Japan's newest seafood chain has a halal twist
Just to the north central side of the Tokyo metropolis lies Ikebukuro, a kind of Shinjuku-lite, teeming with shops, restaurants and drinking joints and a favorite hangout for international visitors to Tokyo. Finding great food here is not hard and one of the new ‘kids on the block’ is Manhattan FISH MARKET. I was pleased to be invited to the launch of their first venture in Japan to try their delicacies first hand.
Their name may conjure cinematic thoughts of New York and a boat tour along the Hudson but all 16 branches are Asia based being a seafood chain from Malaysia (with a touch of US showmanship thrown into the mix). Their twist is they provide a halal dining experience. For most westerners the idea of halal is a more ceremonial dispatch but the halal concept is family friendly dining, skipping smoke and alcohol, so don’t expect a splash of beer in your batter this time!
MFM offer five methods of cooking so you can eat healthily if you must. Baked, Grilled, Steamed, Fried and ‘Flamed’ are all options and some of their tastiest and freshest offerings are foil steamed salmon or snapper in French style herby marinades. You can also opt for their celebratory platters which come with a complimentary flame-throwing from exuberant fresh faced waiting staff but don’t wear too much hairspray or you may get more than caramelised prawns.
There are a healthy selection of interesting starters, chowder-style potages, cakey deserts and exclusive non-alcoholic beverages. I tried a ‘Citrus Mint’ virgin Mojito style mocktail with fresh mint and you’d hardly know what you were missing.
The battered mushrooms with Cajun honey dip were tasty with the batter being more Tempura style. Of the dishes I tried I can recommend the grilled salmon with black pepper sauce and the battered calamari was well seasoned with a smokey chipotle sauce for kick. I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of fried food on their theatrical flaming platter but if it’s your birthday the huge flames will surely brighten your mood. The healthier options may be the baked fish with a Mediterranean, citrus or spicy herb marinades which were also delicious.
Unlike many seafood experiences in Asia, MFM have a good pricing structure and offer value for money with no nasty surprises – no weighing scales and barter necessary on this island. The menu describes prices that are mid-range, falling in-between fast-food and steakhouse levels.
Japanese are notoriously picky when it comes to seafood so I imagine that MFM will have healthy appeal to visitors and those wanting a more quirky western style dining experience – the halal aspect is a bonus if you are Muslim but if you aren’t you’ll just appreciate the smokeless atmosphere which is a pleasant change in Tokyo which still encourages an underground film noir style smoking culture in many of its eateries.
Photo: The signature flaming platter/Photo courtesy of Manhattan Fish Market