|Trays and trays of sashimi-grade fish and other seafood in the fridge - take your pick.|
It's not the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, but Tsukiji grocery-cafe-restaurant (237 High St, Prahran) definitely has their fans amongst sashimi-lovers in Melbourne.
I only sigh because I never got around to visiting this place until the few weeks before I was due to move interstate, despite it only being half an hour's walk from my apartment for the past several years. But I made up for lost time, you bet I did. In the space of just 18 days, I managed to visit Tsukiji not once, not twice, but three times.
The first time around, my lunch date and I kept it simple by ordering one sashimi set each, which came with assorted sashimi, rice, miso soup, and a smidgen of seaweed salad. The fish was of excellent quality and tasted very fresh. My friend, upon taking a bite, exclaimed, "melts in your mouth".
|Sashimi set ($15).|
We enjoyed our meal so much that we decided to get takeaway for dinner, too. I grabbed a few trays of raw fish from the fridge, and had them slice it up for me - which they do for free - to take home.
|A succulent, dewy, exquisite selection of sashimi ($11.90).|
I chose the smallest pieces of raw fish - one modest portion each of sea perch, salmon, tuna, gurnard, and hapuka. After getting home, I put my sashimi treasures in the fridge, and opened it up not too long afterwards for an early dinner - I wanted to savour the fish while they were still reasonably fresh.
As expected, the tuna and salmon were beautifully creamy, like what I already had for lunch. As for the white fish, the gurnard and hapuka were firmer, and had more of a bite. The sea perch was surprisingly tender, delightfully gentle. It was a fun and tasty selection and I was happy with my choices.
|Salmon, Hapuka, Gurnard, Tuna, Sea Perch.|
The following weekend, a friend visited from Adelaide, just to catch up before I go - isn't that just awesome! - and I brought him and his partner to Tsukiji. We went all out - in addition to the usual suspects, we also had generous amounts of scallops, uni (sea urchin), and toro (tuna belly). I can't remember exactly how much it all ended up costing us but I believe it was around $25 per person. We would easily have paid twice that in any other Japanese restaurant in Melbourne, considering the luxurious, sought-after items that were on our plate.
|One of the sections of our luxurious sashimi platter.|
Seriously, my interstate guests went crazy at the fridge section, picking out two trays of toro, claiming that they can't get that stuff in Adelaide. The label doesn't specify whether it's chutoro or otoro, but looking at the marbling I'd say it's the latter. Fatty, rich, totally decadent - and I can only have a tiny bit before it becomes too much for me. No matter, for my friends merrily devoured it all.
|Why, yes, there is such a thing as too much toro (tuna belly).|
I went back to Tsukiji for a last hurrah when Simon came over, and we caught up with a friend there, too. They both ordered unagi don - yes, there is a hot food menu, even if I tend to neglect its existence - I had a taste of the glazed grilled eel, and it was delicious. But it is still difficult to go past the sashimi here...
|Gorgeous ruby-red tuna sashimi.|
Even though it was winter, I opted to have a dessert of their black sesame ice cream. It seems to be a homemade version that looks like it was frozen in a small plastic tub, before being turned out into a bowl. Needless to say, the presentation wasn't the most attractive, and the texture was a little hard. However, it had a nice subtle sweetness, and the black sesame flavour rang loud and clear. I had no problems finishing it at all.
|Black sesame ice cream.|
Anyway, I guess for the month of July, I had enough sashimi to tide me over for a while, in case I don't get any more raw fish for the rest of the year.
As for the rest of you who still reside in Melbourne - if you want to eat in at Tsukiji, get in right when they open at noon to secure a seat - just in case. Otherwise, there's always takeaway.