Leave it to social media to unearth another “hidden gem”. Once Tokyo’s best-kept secret, Tsujihan Zeitaku Don‘s fame has exploded online, thanks to the proliferation of its one and only dish – kaisendon piled high with chopped tuna and shellfish, and topped with overflowing ikura and uni that would make a seafood lover weep.
While Tsujijhan is one of the numerous food chains to dot Tokyo’s foodie map, its Nihonbashi branch is the most famous and visited among locals and tourists. Queues are known to run around the block, with average wait times spanning over two hours.
Not one to let proximity go to waste – Muji Hotel was a mere 10-minute train ride away – I hopped on the bandwagon, hoping to satisfy my curiosity – and cravings, for this supposedly life-changing kaisendon.
When’s the best time to queue for Tsujihan Zeitaku Don? 9.30am – 9.45am is your best bet if you wish to snag the first seating at 11am and avoid the infamous queue. Had I arrived at my initial time of 10am, I would have had to contend with waiting for the second or even third seating.
Needless to say, with every minute came another three to four newcomers, and the immediate area was already bustling with anticipation 5 minutes before opening time. If you thought queues for Japan were on another level, well – they’ve been on steroids since pandemic restrictions were lifted.
Stepping into Tusjihan, you get a sense of brisk efficiency. From the chef in the far corner chopping tuna, to the next pair occupying themselves with assembling each bowl, the very picture wouldn’t look out of place with one of those cafe management mobile games.
Depending on your appetite, you can go for one of four sizes:
- Ume (¥1,250) with salmon roe, tuna, fatty tuna, shrimp, clam, squid, herring roe, cucumber, and leek
- Take (¥1,650) – Ume with salmon roe and crab
- Matsu (¥2,200) – Ume with salmon roe, sea urchin, and crab
- Tokujyo (¥3,600) – Ume with double portions of salmon rose and sea urchin
Top-ups for salmon roe and sea urchin are available at ¥400 and ¥500 respectively. The Matsu (¥2,200) is the most popular, judging by the number of orders called out from the queue. It’s one of the more bang-for-buck options with the most variety of seafood and a generous base of rice.
Each don is served with four thick slices of sea bream sashimi. The oft-practised way of consuming your meal here is to finish half of the rice, request for soup, then enjoy the rest as chazuke with the sashimi cooked to your liking.
So, is Tsujihan Zeitaku Don worth the two hour wait?
The seafood is certainly fresh and delicious, and I loved the hand-chopped textures which lent the bowl a homely feel. The uni for my bowl was also rich but not overpowering. I did find a couple of chunks that were a tad large for my liking, but I suppose that’s what you get with food that is hand-chopped quickly. Taste-wise, it’s decent but I would say I’ve had more memorable meals if not for the insane hype it’s garnering right now.
That said, I thought the sea bream sashimi, with its thickness and umami sauce, and the soup were the highlights.
Tsujihan Zeitaku Don is worth a try if you’re staying nearby or are an early enough riser to beat the queue. Otherwise, you can also check out its sister outlets at Ark Hills Akasaka and Tokyo Midtown Roppongi, where there are virtually no queues.
Address: Japan, 〒103-0027 Tokyo, Chuo City, Nihonbashi, 3 Chome−1−15 久栄ビル １階
Nearest Station: Tokyo/ Nihombashi
Opening Hours: 11am – 9pm daily
Contact: +81 3 6262 0823