It's true. I waited five hours in line for this meal. I didn’t expect there to be anyone else waiting when I arrived at 1:30am but there they were, seven diehards. A couple of hours later, this had swollen to 70 people…
A Sushi Dai veteran waiting next to me said that in most places in Tokyo, the JPY4,000 sushi we were about to eat would have set us back anywhere between JPY10-15,000. Mr Veteran had no idea why Sushi Dai kept its prices so reasonable but we were glad for it.
Like the rest of us in that first 8-person seating, I ordered the omakase set (chef’s choice). That’s 12 pieces of sushi including an egg omelette and my own choice from what was on offer that day.
After some customary green tea and miso soup, we began. First up was fatty tuna (otoro), a surprise, to be sure, but upon tasting it I got a sense of Sushi Dai’s thinking.
Each piece of sushi in this course was characterised by the way toppings all melted into the rice beneath it. Even the cockle clam (torigai), with its shellfish ocean crunch, melted away. The thick slab of yellowtail (buri) followed the same pattern, a brush of freshness whilst dissolving into the rice as you ate.
Instead of a cheap blast of salt water, the sea urchin (uni) and salmon roe (ikura) offered tender vanishing acts. I’m not sure where they went but I had the distinct feeling of wanting to get back on the boat to find some more.
The flounder (hirame), golden eye snapper (kinmedai), horse mackerel (aji), were all delicately fleshy. The tuna and cucumber rolls were lovely, with the tuna being smeared into the rice, a kind of evidence of its hand crafted nature.
The final sushi chosen by the chef was the sea-eel (anago). If the fatty tuna was the master of the melt then the sea eel must have been its teacher. I cannot impress upon you enough just how incredible this cream-like piece was.
As a fan of the silver skinned fish toppings, I chose the cured mackerel (saba). Needless to say, it melted and was thoroughly enjoyable on the palate.
I understand that a five hour wait is a long, long time. And there are other sushi options available in Tsukiji. But for the sheer adventure of it, if you ever have the chance to eat at Sushi Dai, please do so. I cannot recommend this place any more highly. The staff are very friendly and serve your sushi at a relaxed pace. And while I didn’t do so, ordering a la carte is easy and very reasonably priced.
Five hours is a long wait but after eating, you'll wonder where the time went.
There are going to be some major changes once Tsukiji's inner market (jounai) relocates to Toyosu in October 2018. Sushi Dai is considered to be part of that inner market, though it's been said that some shops may decide to stay where they are. We're not completely sure yet if Sushi Dai will move though.
For now though, leave Tsukiji Station (Metro Hibiya Line) via Exit 1, walk along Shin Ohashi Dori for two blocks and then enter via the main gate. A series of little stores will appear. Sushi Dai (寿司大) is the place. There'll probably be a million people lining up so you won't be able to miss it.
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