Monday, July 18, 2011

Bright orange lunches

Sapporo fish market is small. Well, let me clarify the scale: Sapporo fish market is tiny compared to Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market but since that is the largest in the world, perhaps that is setting the bar rather high. Compared to the fresh fish counter at Sainsbury's, Sapporo's market is humongous. It is also largely filled with crabs. A Hokkaido speciality, there were huge crabs swimming around in glass tanks, crabs sitting on ice with their legs neatly tucked under them in a crab package and crabs being served up in the restaurants nestled between the stores. It was into one of these that I stopped for lunch.

My guide book particularly recommended not the crab, but the fresh sea urchin and salmon roe. I picked one of the restaurants in the centre of the fish market that had a steady stream of visitors. By trying my usual trick of looking hungry yet solvent, I was guided to a seat and handed a menu with a lot of pictures. After I'd pointed out my selection (a rice bowl with salmon, roe and sea urchin), I sipped my iced tea and looked around. My choice of establishment was one of the larger options with maybe three large tables that could sit about six, another three smaller tables for two and the counter area where I was seated. Many traditional Japanese restaurants are very small, with sometimes just half-a-dozen tall stools pulled up the counter. Somewhat incongruously, this restaurant had Indian music playing continuously through the speakers above my head.

My meal arrived in a spread of florescent orange goodness. Sea urchin in particular looks the opposite of what it is; appearing to be highly processed and faintly radioactive rather than freshly caught that day. It was all excellent. The salmon roe popped in your mouth and the sea urchin had a salty tang.

I left and accidentally walked straight into one of the crab stores opposite. A particularly large specimen snapped a claw at me. I narrowed my eyes; next time buddy, you're mine.


  1. Um... does Sainsbury's even have a fresh fish counter? :-)

  2. I *think* they do? The little downtown versions probably don't, but the proper big supermarkets I thought did... Mind, I can't remember the last time I was in one :)

  3. I'm sure you're right - the proper huge markets must have one, and your point is totally taken. Where I am, Sainsbury's has quite a monopoly on the downtown area, with a modest-size market that nearly every undergraduate goes to. Thus, the shoppers are packed like sardines, even though we might not be able to buy any!

    I've *heard* that it's the most profitable Sainsbury's per square foot in the entire country. The least they could do is have some fresh fish :-)