Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tokyo Day 2: My Camera Swam with the Cockles

We left the hotel at 6:00 a.m. for Tsukiji Market. That place was amazing - it had tons of the weirdest fish, crustaceans, and other sea dwelling creatures. There were also the hundreds of tuna lining the floor of an air-conditioned warehouse and little tractors being driven around to deliver the tunas to the bidder who won it. 

I had great pictures and a video to document all this, but then my camera died. It jumped from my hands and swam into a styrofoam box of live cockles just when I was taking pictures of them. I was able to save the SD card (for which I don't have a card reader), but not the camera. (Pause here in commemoration of my Lumix Panasonic DMC-FX30).

After the trip to the main market, we went to Sushi-sen, a little shop near the market for breakfast. It was the first time I had sushi for breakfast, let alone an omakase meal. We had extremely fresh raw or half-cooked seafood, and it was "close-your-eyes, I can't believe the taste of this" wonderful. Of course, I had no pictures to document the wonderful things we ate. Boo.

It was a really bad time to lose a camera. After Tsukiji market, we went to the Hama-rikyu Gardens. We had some tea and some cake inside a traditional Japanese house/rest place, saw the gardens and went on to board a ferry that took us down the Sumidagawa river.

We had lunch at a ramen place in Asakusa, and then went on to see the Senso-Ji, featuring an image of Kannon (the Buddhist goddess of mercy) which over 1400 years old. 

After this, Mr. and Mrs. MC went back to the hotel while L. and I walked around the Ginza district. After sweltering in the summer sun for a few hours, we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

Dinner was at a Robatayaki place named Inakaya, where I was served the second best meal of my life (breakfast that morning is third, tempura the night before is fourth). This place was unlike any restaurant I've ever been to - you all sit around a grilling pit where the raw ingredients are spread out in front of you and the chefs are kneeling in front of the pit cooking. The chef asks what you want to eat and you point to the ingredient (fish, crabs, beef, etc.) and he grills it for you. The dishes are painfully simple: just a little salt and the hot fire. The quality of the ingredients, however, is the key. My favorite dish was grilled snapper - juicy, tender, somewhat salty, somewhat sweet and melted in your mouth -  eaten with horseradish and soy sauce.

There were other great hits - the wagyu beef with the ponzu sauce on the side (L says: "This is the best beef I've tasted ever, and I've had my fair share of beef."), the oysters from the Philippines (as our chef pointed out to us), the sweetest corn on the face of the planet earth, the perfectly salted prawns and crabs. Everything was washed down with cold sake (poured traditional style into little wooden boxes that you drink from) and Suntory premium beer.

After the fabulous feast, we headed back down to the hotel bar for a night cap. I had an intriguing cocktail - lychee liqueur and sake. From the bar you could see the Ginza district spread out in front of you, and we all agreed that Tokyo by night is actually much more charming than Tokyo by day.

Lesson learned: Trying to document your trip without a camera is a pain.

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