Is this Japanese supermarket sushi really worth the hype?

There are plenty of places where you can buy sushi in Japan, but one unlikely place that caught the attention of Reddit users online recently was the humble supermarket.

The post that became a hot topic showed a photo of a delicious pack of tuna sushi, with the message, “Supermarket Tuna Sushi in Tokyo“. It wasn’t just overseas Redditors that became interested in the topic, but our own reporter Seiji Nakazawa, who never usually buys supermarket sushi, but this one looked so good that even he was tempted to try it.

Using his detective skills, he set out to buy himself the exact same pack of sushi, after details on the sticker on the pack revealed that it came from a place called “Uoko’s Connoisseur Sushi“, a fresh fish store located inside supermarket chains, mainly from Saitama to western Tokyo.

The closest branch of Uoko’s Connoisseur Sushi was located on the second basement floor of the Seibu Food Hall in Tokyo’s Seibu Ikebukuro, so that’s where he went.

Seibu Ikebukuro is a department store, so the food hall is more like a depachika than a supermarket, which made Seiji wonder whether this Reddit post was entirely trustworthy. Depachika (short for “department chikatetsu” or “department store basement”) are known for being upmarket places to buy food, so they’re a cut above regular supermarket food, with higher price tags to match.

However, the floor guide revealed that this area was home to The Garden Jiyugaoka, which is a high-quality supermarket, so although it’s not the same as your typical local supermarket, Seiji figured it could technically be classified as “supermarket sushi”.

▼ When he arrived at the sales location, it looked much fancier than a supermarket, resembling a depachika specialty seafood store.

In this sales corner, they sell packs of sushi as well as items sold by weight, and the freshness was outstanding.

Browsing the sushi offerings, Seiji cast his eye over the packs until he spotted the one he was looking for, which contained six pieces of nigiri (hand-moulded) tuna sushi and four tekka maki (seaweed-wrapped) tuna sushi rolls. The pack usually retails for 2,582 yen (US$17.26), but as Seiji was here on Sushi Day (1 November), all nigiri sushi items were reduced by 20 percent, so he paid 2,069 yen.

That’s still a high price to pay for a pack of sushi, but the colour of the tuna in the nigiri was beautiful, and the tekka maki rolls were packed full of tuna. Seiji couldn’t help but notice the other sushi packs also had a high-class aura that set them apart from ordinary supermarkets, glistening with freshness and high-quality ingredients.

▼ Not your typical supermarket sushi.

As he was here at Seibu Ikebukuro, Seiji decided to take his sushi up to the rooftop, a hidden gem in the heart of Tokyo that’s home to a replica of Monet’s garden.

Here he could enjoy his food in a relaxed atmosphere under the glorious sunny autumn skies.

Taking the lid off his lunch, Seiji found its appearance was enough to impress even a Japanese person who’s grown up eating sushi all their lives, with a nice marbling on the tuna.

Did it taste as good as it looked, though? Taking a bite of the nigiri (pictured in the foreground of the image below), the tuna melted on the mouth in a way that Seiji couldn’t believe was possible with supermarket tuna. It had a flavour that was so good it didn’t need anything like salt or soy sauce added to it.

The taste of the vinegared sushi rice beneath the fish was another standout, as it was perfectly balanced so as to support the flavour of the tuna without overpowering it. And when he tasted the rolled sushi, it was equally good, with the tuna melting on the tongue once again, and the high-quality seaweed adding a fresh contrast to the mix.

Seiji says that the quality of this sushi was so good he’d rate it as even better than a meal he once at a high-end sushi restaurant in Tokyo’s glamorous Ginza neighbourhood.

That’s high praise for a pack of sushi, even one purchased at a high-class supermarket in a Tokyo department store. It just goes to show that great sushi can be found in the most unlikely locations, and if you want to make it taste even better, you can easily turn  it into a restaurant-quality meal with a microwave and a bit of know-how.

Store Information

Uokou Seibu Ikebukuro store / 魚耕 西武池袋店
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Minamiikebukuro 1-28-1, Seibu Ikebukuro Main Store B2F
東京都豊島区南池袋1-28-1 西武池袋本店B2F
Hours: 10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. (Mon-Sat) 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. (Sundays and public holidays)

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