{tokyo} sushi dai

6:41 AM sians 2 Comments

i've long delayed my posts on restaurants i had in japan, simply because how my mouth waters when i think of all the yummy food i've had.  of how much i miss tokyo even though it was such a short visit. one of the biggest reason is probably that i am at lost for words because no words would do justice to my excellent dining experiences in tokyo.

on my second day in tokyo, i've planned for a sushi excursion after my attempt to go for the tuna auction at famed tsukiji market. my friend, {hr} told me not to miss a sushi breakfast while i was there. my  travel research resulted in two famous sushi houses at tsukiji market :: sushi dai {寿司大} and daiwa sushi -- two restaurants that boast to serve the freshest and best sushi in the city. it took me days to choose between the two but there were several bloggers who had given the former an edge over its counterpart.

while we regretfully missed the cut for the tuna auction action, this was a perfect time to start our day with what is promised to be "the best sushi in your life" and we got there just as the clock struck 5am - it's when sushi dai opens! even though i've prepared myself for the possibility of waiting for a long time for sushi, i was taken aback when i saw a long queue outside the sushi house even before it opens at 5AM!! ><

the line ahead of me

the queue behind me
as we waited in line, we enjoyed the sunrise and the bustling of the daily activities at the market. an hour later, we moved up the line just in front of the entrance and i thought "omg getting closer! soo close to awesome sushi"

as we walked closer and closer towards the entrance -- i began to realize why we've been in queue for almost one and a half hour to two hours now.... peering through the glass window of the entrance, petite would be an understatement when describing the size of the shop.

there is even barely any room to squeeze to get to your seats. what more to place your bags, which has to go on the high shelf behind you.

our breakfast choice was made since we had so much time in our hands, waiting :: omakase aka "trust the chef" course. the chef will select the best catches of the day on top of one of your choice to give a total of 11 pieces of nigiri sushi. additionally, sushi rolls, rolled egg and miso soup completed the meal. (¥3,900)

we finally got our seats after about two hours of waiting and by then we were starving. waiting does make the tummy go hungrier ;)

as we squeezed our way to our seats, they served us green tea and a warm towel to wipe our hands. since we know very little japanese, we just pointed at the omakase course. there were three sushi masters at work, each serving their limited number of patrons to ensure quality and a positive dining experience ^^ and our sushi chef was really friendly, making attempts to converse with us despite the language barrier.

these guys definitely know how to start with a bang! the first nigiri featured the best piece of fish you can place over perfectly cooked rice that is seasoned lightly with vinegar and salt...

THE o-toro -- the fattiest, more delicate piece found the belly of the tuna, i thought this was the perfect way to set the tone of the meal :)

a meltingly tender texture, the taste of the fish asserted itself, rich and delicately meaty without it being fishy. and i thought to myself, "so this is how o-toro is supposed to taste like" amazing!

as we were being served our second piece of nigiri, bowls of warm miso containing chunks of fish and clams in it, greeted us with a nice balance of seafood flavor and miso. even their miso soup tasted fantastic. 

next up was suzuki (sea bass). i was observing as the chef prepared the fish, with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of a pinch of salt before handing it over to us, telling us "no sauce". the citrus juice accentuated the taste of the fish and at the same time highlighted the freshness of the fish. 

this was followed by akagai (red clam). i thought i saw it wiggled for a second when the chef served it >< but quickly ignored it and put the whole thing into my mouth. unfortunately, i wasn't a big fan of this probably because of its rubbery texture. 

aji (horse mackerel). the chopped green onions gave a nice clean bite to the intense flavor of the meaty fish yet it was not fishy. loved it!

in the midst of our nigiri savoring, they brought out a piece of tamago (sweet egg) which was still warm and fluffy. just a right amount of sweetness.  yum!

the next piece was probably one of my favorites after the o-toro. uni (sea urchin) was an intense experience for the taste buds, but in a good way. loved loved lovedddd the concentrated taste of the sea but at the same time creamy and rich. oddly it was subtly sweet and bitter at the same time (this is hard to describe) but i absolutely loved it. one word:  mind-blowing!

maguro (tuna) made its appearance after. i've always thought that tuna has this rather fishy flavor occasionally even when it's decently fresh. but this was so extremely fresh that it was a fantastic piece of fish with lovely tuna flavor without all the fishiness. not as melt in your mouth tender as o-toro but a satisfying meaty texture.

the sushi rolls of two varieties - one of which is minced chu-toro (medium grade tuna) and cucumber while the other was salmon roe with herb. while i thoroughly enjoyed the tuna which was was fantastic accompanied by the crunch of the cucumber, the salmon roe roll imparted a bitter aftertaste (probably from the herb) which was left to be desired.

when shiraebi (baby shrimp) was served,  i was taken aback a lil by the looks of it and knowing that it was raw baby shrimp, i was somewhat reserved about eating it. since i promised myself to be adventurous, i consumed it all in one bite. it was a good thing because it was interesting texturally, melts into the rice giving a creamy mouth-feel, leaving a slight sweetness on your taste buds. 

suprisingly, another mackerel got invited to the party -- sawara (spanish mackerel). it was very similar to its counterpart in many aspects -- a lighter version of it, if you will.

omg, anago (sea eel)! its flavor was similar to unagi but texturally, it is so soft that it almost disintegrates into the rice and the finishing touch with the sweet sauce was just nice that it didn't mask the flavor of the fish itself. another favorite!

ten pieces of sushi later, it was time to make a choice for an encore piece or any kind of sushi that my heart desired. torn between two, my choice was to go for the...

...O-TORO! screw trying other things for variety, that first piece i had was phenomenal - reason enough for a repeat performance! (the other i was contemplating was the uni)

the marbling of this fish is even more beautiful than my first piece. this was absolutely the perfect way to begin AND end the meal with.  

this is definitely a MUST if you are in tokyo. bear in mind that the menu is seasonal depending on the catch of the season for the freshest ingredients! oh, and most importantly, it's cash only so make sure you have enough yen in your pocket :)

sushi dai was probably one of the best sushi meals that i've had yet. as the source is a mere walk away from the restaurant, you can always bet on them serving only the freshest ingredients. but what sets them apart is the mastery of the chefs in preparing the fish and seafood in addition to their finesse in seasoning each sushi with such accuracy that i didn't even need any additional soy sauce. in fact, it highlighted them even more making this such an outstanding dining experience..

one word of advise: don't even think about it (even with the hordes of people waiting for their turn for a magical meal -- there is a reason for that wait!) and just go! 

sushi dai | location
5-2-1 tsukiji, chuo-ku, tokyo
(located inside tsukiji market)
phone : + 81 3-3547-6797
hours : 5 am to 2pm
access :: tokyo metro station - 5 minute walk
toei subway tsukiji shio - 3 minute walk 

{yummy-ness | 4.5 forks out of 5 }
{top favorites | o-toro, uni, anago }

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.


JingH said...

Oh, my! Excellent entry~ I will keep this in mind next time. I want to attend SS Tokyo Dome concert and eat all these delicious food.

sians said...

@jingH : i will be posting a couple more entries on food in tokyo :) stay tuned for it!