We finally made it out to Tian Jia, the superlative Japanese restaurant famous for serving only one kind of fish: toro, meat from the fatty belly of the bluefin tuna. Our first trip was right before we left for vacation three weeks ago, and our second was the first night we got back. Yes, we craved it the whole time we were gone. For those of you who were like us and never made a trip but heard all the accolades, now you can add Shanghaiist to the mix: this place is damn tasty.
Tian Jia serves two types of toro: o-toro, which is the fattiest part of the fatty tuna belly, and chu-toro, which is a more balanced cut of lean and fatty meat. Also on the sashimi menu is toro-shio, which is toro marinated in lemon and sea salt and, according to Tian Jia’s manager, should not be eaten with any wasabi or soy sauce at all. The portion size for all three fantastic varieties of toro is five measly slices, priced at 78 RMB across the board. Yes, we know that’s not very expensive for this caliber of fish; we say measly because all we wanted after we dusted off our order was to dust off some more.
The o-toro is tender and buttery; the chu-toro is leaner but equally flavorful. All three cuts are also available in nigiri form, each portion served with two pieces at 68 RMB. For those looking beyond a taste tease, Tina Jia offers a set menu at 250 RMB, which includes 6 slices of sashimi, a large snow crab leg (delicious), a light hotpot with cabbage and cod that turns into a base for udon or porridge, a bowl of chirashi (sliced or chopped tuna atop a bowl of delicious sushi rice), and a bowl of ice cream. The 380 RMB set menu includes all of the above plus a 5 pieces of nigiri.
We could tell that Tian Jia takes its business seriously. The restaurant manager at their flagship restaurant off Huashan Lu was hired in Japan and brought over to ensure their large Japanese customer base would get homegrown service. We were told the owner had to apply for a special permit to import the fish from Japan, which is probably why you don’t see any other species on the menu. The fact that they recently opened restaurants in Suzhou and Beijing, to go along with the four in Shanghai (Xintiandi, Zhongshan Park, and Pudong), is a testament to their well deserved popularity. When it comes to Japanese food, Shanghaiist will always have a near and dear place in our heart for the all-you-can-eat gorge-fests, but Tian Jia will be the place we go to delight our palates.
Tian Jia – 2/F, 1520 Huashan Lu, near Taian Lu (山路1520号2楼, 靠近泰安路) – Tel: 6281 4918. 6pm-11:00pm
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com