Tokyo: Sushi Dai at Tsukiji Fish Market

by gigi on February 1, 2011

One of the things I was most looking forward to for my Tokyo trip was my impending visit to Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest fish market in the world. I had heard countless stories from people going to the market and indulging in a breakfast of some of the freshest fish one can imagine and finally, it was time for me to check it out for myself. :) But first, I had to brave the line-up to get into Sushi Dai, one of the most popular sushi restaurants in Tsukiji. Although there are several restaurants in the market, there are only two with line-ups and the one with the longest line-up is Sushi Dai.

Sushi Dai

Jenkins and I got in line at about 8:30AM and after about two hours of waiting in line, we finally made it inside the small restaurant of about 10-12 seats. They must be quite used to the crowds because we ordered our meals before we even entered the restaurant. To be fair, there are only two options: the Jyou (¥2500, standard meal) and the Omakase (¥3900, translated at the door as “trust the chef” :) ). Of course, it was pretty obvious to both Jenkins and I that we would get the omakase…there’s no way we would skimp out after travelling so far to get there!

Sushi Dai

The omakase course included ten pieces of nigiri chosen by the chef as the best choices of the day. In addition, we would also get some maki, tamago, and miso soup. Since our sushi chef already knew what we’d be ordering, all we had to do after we were seated was to chat with our chef and marvel at the sushi that was being created before our eyes. What a tough life, huh? :)

Sushi Dai

First came the tamago. It was slightly sweet and just cooked, while retaining a nice, silky texture (at least for an omelette). I had the feeling that we’ were in for quite the treat.

Sushi Dai

Our miso soup came next and I slowly sipped on this throughout my meal. It had a strong miso flavour but was not overly salty and it was also made with some fish bones, which gave it an extra layer of flavour.

Sushi Dai

And then came the nigiri. First up was the o-toro, which is the fattiest grade of toro (tuna belly). It was unlike anything I had ever had before and just melted in my mouth. I’d also like to note that the rice for the nigiri was amazing. It was perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of vinegar and sweetness and absolutely held up nicely to the o-toro.

Sushi Dai

Next came the suzuki (sea bass). It came with just the right amount of fresh wasabi and we were instructed to eat this with no soy sauce. I decided after this advice to forego the soy sauce for the rest of my meal and the only thing I was sad about was that I should have done it for my o-toro too!

Sushi Dai

Tai (snapper) is one of my least favourite types of sushi in Vancouver. However, both Jenkins and I noted right away that the tai we ate here was nothing like what we were used to and was super tasty. I find that the tai I usually eat in Vancouver is a bit rubbery and does not have any flavour to it but the tai at Sushi Dai was almost fatty and smooth in texture. Definitely one of my favourites.

Sushi Dai

I was looking forward to the uni and this definitely did not disappoint. It was sweet but briny tasting and had a very creamy texture. The seaweed provided a slight crunch and the perfectly made rice tied everything together. I am drooling a bit as I write this post :p

Sushi Dai

The aji (horse mackerel) was another one of my favourites that day. The fish was slightly firm but very fatty and did not have the overly fishy smell that I find with mackerel normally. The ginger and green onions on top balanced out the fishiness and enhanced the overall flavour of the fish.

Sushi Dai

I think the hokkigai is something that Sushi Dai whips out to impress us tourists :) It is so fresh that when our chef places our hokkigai nigiri in front of us, it is still moving! It had a slight crunch and was not chewy at all.

Sushi Dai

Ikura (salmon roe) is one of the things that I usually leave behind on a sushi platter. I don’t like the odd popping feeling in my mouth as the roe bursts and I also find it too tasty. However, the ikura here was so different and TASTY that Jenkins noted it was like we were eating something else altogether. The roe was only slightly salty and did not have that odd popping feeling…it’s a bit difficult for me to explain exactly why it tasted so much better so you just need to believe me :) Our chef explained to us that the reason this tasted so good was because it had never been frozen.

Sushi Dai

Next came the maki sushi. I got a couple of pieces of a toro roll and two pieces with toro, cucumber, and clam.

Sushi Dai

I had never had baby shrimp before so the shiraebi was pretty interesting. Our chef told us that it was dozens of little shrimp, which he brushed with a thin layer of soy sauce. I found that the flavour was a bit mild but it was interesting to try.

Sushi Dai

Much to my surprise, I was starting to get full but we still had a few more pieces to go. Next came the marinated maguro (tuna). It had a lovely red colour and a firm, almost meaty texture.

Sushi Dai

The anago (eel) was one of Jenkins’ favourite that day. The fish seemed to be steamed rather than broiled or roasted and was very moist. It was marinated with a slightly sweet sauce that complemented the anago very nicely.

Sushi Dai

We were down to our final choices of our meal. We had the option of choosing a repeat of something we had already tried or something new altogether. Namely, we asked our chef what he would recommend and he noted that since it was December, there were a few things in season that we may like. The first recommendation was hamachi and Jenkins decided to go for that one. He was kind enough to give me a bite and it was hands down, the best hamachi we had ever tasted. It was fatty and flavourful with the little sprig of onion on top adding a nice layer of taste to it.

Sushi Dai

For me, I chose the option which was something I had never tried before and who knows when I’ll try again, which was the cod sperm sac. Laugh as you may but I actually thought this was quite good! The texture was similar to uni in some respects and its slight saltiness went really well with the green onion and grated daikon on top. As with most of our other nigiri, it came pre-marinated by the chef and did not require any additional soy sauce.

Sushi Dai

Jenkins and I had a fantastic time at Sushi Dai and it met, if not exceeded, our expectations. Service was very friendly and we had a great time chatting with our knowledgeable sushi chef. It was the best sushi we’d ever had and the only sushi that beat it was to be the sushi meal we had the next day with my aunt’s brother. :) Jenkins and I enjoyed this so much that we tried to make a repeat visit to Sushi Dai during our trip but unfortunately, the timing just did not work out. I suppose I’ll just have to go the next time I’m in Tokyo!

Details:
Tsukiji-Shijo 5-2-1 #6.
Open 5am-2pm, closed Sundays and some Wednesdays

Summary:
Food: [rating:5]
Service: [rating:4]
Price: $$$

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