A brisk morning walk to the fish markets.
I say brisk because Sapporo in Feburary is resolutely cold. We rug up with hats, scarves and jackets, trying to ignore the sub-zero temperatures that greet us as we exit our hotel. The icy pavements are our biggest worry, and I'm still not sure whether it's better to step gingerly across the shiny ice or try to stamp and create some traction.
Piles of snow
It's only a 15 minute walk from our hotel to Nijo Fish Market, a small but lively seafood market that is filled with impressive specimens of crab as well as an assortment of unusual fish. We admire the glistening pearls of salmon roe, little crates of orange sea urchin roe and bags of fat scallops dried into honey-brown discs.
Shoppers at Nijo fish market
Gokko fish (its local name, officially it is known as hotei-uo)
King crab legs
Nijo fish market
It seems sacrilege to have anything but sushi for breakfast when we're this close to a fish market. We find ourselves at Sushi Ya No Yamada, a stand-up sushi bar that has just enough for patrons inside the sliding glass doors.
Chef and owner, Hiroshi Yamada
We're greeted with a cheerful Irrashaimase as we enter. Mugs of hot green tea are immediately presented to us. Behind the sushi bar counter is the smiling happy face of head chef and owner, Hiroshi Yamada.
10-piece kakashi set 2100 yen (about AU$26.25 at the time we travelled)
I opt for the premium sushi set, a selection of ten pieces that includes halibut, toro, scallop, sweet shrimp, surf clam, salmon, samon roe, sea urchin roe, crab and tamago.
The surf clam has quite a crunchy chewiness and the crab is delicately sweet.
Sea urchin roe and salmon roe
My favourites are the scallop - so silkily smooth on the tongue - and the sea urchin roe, which has a buttery briney creaminess.
Tuna sashimi 210yen (about AU$2.60)
Otoro, or tuna belly, is not a fatty as we'd hoped, but an extra order of tuna sashimi is pure bliss. It's unbelievably soft, and almost melts in the mouth.
Making the sushi
Half the fun of the sushi bar is watching the dexterity and precision of the sushi chef at work. It's fascinating to watch him shape the rice using just one hand. I love the neatneass of his tin of pre-cut nori seaweed sheets too.
Nori seaweed sheet tin
With breakfast complete, we're almost ready for lunch.
Nijo Fish Market
South 3-jo East 1- to 2-chome
Chuouku Sapporo Hokkaido, Japan
Open 7 days a week 7am-6pm
The markets are three blocks south of the Sapporo TV Tower.
Sushi Ya No Yamada
South 3, East 1
at Nijo Fish Market
Chuouku Sapporo Hokkaido
Opening hours: 9am-4pm
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5/10/2010 12:59:00 a.m.