IT was survival of the fittest at Tsuke-Ba in Leederville.
A throng of well-dressed office workers quickly regressed to snarling maniacs; elbowing and pushing to get to the front of the display counter at the busy Japanese takeaway.
I soon joined the white-collar feeding frenzy, using some well timed shoulder barges to reach the amazing array of sushi, hot meals and salads.
Sushi joints come and go but Tsuke-Ba has been around for 15 years – a testament to its popularity and quality control.
Situated in the Tip Top Arcade off Oxford Street, the takeaway serves a mind-boggling range of Japanese dishes with more than 54 varieties of sushi, 17 salad bowls, 21 hot meals, 17 vegan options, 31 gluten-free options and 14 platters.
After you’ve gone through what feels like a scene from Fight Club, it can be intimidating when you finally reach the counter and are confronted with a wall of sushi, while ravenous office drones salivate and grind their teeth behind you. So maybe check out the online menu before visiting.
As my eyes traversed the trays of neatly-arranged sushi, a colourful creation on the 15th row tickled my fancy – tuna with red rice and chia seeds (eight for $10).
The red rice actually had a pinky-purple shade, giving it a pretty and exotic appearance.
Red rice is meant to have all sorts of health benefits – from lowering blood pressure to improving vision – but that’s academic if it tastes like Mr Miyagi’s jockstrap.
Thankfully it was lovely and had the nutty tang of brown rice with a slightly sweet refrain.
I find brown rice a bit dry and cloggy after a while, but this was moist and light and maintained my interest.
The chai seeds added some exotic texture and the cooked tuna was lovely and soft with just the right amount of mayo.
Some sushi joints either give you sushi wheels that are too small or the size of a wagon wheel, but these were spot on and well priced at eight for $10.
At the left of the display counter was a gorgeous range of poke bowls, sumo salads, chirashi bowls, noodle salads and senzoku.
The glistening teriyaki beef perched on the green sumo salad ($13) look delicious, so I decided to order one of them.
There was plenty of tender beef and it had a moreish sauce that wasn’t too salty.
It went well with the carb-free base of mesclun and asian slaw, but the tastiest healthy-bit was the edamame and pickled carrot.
Rounding things off was a little tub of house salad dressing – a light and fragrant affair that brought the greens to life.
I completed my lunch with a mixed tray of sushi – raw salmon and avocado and raw tuna and avocado ($10).
Everything was delightfully fresh with the fish having that super glossy look and slightly firm flesh.
This sushi also had red rice (I’m now a convert) and the avocado was soft and creamy.
I had planned on getting some hot dishes – there was a nice range of curries, teriyaki and katsu meals, noodle soups, don buri and dumplings, but I was stuffed after all that sushi and salad goodness.
I’ll be back when the winter strikes and I need a hot treat for lunch. I was impressed by the range and quality of sushi and salads at Tsuke-Ba – it’s clearly an office favourite (confirmed by the bruises on my arms) and is a top lunchtime spot in Leederville.
My advice – wear some American football gear, picture some ex-partner who broke your heart, and drive hard towards the counter.
139 Oxford Street (Tip Top Arcade) Leederville
by STEPHEN POLLOCK