This tiny 13-seat sushi bar located in inner Tsukiji Market (not to be confused with Daiwa Sushi just a few doors down) is widely regarded as the best of the dozens of sushi restaurants in Tokyo’s premier fish market so, naturally, it was top of the hit-list on my recent visit to the Japanese capital.
First, the bad news. Sushi Dai’s growing fame means that long queues are commonplace (don’t be fooled by the photo above – the queue breaks so that it doesn’t block the entrances of neighbouring shops and restaurants, and continues on the street around the corner). And its limited capacity mean that these queues move very slowly. But if you go early to watch the tuna auction (very worthwhile I am told – unfortunately the auction was not open to the public when we went in December), you should be able to walk straight into Sushi Dai immediately after – the restaurant opens at 5am. If you happen to be visiting at the time of the year when the tuna auction is not open to the public, I would still recommend getting there early – we made the mistake of going at 7.30am and ended up having to queue for 2 hours.
Now, the good news – Sushi Dai was indeed as good as advertised, and worth every minute of the two-hour wait. They offer just two menus – a Jyou (standard) menu - 7 pieces of nigiri sushi and an Omakase (‘trust the chef’) menu, although you can order additional a la carte after you are seated – another reason why the queue moves so slowly. We opted for the Omakase menu which consisted of 10 pieces of nigiri sushi selected by the chef, plus an additional piece of nigiri sushi of your choice. You also get a bowl of miso soup, a couple of pieces of sweet egg roll, and cut sushi cut rolls as part of the deal with both menus.
The sushi was simply breathtaking – by far the best I had ever had to that point (I would have the privilege of an even better sushi dinner a couple of days later at Kyubey, albeit at far greater expense) – exceedingly fresh fish (one, the akagai – red clam, still moving!), some of variety not commonly found in London, all of quality not ever found in London, sitting atop loosely packed, perfectly cooked, vinegared rice, skilfully prepared by chefs who delighted in making the meal an ‘event’ for every new customer in the continuous stream making their way through the door; this was truly an experience to savour.
Every single piece of caringly crafted sushi placed (directly on the counter) before us was absolutely divine – from the melt-in-your-mouth o-toro – fatty tuna, to the wonderfully creamy uni – sea urchin without the slightest hint of fishiness, the exquisite, ever so slightly chewy-textured akagai – red clam, the amazingly sweet shiraebi – baby shrimp, the strikingly-coloured maguro-zuke – marinated lean tuna, and the burst-in-your-mouth ikura – salmon roe, the list goes on and on. Even the non-sushi items were sensational. The egg roll was served warm, and oh so soft and fluffy, with just the right amount of sweetness – it was stunningly good. The miso soup, strongly flavoured with a shellfish and fish stock, and containing a few chunks of fish, was really great too.
In a nutshell…
The queues can be very long but affordably-priced, fresh-as-you-can-get sushi prepared by expert chefs with joy written all over their faces, right in the heart of Tokyo’s world-famous Tsukiji Market, made this a meal well worth waiting for.
#6 Tsukiji-Shinjo, 5-2-1 Tsukiji-Chuo-ku, Tokyo
+81 03 35476797
Average Price: ¥3000-¥4000
Worth noting: Closed Sundays, Cash only