Sushi Dinner at Asahisushi, Machida

We eat fugu (pufferfish / blowfish) sushi in Japan and live to tell about it.

Little Fugu

baby fugu by furibond on flickrphoto by Furibond. (License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic).

Ever since we first started talking about this Japan trip, we wanted to go see the Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest fish market in the world. We love good sushi, and it can’t get any better than eating it right at Tsukiji. Annie actually did go and have sushi at Tsukiji one day, but I was at work and couldn’t join her. So we made plans to go to Tsukiji at night after work.

Unfortunately, the plans fell through and we ended up having an awesome kaiseki dinner in Aoyama that night instead. In the meantime, our friend Akiko, who had guided us to a great meal at Za-Watani Izakaya, suggested that we not go to Tsukiji at night. She recommended going to a restaurant closer to us and put our money into sushi rather than train tickets. Brilliant!

She even found us a sushi restaurant that advertised their fish as being from Tsukiji Market: Asahisushi, located on the 9th floor of the Odakyu Department Store, right above Machida Station. Annie was spending the day in Tokyo with her good friend Yuko, so we decided to meet at Machida Station after work and then go up for dinner.

Pick Your Poison

Many restaurants in Japan have a display case filled with realistic, plastic mock-ups of the various dishes they had for sale. It makes it easier to decide what you want before going in. We were fortunate to have Yuko with us, so she could read and translate the signs for us. One of the offers was a fugu (pufferfish) sampler set.

Fugu can be deadly to eat – the liver is filled with poisonous tetrodotoxin. In the past, people who ate incorrectly prepared fugu have died. That’s why eating fugu was once considered “Japanese Roulette”.

But nowadays, there is strict regulation and testing for anyone licensed to prepare fugu. Fugu poisoning still happens, but hardly anyone dies. Since fugu is pretty safe to eat, I decided I would order it and see what the fuss was all about. We entered the restaurant, but bypassed the sushi bar and were seated in a corner table.

Fugu Sushi Sampler Set, Sushi Bar at Asahisushi

sushi display and bar asahi sushi machida

Ready, Set, Eat!

Since I ordered the fugu set, Annie was free to order her own sushi set. Her platter came with tuna, sea urchin, salmon roe, mackerel, freshwater shrimp, clam, abalone, halibut, squid, and a huge piece of broiled eel. We also ordered a couple of side dishes of sanma (pike mackerel). Boy was that sanma enjoyable! Melt-in-your-mouth good!

Sushi Platter and Sanma from Asahisushi

sushi platter and sanma from asahi sushi in machida

My fugu came served in 3 different styles: sashimi, deep fried kara-age, and as sushi (not seen). The sashimi slices were very thin – almost translucent. The meat, however, was crunchy-tough. And not that flavorful either. The kara-age actually had the taste and texture of fried chicken. I kid you not!

The most surprising thing was the pimiento de padron that came with the kara-age. I had them at the previous two dinners, but managed to avoid getting the hot pepper. This time around, I got it. Trigger some frantic sushi eating and water gulping to quench the fire!

Fugu Sashimi and Kara-age

fugu blowfish sashimi and fried from asahi sushi in machida

The fugu sushi was equally underwhelming. The rest of my sushi combi included tuna, halibut, salmon roe, squid, scallops, shrimp and eel. Pretty standard. Dessert was a nice, cold vanilla ice cream with azuki bean paste.

sushi platter and ice cream with red bean from asahi sushi in machida

All in all, I’d say it was a good sushi meal. Certainly better than anything we can get here in Kuching. Nowhere as good as Sakae Sushi in Burlingame or even Sushi-Man in San Francisco, but then we paid more than USD $100 per person at those top-notch places. This meal at Asahisushi was quite affordable for the quality of the fish (especially the sanma), about USD $35 per person.

And the fugu? I’d say from what I tasted, it’s not all that it’s puffed up to be.

Have you eaten fugu? What do you think about it? Leave us a comment!

Aloha, Nate

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26 Comments Post a Comment
  1. IH says:

    I love sushi and thanks so much for posting these!! I’ve never eaten fugu. Don’t think we can find them here in Europe. Mackerel, tuna and salmon are about the only fish-type menu in the Japanese restos (and mostly operated by Chinese)here in Belgium. The Eat-All-You-Can formula is getting ever so popular in the Japanese restos all over Europe! I’ve been to 3 and I thought they were OK, but looking at your pictures….. hmmmm, I have second thoughts… :-)

  2. Dean says:

    So basically you’re saying that blowfish doesn’t taste that good, and now it’s not even dangerous to eat… in other words, there’s no point to eating blowfish anymore? =)

    • Nate says:

      Dean –

      Maybe we didn’t get “good” fugu, or don’t know how to appreciate it properly. But I wasn’t impressed enough to want to try it again.

  3. Nate says:

    IH – we normally stay away from buffets because the operators focus on low cost / medium quality vs high quality. I’d rather eat good food and be left wanting more than be stuffed with mediocre food. That’s just the way I feel.

    Are there good sushi restaurants in Belgium?

    • IH says:

      You’re so right about buffets! But poor us here in Europe (Belgium, at least), we’re still struggling to find a good sushi restaurant. Maybe I should quit my job and start learning the art of real sushi making and opening a decent sushi resto :-D

      • Nate says:

        IH –

        how do people in Belgium generally feel about eating raw fish? I know in America, most people are put off by the thought (though the attitude may be changing slowly). It would be good if people learn to expect / demand better-than-buffet quality when they go out for sushi. (Well, better for a sushi restaurant; don’t know if it’s better for the fish ;-) )

  4. Jenny says:

    There was an old episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer developed a taste for sushi, got carried away, and ordered the fugu. Either there was a substitute chef or the chef was off his game that night and Homer ended up eating what he later believed to be the poisonous part of the fish. So he spent what he thought was his last hours running around town creating all kinds of Homer-havoc, trying to to do all the things he wanted to do before dying. I’m sure you know how this plot ends.

    Sadly, whenever I come across any references to fugu, I now think of Homer Simpson!

  5. shaz says:

    Very brave indeed :) Have never tried fugu before but I think I’d defintiely have a go anyway just to see what all the fuss was about. Pity it doesn’t seem to be very interesting. The rest of the fish looks awesome though.

  6. I absolutely need to visit Japan one day! I love sushi too!

  7. babe_kl says:

    Gosh very brave indeed! I think I would like to try too :p

    • Nate says:

      Babe –

      I wonder if there are any sushi restaurants in KL that serve fugu. The demand can’t be that high. You may just have to go to Japan to get some ;-)

  8. SushiTail says:

    Fugu is notoriously expensive in Japan. My business partner took me to a restaurant that served a full course fugu meal that includes a glass of sake with a piece of fugu in it. My partner must have spent a fortune. It was a gorgeous meal.

    • Nate says:


      Correct me if I’m wrong, but are there different grades / prices of fugu?

      • SushiTail says:

        I’m not sure if there are different grades, but it’s usually the chef who select quality and prices. I was once told that highly skilled chefs who specialize in preparing fugu leave a tinge of poison enough to give a slight sensation to the pallate.

  9. Carolyn Jung says:

    So it was a Padron rather than a shishito pepper? How intriguing! Ahh, man, that sashimi looks divine.

    • Nate says:


      I don’t know for sure…they both look similar. But Shishito would make more sense. Thanks for the insight!

      Have you had fugu before?

  10. I love how in Japan you can get good sushi in a department store! I give you credit for trying the fugu. I don’t know if I’d be that adventurous. I heard it kind of tingles when you eat it. Did you get that sensation? Hopefully you’ll get to Tsukiji on another trip, although now I wonder if Tsukiji is turning into a tourist trap?

    • Nate says:

      Ben -

      I am equally impressed. When you think “department store” in the US, you don’t usually think “sushi”, much less “good sushi”. But in sushi’s home country, you *can* find even better sushi!

      No, I didn’t get the tingling sensation from eating fugu. I suppose the person cutting the fish did a very good job of keeping the poison away.

      I think Tsukiji is learning to deal with the tourists, but it isn’t giving up its essential character. No way it’ll turn into something like the International Marketplace in Waikiki.

  11. borneoboy says:

    Hi Nate. Wow ! You ate fugu and lived to tell ! My brother CK tried it when he was in Tokyo last year. He liked it – it was cooked in a broth. Annie’s sushi set looks great !

  12. S Lloyd says:

    What has been the sushi place that has impressed you teh most in Tokyo, up to now? I am trying to find recommendations for some nice sushiyas Thanks

    • Nate says:

      Hi, thanks for your question.

      We only visited a few places for sushi while we were there. Annie actually had sushi at Tsukiji Market, which was really good. Too bad she didn’t take pictures ;-p

  13. S Lloyd says:

    Thanks. I’ll visit Tsukiji market.

  14. Jerret says:

    Fugu is more of a textural expirience. Not too chewy, not too soft. This is why it is always served as sashimi. Basically flavorless but that is what they wasabi and soy s is for. The naughty taboo-ish expirience of eating something that has the potential to kill you is also part of the fun. It should be one course in a line of many.

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My Photo Annie is mistress of the kitchen while Nate is the master of the grill and smoker. We cook the homestyle Asian and Hawaiian foods of our younger days while also exploring the wider worlds of Western foods.

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