, rushed to order, or stared at by other hungry patrons eager to get into a restaurant! Inside, at the end of a formica table, I spotted a plastic bottle cut in half holding some reading glasses, left out as common pair for their regulars. There were guys there who had just finished their work at the market, smoking and reading the papers, probably just like every other day of the week.
So my search for a good breakfast place in Tsukiji still continues, but I am happy to report my guest really enjoyed her first Tsukiji breakfast at Takahashi. We even followed that up with some oden and BBQ scallops out of storefronts on the streets of jogai, as a second late-morning snack.