Brace yourselves. If you’re a sushi aficionado, you’ll likely feel ravenous after this post on our most gratifying meal in Japan.
In our twenty-something years, we’ve sampled plenty of good food. But this meal I’m about to talk about was one of our favourites in the world, ever.
Let’s go back to around the ides of February, when the Man and I headed to the legendary Tsukiji Market for breakfast.
Going to Tsukiji Market is like some sort of a sushi pilgrimage for fans. It’s the largest wholesale fish market globally, and you can ogle at the freshest of seafoods that will soon find themselves on sashimi platters around the region.
After a stroll around the market, we hunted down the most famous eatery situated at Row 6, the illustrious Sushi Dai.
It’s only the most famous shop that is celebrated in almost every guidebook, from the chi-chi Luxe Guides to pragmatic Lonely Planet on a Shoestring.
No surprises, then, that there was a snaking queue that started at the storefront, branching out of the alley onto the sidewalk. A harbinger of the fact that we’d be waiting a lonnnng time.
First half of line
Second half of line
But persistent we were, focussed and unflinching in our quest to taste what could be the best sushi we’ve ever had.
So we waited. And waited. In the chilly weather.
After 2 and a half hours, I trembled with elation when stepped into the eatery – although, thinking back, it could have been a fainting spell from the hunger.
Sushi Dai is just slightly larger than the size of my kitchen, fitting only 15 people huddled shoulder-to-shoulder at the tight bar counter.
The ambience was cosy and warm, enhanced by the enthusiasm of the itamae (or chefs) who greet you loudly when you enter.
Serving plates were non-existent, and guests ate directly from a ledge at the bar counter. How quaint.
Order the lovely Omakase Seto, or the ‘Trust the Chef’ course, and the itamae serves ten nigiri sushi of his choice, including otoro (fatty tuna belly), plus 1 extra nigiri of your selection, at 3,900yen.
If you’re a small eater and otoro is not a must, you can consider the Jyou Seto, or standard course, which comprises 7 pieces of nigiri, at 2,500yen.
There isn’t much left to say except that the sushi was oh so fresh.
And it’s time to let the pictures do the talking. So, here’s presenting… the stars of Sushi Dai!
Warm tamago (sweet egg)
- a basic done perfectly well to kick off the meal
Otoro (fatty tuna belly)
Chutoro (semi-fatty tuna belly)
- a potentially fishy type, but this was the very freshest I’ve ever tasted
Nama Shirasu (white bait)
Uni (sea urchin)
Magurozuke (marinated tuna)
Shiraebi (baby shrimp)
Akagai (red clam)
- this was still moving when he served us! Very dramatic.
The husband was blown away by its sweetness.
Anago (simmered sea eel)
- this was a show-stopper. The flesh was plump yet tender,
very juicy and beautifully done.
We also had other seasonal fish…
… sushi rolls, and piping-hot miso soup with fish bits at the end.
It was nearly noon so breakfast had morphed into brunch.
I wanted to cry at the end of the meal because I was getting full, but didn’t want the magic to end.
Every item was exceedingly fresh, with the source just steps away from the eatery. It may not have been the classiest, but it was really one of our best food experiences.
Whether other eateries in Tsukiji are just as good, this I’ve asked friends who live in Japan or travel there often.
I get varied responses, but many say there are hit-and-miss shops so exercise discernment if time is limited.
I hear Daiwa Sushi, just a few doors away with the second longest line, offers quite a good deal too, and perhaps we’ll try that someday.
But for now, I’d say, if you’re willing to queue patiently in Tsukiji, choose the most famous restaurant with the infamous queue.
The sushi is truly to dai for.