[Tokyo, Japan] - The magical shumai and Chuka style ramen at Yajima (Tsukiji) pre move to Toyosu, food fitting for fish market workers and Japanese locals


#1

Finally made it here to the Tsukiji Inner Market eatery known as Yajima やじ満. As of writing they have formally relocated to the new Toyosu fish market, but there is something about going to the original location that is rooted in history, and you cannot beat the atmosphere. It just won’t be the same in the new digs.

While tourists from SE Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, USA/Europe line up anywhere from 3 to 6 hours (on Tsukiji’s final few days) for the popular sushi eateries, on the day of my visit in mid September, the line was significantly shorter, and no tourists whatsoever. Perhaps the only fearless types to come who are not locals, are Taiwanese who have done their research

Yajima has been around, I don’t know…at least 30 to 40+ years. They offer a niche comfort food known as Chuka Ryori, or Japanese style Chinese food that cater towards specific local tastes. This is a style you won’t quite find at your local regional Chinese or Cantonese joint, yet is total blue collar heavenly deliciousness, and integral to Japanese food culture.

It was like a dive bar in here. Strictly counter seats…think of a diner but it’s entirely noodles, rice, stir fry and the ilk. They open very early and close around mid lunch time…after all this was designed to cater to fish market workers, fishermen, wholesalers etc. During my visit I sat next to one, his Tsukiji style boots were a dead giveaway.

Their ramen here generally is nothing worth a tourist’s detour… as a lot of it is typical Japanese Chinese style stir fry on top of noodles in broth.

However I really wanted to try their seasonal oyster ramen. Unfortunately totally SOL…as September was hot…resulting in a weird crossover of a late summer with some seasonal autumn ingredients coming into play.

My request for oyster ramen got denied but they offered clams ramen in shio broth.

Not bad…but luckily the shop has a super weapon that is not too secretive

House made jumbo pork shumai!!!

Porky, fluffy, puffy, airy, delicate, and absolutely delicious! A dab of Japanese mustard (karashi and you are on your way!) I didn’t know exactly how big it was so I started off with one.

Little did i know how addictive they would become…

And I wolfed one down without realizing…that they had house made chili sauce/oil (La yu). Feeeeeeeeck!

So I had to do this right…plus YOLO + FOMO… I had to do this again properly, with it. And this was a spectacular combination, as you had a little kick, plus acidity from the chili oil to cut, then more kick from a little karashi

To me this was well worth coming here for it. Some may say this is the best jumbo pork shumai vs what you find in the Tsukiji Outer Market stalls.

So if you get a chance to visit Toyosu, and find yourself SOL with other food options, do a little research and try braving the locals only scene of here (don’t think they speak much or any English) and give it a go.

Oh here’s a picture of the oyster ramen I missed (too early at the time for oyster season :sob: )

oyster%20ramen

Schwing!

Yajima (new location now at Toyosu)


#2

Oh yes, Yajima was a delightful place I visited a few years back (my Taiwanese buddy hooked me up, as you surmised so accurately). My Japanese is quite crappy, so I wrote kanji notes to the owner to communicate. Thanks for bringing back some memories.


#3

Taiwan bookstores have lots of Japanese books translated into Chinese for the local market. So there is no shortage of information and knowledge. Plus some Taiwanese speak Japanese fluently (lucky them), it’s a lot easier for them to venture into places like this.

Stay tuned, more reviews of this ilk coming!

I forgot to mention, some sushi chefs eat here on their way to and from picking up their fish, eg Inomata san from Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture. The perfect breakfast of champions :pig:


#4

The oyster ramen looks delicious.


#5

I always wondered why people felt the need to wait hours for Sushi Dai. I just don’t get it, they can get better sushi almost anywhere. Especially when there was so much better food at Tsukiji that wasn’t sushi.


#6

Partly because of the idea and allure of eating raw fresh fish by the fish market, and thinking it’s the best value. They are not aware the best stuff goes to Ginza and other top restaurants willing to pay top dollar (and of course those who have better relationships with the middle wholesalers). It’s like tourists going to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco thinking they are getting the best clam chowder and crab.

The other part is the unwillingness to go out of their comfort zone to explore more local food, or an instant judgement or dislike of chuka ryori, yoshoku/deep fry, washoku, or Italian using Japanese seafood (which honestly are the gems of Tsukiji Market).

My most recent trip to Japan, some of the utmost satisfying meals for me were the blue collar kind (and mid scale blue collar), and of course regional small producer sake to go with those meals.


#7

Hi,
Any specific tips on those types of places in Tokyo? I’m going for the first time soon and have started my research, which is proving to be a massive undertaking. Thanks!


#8

What kind of food are you looking for and what is your comprehension level of Japanese (written and spoken)?


#10

So I have zero comprehension of the language and will be relying on Google Translate and whatever menu translations I can find on Yelp or Tabelog.

I’m interested in sushi, yakitori, ramen, soba and izakaya. I’ll be doing a lot of dining by myself and am going to limit the high-end meals to one sushi lunch. (Still deciding on that. I have a lunch reservation at Manten Sushi Marunouchi because it was one of the few esteemed spots I could make a reservation myself at. Hotel concierge isn’t an option.) I love the local LA Japanese offerings but it’s definitely one of the cuisines that I have the weakest knowledge of. Boozing and convivial atmospheres are a strong plus.

Thanks!


#11

The easiest start would be to head to the new Toyosu market and try to locate these eateries, do a little research online yourself to decide

Yachiyo 八千代 - the lines are ridiculously longer these days as the Asian media (Korea, SE Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong) feature them. They specialize in deep fry seafood and this is true blue collar delight. Splurge and try dai kuruma ebi (jumbo prawns), or a combination fry (aji, anago, oysters, and/or scallops). You can get it as a set with miso soup, pickles, and rice. The tartare sauce that goes with it is very, very good. This is lumped in as “yoshoku” (western style food for Japanese) but is specialist fry shop. You could also for a fee add curry sauce if you order rice for a small fee. Asian media also raves about a limited edition chashu egg rice plate, of which the chashu is the ramen style…but this is not their forte even if it is considerably good from what I’ve been reading.

Aiyo 愛養 - this is a coffee shop. They have an English menu. Nothing fancy but this place is exactly what Japanese grew up having…soft boiled egg, toast with butter/jam. The coffee is not good by third wave standards but I like it a lot. There’s an atmosphere at least in the old location that is soothing and very neighborhood like. With Toyosu everything is new but hopefully they kept the same vibe. Not the same as going to a Kopitiam or lounging al fresco sipping espresso in Europe…but it is a style of its own and a unique experience. More locals and some Asian tourists.

鮨文 Sushi Bun - 150+ years old. No pictures allowed at least in the old location. Clams are very fresh, but what you really want to do is get a cheap set (minimum one order per person)…I suggest a sashimi set so you don’t get full from the rice, or the nigiri combo that has anago. Then add on anago, awabi, hamaguri just so you can have the thickest tsume (sauce reduction) ever known in Tokyo. It’s like molasses but it’s very delicious. I’d say the best is anago. Try the tamagoyaki, it’s ladened with scallions/leeks and quite decent too (and thick)

Some people like Toritoh 鳥藤, I would just focus on the oyako don here

岩佐寿し Iwasa sushi - the only thing you get here is the clam set (7 pieces or so and a cut roll). There is no other place around that offers so many Japanese shellfish under one roof. They have two varieties of sake and I suggest Houmon Masamune at room temperature if you like something more dry, masculine, and lots of umami and some acidity. Prior to going in, take a look at the specials menu, which will be the names of fish of the day (or clams)…if your google app translate works, consider adding on, depending on what is in season. I did a shellfish fest that day, and I think I added on abalone and ishigaki kai (probably not in season by the time you go)

天房 Tenfusa - tempura shop and quite affordable. This was on my to try list but I didn’t make it. I think you can do combination, but they are also known for their shiba ebi tempura and sometimes you’ll see kobashira (baby adductor muscle/scallops) for tempura as well.

Feel free to explore whatever else is in Toyosu that is not sushi, I’m sure there is deliciousness everywhere to be found. Oh and of course Yajiman (this review) which might have relocated over there already…in which case either try Chashu men or oyster ramen (kaki ramen), and you must have the jumbo shumai (do not leave without trying it).

Oh load up on cash from the ATM before you go to any of these places…

Download the ramen beast app and activate location when you are there and you will find a lot of ramen places. Go to the ramenbeast.com website and I would say look for the non Michelin non high tabelog score places (there is a section called old school, and that would be Chuka Soba true authentic Tokyo style shoyu ramen with chicken stock and maybe some niboshi/dried baby anchovies). Look into a place called Harukiya in Ogikubo http://www.haruki-ya.co.jp/english/ , I did not go but this place has a local cult following. Look for places like this. You can also look for ramen places that are anchored by Japanese Chinese restaurants (Chuka Ryori) that will also have fried rice (cha han), yaki gyoza, amongst other things.

You can find a lot of other local style eateries at places like

Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku (pretty much take your pick) http://www.shinjuku-omoide.com/english/. If you are feeling adventurous, try Ucchan which specializes in innards skewers.

Harmonica Alley Kichijoji

Ebisu Yokocho

and you can also wander around Shibuya, no shortage of very local eating and drinking places and super busy (some may accept walkin’s, some require reservations). There are quite a few around Udawagacho area of Shibuya, and there is a robatayaki drinking place that is staffed by all females for the salarymen types that looks fun (at least from the outside).

If you walk along Yurakucho / Shinbashi station (the subway will run overhead), under the tracks are all these hole in the wall type eateries). Just pick and choose or follow the salarymen and see where they go do their bang bangs before going home. You will see something similar along Ueno station area.

Last but not least, Hoppy Dori, which is a street with a ton of drinking/eating places also some may be tourist friendly, in Asakusa, just outside the super touristy strip. Get the drink called Hoppy which is then mixed with shochu to create a pseudo beer feel. Get some beef and or innards stew, sea snails/conch and whatever else floats your boat, and you have a super excellent blue collar delight. Also explore in and around the area.


#12

For izakaya, I suggest you search tabelog for izakaya in Tokyo, and sort by ranking and see what style suits you.

Some examples:

Ginza Shimada - the chef owner used to work at a famous kappo kaiseki restaurant and his place is standing bar only. most famous dish is shaved mullet roe over soba amongst other things. Research some more and see if this fits you

Kishidaya - from what I read, locals line up before opening and get the gyu suji nikomi (beef sinews/tendon stew) amongst other things.

I’ve heard great things about Kanda Koju (sake bar with lots of snacks) but you probably need to make a reservation before going. Also try to make a reservation for G.E.M. by Moto (there are English articles too online), on my to try list.

Yakitori…do the same thing with tabelog, find a random place sorted by ranking that is not Michelin, and not run by an apprentice of a Michelin place. Chances are you will be happy with your choices. I don’t have any to recommend.

Soba, I don’t know. It may be too late but if you can get a reservation at either kaiseki places Goryukubo, Ichita, or Sonoji (tempura place) they have pretty solid soba to end your meal with. Or else just check tabelog and combine it with research to see if you can walk in or wait it out in line if a super popular place.


#13

Hot damn this is incredibly helpful. Thanks so much for taking the time to write it. Tremendously appreciated. I’ll report back after my trip!