Sushi lovers just wild about coveted tuna catch from Tokyo

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2008, 12:00am

Hundreds of sushi lovers shared the first slices of top Japanese tuna last night after 152kg of wild tuna arrived in the city from Tokyo.

On Saturday, the owner of a local sushi restaurant paid HK$430,000 for the 2.5-metre bluefin tuna at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. He was the first foreigner to buy the top fish at the annual special auction for the new year, traditionally held on the first day of business at the world's largest seafood wholesale market.

Cheng Wai-tao, a shareholder of Ajisen (China) Holdings and the owner of the Itamae-Sushi chain, immediately air-freighted some of the fish to Hong Kong, leaving the rest of the 276kg tuna for a Tokyo sushi restaurant he co-owns. The fish, stored in eight foam boxes, arrived yesterday afternoon at one of the chain's restaurants in Causeway Bay.

By 6pm, hundreds of customers had lined up outside the restaurant hoping to taste the fish. But Edith Siu, who queued for two hours - too long for her husband, who gave up before they reached the front - missed out on the best toro, which had sold out.

She said she was disappointed, but happy to have tasted lesser cuts of the fish during her solo dinner, which resulted in a HK$210 bill. 'The tuna colour was a bit deeper than usual ones and its texture was springier.'

Mak Kin-shing, regional manager of Itamae-Sushi, said he expected the tuna to sell out before the restaurant closed last night, but added the company planned to bid for another tuna of similar size today, which would arrive in Hong Kong later in the week.

Mr Mak said the tuna would be sold in about 4,500 servings, priced from HK$18 to HK$50. But the company could not make money from it.

'This was bought to thank our long-time customers,' he said.

Manatsu Ishiyama, who has worked in the restaurant for about two years, said he was surprised a Hong Kong company had won the bidding for the fish.

Mr Mak said it would be difficult to win at next year's auction as Japanese buyers would try to ensure the top catch stayed in the country.