This blog post is quite bloody. We are going to eat like Flintstones. Jige at Tsujiki is a Kushiyaki Sake Bar, but their claimed to fame was their serving of Bone-in Tuna Sashimi called Maguro Nakaochi (鮪中落ち).
First we started with several appetisers, compliments of the restaurant. We had Shishamo (Smelt Fish, ししゃも) and Akabai (Brother Neptune Whelk，エゾボラモドキ) grilled over Binchotan (備長炭) on a Shichirin Hida Konro (七輪飛騨こんろ, small tabletop BBQ grill).
We ordered a “Tsukiji Special” Sashimi Moriwase – and it came with Hokkigai (Live Surf Clam, 活ホッキ貝), Madai (Sea Bream, 真鯛), Buri (Yellowtail, 鰤), Chutoro (Fatty Tuna, 中とろ) and Tako (Octopus, 蛸). If you were wondering if the clam had gone bad, here’s a little trivial.
The Mystery of Hokkigai
Hokkigai (ホッキガイ/北寄貝) is a Surf Clam (Spisula sachalinensis) found around the waters of the Hokkaido. These are slightly different from their cousins in Canada (and elsewhere) called the Arctic Surf Clam (Mactromeris polynyma). OK, this is a food blog, so how do they differ then? Surf Clam, when raw or live, is rather dull grey in colour, and when blanched or cooked, is pinkish. Arctic Surf Clam, on the other hand, is slightly pinkish when raw and bright red when cooked. Texture wise, Surf Clam is crunchy when raw and cooked, Arctic Surf Clam has a better texture when cooked. I have never had an Arctic Surf Clam raw before.
Canada introduced the Arctic Surf Clam to Japan in the late 80s, it did not take off as a sushi ingredient until the early 90s, and since then (surprise, surprise), Hong Kong is biggest importer of Arctic Surf Clam from Canada and most budget sushi chain would serve this varietal and still call them Hokkigai ホッキ貝/北寄貝. So to differentiate this, the Japanese sushi and fish restaurant of repute will differentiate it by calling it 活ホッキ貝 or Live Surf Clam. In Chinese, it’s easier, Surf Clam is 北寄貝 (Clam from the North, in Japanese) and Arctic Surf Clam is 北極貝 which literally means Clam from Arctic. Their pronunciations are similar (smart marketing and product positioning on the part of the Canadians). #ClapClapClap
Maguro Nakaochi (鮪中落ち)
The best cuts of the bluefin tuna were served as otoro, chu toro, akami. What was usually left was the bone that still have morsels of goodness stuck in the curvature of the bone. At Jige, one was served the bone-in tuna and one was expected to scrap the tuna off the bone. How, one might ask? Simply with one half of a clam shell.
One was given a clam shell and you can start by scrapping the easy parts off the bones. Then the backbone was more difficult but deep in flavour.
And when you get sick of eating the same flavour over and over, the waitress came over and offered to serve the remaining tuna in another way – Korean-style mixed in a chilli paste or Japanese style in a sesame-yuzu sauce. We opted for the Korean style.
The maguro was lightly tossed in soy sauce and sesame oil, and well-seasoned with Gochujang. It was topped with scallions, a raw egg yolk and seaweed, a savoury tartare that we would definitely do at home.
As we were in a Kushiyaki bar, we could order some BBQ stuff. The grilled chamame was delicious, so were the Gingko nuts. I wouldn’t say the same for the rest, as I enjoyed other Kushiyaki shops like Toriyoshi and Sumika better. The grilled tomato wrapped with bacon トマトベーコン was a great idea, tangy and savoury at the same time – must try in the next BBQ.
Next up, Grilled Wild Rice (Makomotake, まこもたけ), or more correctly, the stem of the wild rice plant. It has the texture of bamboo shoot, while common in Japan during this time (Summer), it was quite rare outside of the country.
And then another complimentary course on the Hiba Konro, grilled Shishito (Sweet Pepper) and Satsuma-age (Fried fish cake).
The chef highly recommended their Sea Urchin and Scallop Gratin (雲丹と帆立のグラタン). It was a generous serving of Hokkaido Uni and Scallop on a gratin served on a scallop shell.
We ended the evening with Grilled Rice Ball with Shimanto River Rock Laver Paste (Shimantogawa Iwanori Yaki Onigiri 四万十川岩のり焼きおにぎり). I usually put the paste into my Japanese porridge in the morning. It was really delicious on a rice ball as well.
The place was cosy and beware, the staff did not speak any Japanese. We got the secretary to book and reserve the Maguro Nakaochi (must reserve, limited supply) but once there, we were on our own. But they did have English menu, and it was a good time to polish up my really bad Japanese.
Price was around US$80 per head with a couple of highballs, so in the scheme of things in Japan, it was a not too expensive for the salaryman to have a drink and a bite after work. And that’s the crowd you get there as well.
NIT Tsukiji Building, 2-14-3, Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0045
Access Subway Hibiya Line Tsukiji Station 1-minute walk
Hours Monday – Friday Lunch: 11:30 – 14:00(L.O.13:30)
Monday – Saturday Dinner: 17:00 – 23:00(L.O.22:30)
Close Every Sunday Holiday
Date visited: Sep 2017