Should you really avoid ordering fish on Mondays?

The day's work starts early at Tokyo's Tsujiki Fish Market.
The day's work starts early at Tokyo's Tsujiki Fish Market.
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

Long before most Tokyo residents have climbed out of bed, the day's activities at the nearby Tsujiki Fish Market are well underway. Inside the world's largest fish market, the atmosphere rings with the staccato cries of auctioneers standing on stepping stools in front of clusters of fish wholesalers. Enormous fresh tunas are bid on and won only to be sold a few hours later to Japanese customers. By the close of business in the evening, Tsujiki will have moved out of its doors close to 3,000 tons (2,721 metric tons) of more than 450 different kinds of fish.

If you're looking for fresh fish in Tokyo, Tsujiki Fish Market is the place to shop. Ships from the four corners of the ocean drop their catches at its docks, offering enough variety to satisfy any piscavore. Just don't plan to swing by on a Sunday. Like many major fresh fish markets around the world, the Tsujiki Fish Market is closed on Sundays -- and a handful of Wednesdays and holidays. In the United States, some of the larger coastal seafood markets will have retail and dining options open throughout the weekends, but by and large, Sundays aren't the prime day to cast around for fresh fish.

This general rule of thumb about fish markets explains the rationale behind the modern maxim that you shouldn't order fish in a restaurant on Mondays. Sharp-tongued chef and food writer Anthony Bourdain gets much of the credit for spreading the adage. In his 2000 culinary tell-all, "Kitchen Confidential," Bourdain warns would-be diners against Monday's catch of the day specials at restaurants. Since most fresh fish markets are closed on Sundays, you'll be eating fish that's been sitting around for a few days. Although the restaurant may have properly refrigerated or even frozen it in the interim, Bourdain warns that by then, fish might be four or five days old [source: Bourdain].

Is Bourdain merely a cantankerous foodie who has unrealistic expectations for the quality of his meals? After all, the chef-turned-writer-turned-travel-show-host has also said he shuns mussels at restaurants unless he personally knows who's serving them [source: Bourdain]. Yet by the same token, one could also assume that such superior food taste comes paired with finer gastronomic intuition -- like knowing the perfect wine partner for that snapper, salmon or mahi mahi.