Sushi Dai (Still Alive) at Tsukiji Fish Market, Japan + Something New
Eating at Sushi Dai would have to be my most memorable experience in Japan. In fact, the experience was so ingrained into my head, this had to be my first post about my travels.
Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the world’s largest fish market. Being there in person, I would have to say that it’s also the most dangerous but would happily say that it isn’t the smelliest. I’ve been to other fish markets that literally had me gagging and running out before the vendor could yell out “Flounder, $6 a kilo!”
If you’re thinking it’s because of the amount of raw fish on offer or the slippery floors. It isn’t.
One thing to note before you step foot in the market:
1. Beware of the transport karts. These efficient machines travel at high speeds especially around the 3-4am mark before sunrise and at all directions. There seemed to be hundreds of them. It felt like I was in a Mario Kart game! Now, the workers are very serious about their trade and are under tight limits to get organised before the auction begins so best to stay out of their way for your sake and theirs. I witnessed a few tourists walking aimlessly in the wrong direction, nearly getting side swiped.
Arrive at the market mighty early – at least by 3am. Reason? There are only 140 tickets available for tourists to attend the Fish Auction. Unfortunately, for us, we were too late despite arriving at 3:30am. By this time, all the tickets were snapped up by other eager tourists!
Details: Building 6, in the 3rd alleyway. Now, if you’re having troubles finding the place in amongst all the other sushi joints around, look for the one with the biggest queue which extends into the main strip. Below is the sign of the place:
Although we missed out on the fish auction, we took this early opportunity to eat at the popular Sushi Dai. Luckily for us, we were the fourth group in, so we only waited an hour. Although the summer heat made it a little unbearable, it wasn’t that terrible in comparison to others who have waited up to three hours. Eek!
During the waiting game, a waitress came out to ask what menu we liked to devour. We went for the easy option: Omakase ‘Trust The Chef’ Course which came with a bonus item at the end of your choosing.Total: 3900 YEN. The Australian dollar was at 94 US cents at the time, so this was an added bonus for us.
Upon entering, like most Japanese restaurants we had been to previously, all the staff yelled out friendly greetings- a custom that makes you feel so welcome that you feel like family. Although a tiny place which could probably accommodate up to 14 people, I saw the reasons why. Apart from the obvious amount of limited building space, there are only up to four master sushi chefs churning out dozens and dozens of skillfully prepared morsels at a staggering rate.
Mind you, not only were a few patrons nearly running out of ‘eating breath’ struggling to keep up with the pace of delivery, my damn camera was also having a hard time trying to get some decent shots of the action. But don’t fret, I had plan B. Video.
Amongst the buzz of activity, there was order not too mention entertainment whilst you happily gnawed on the rawness! The chef we were assigned to was extremely hospitable, thanking us for coming and asked about of dietary requirements if any. Apart from my friend not wanting any wasabi on his portion, our tummies were ready for business.
Dun Dun Dun Dun…here comes the food
The sushi is served on a the wooden counter in front of you. Don’t worry, the counter is thoroughly wiped down after each customer and you do get a plate to eat off. Regardless, in a country where you are required to disinfect your hands (provided at most entrances) before entering many establishments, I wasn’t at all concerned.
We start off with a hot Tamago (Steamed egg) which was already a favorite and was glad I had something warm in my tummy prior to the upcoming delights. It was sweet and comforting to the soul like a warm steamed towel at yum cha. But we weren’t here for egg, we are here for seafood! Bring it on!
I think you’ll find it interesting to see how the food is served and how quickly it churns out much like a tennis ball machine. This video also features the amazing Flounder followed by the Snapper (VIDEO).
Each time I closed my eyes, I would ask the sushi genie to grant my wish- then BAM! A new sushi would appear before me within seconds. Hello! The Scallop was my personal fav, as it really allowed you to taste the freshness and the sweetness of the flesh in its raw form. I felt no need for any soy.
I loved the scallop so much that I had it as my ‘extra’ item at the end.
Unagi (steamed) was delicate and required a quick pickup and release. Witnessing my friends clumsily eat this in various pieces including seeing some fall to the ground was a valuable lesson.
I kept laughing each time the chef laid down the sushi - he would say “WASABI, NO WASABI”
I don’t think I need to tell you what this is! My friends, this was like having popping candy in you mouth only savory! The multitude of mini bursts was an incredible sensation. You could literally see the little bubbles surrounding each precious egg making it clear that these were extracted just minutes ago.
Clam. Sushi Chef says: “This one, still alive!” And yes it was, as I saw it moving off the rice.
Initially, I thought the clam was going to start wriggling in my mouth but it didn’t. Phew! Although, it could be due to the fact that I ate it like I was sculling down a shot of vodka.
By the time the Tuna with Cucumber rolls came out, I was done and ready to starfish on a couch. But so obliged to eat them, I pulled out my emergency stomach!
The Cap Off
Overall, I would have to say that not only was this the best dining experience in my life, but also the best sushi I’ve ever had. Not only due to the literally ’still alive’ freshness of the seafood, but because of the sheer skill of each sushi chef not too mention their absolute passion to their craft and hospitable nature. Every bite tasted like it was just fished out of the sea.
I was in awe and was continually distracted by their performance on the floor. I’m looking forward to a second return soon. Anyone care to fund that trip?
Having said that, I’ve been running around like my head was on fire since I arrived back – from landscaping my backyard, curing my travel withdrawal symptoms by overeating, sorting through 5,000 emails at work to something I’m very excited about: a new blog logo and header! I was looking for an illustration and design that represents who I am and how I think about food. If you’ve been an avid reader (thank you) since I started my humble blog, you would know that: 1. I don’t take myself THAT seriously 2. my writing style is light, quirky/weird (you pick one) and at times, leaning towards the “Um, what the?!” – may I remind you of my dancing moves in various posts. The thing is, I wouldn’t want it any other way. 3. My comic book obsession and finally my crazy obsession over butter, steak and pig, thus being served these morsels and pictured in Food Rehab. The “Happy Toastie” is my alter ego!
Not sure how this happened, but my blog was picked up by MTV Brasil who featured it on their frontpage yesterday. Unfortunately, I was only informed today (due to the time difference) so I didn’t get a screenshot! Don’t worry, I have requested one of course.
So um, would you eat sushi still alive?