Our trip to Tsukiji Fish Market (築地市場) to try the most famous sushi restaurant, Sushi Dai, was such a special one that there just has to be a separate post for this experience alone!
Sushi Dai Review
To beat the morning’s 2° chill (worsened by the rain!) while waiting for our turn at Sushi Dai, we decided to take turns to sit down at Aiyo Coffee (愛養), a 120-year-old coffee shop famous among the locals. The owner himself brews and makes the coffee, and it was truly bliss. It might be the cold weather or the rustic nuance, but the coffee was miles better than any coffee I’d had in any café in Singapore. But then again, I don’t visit cafés that often, what do I know!
We lined up for roughly 2 hours in the freezing and wet weather, fought with some rude tourists and survived to make it to the legendary Sushi Dai (寿司大).
And, damn if those sushi chefs didn’t know how to start with a bang.
O-toro (fattiest of the fatty tuna) was the first dish in their ¥3900 (about SG$60 back in 2012. Today it would be about SG$45) omakase meal (we had 2 pieces each because we’re awesome and we ordered two meals each. Also we were cold and hungry), and it was downright the best tuna I’ve ever had. The whole piece melted in your mouth. If it wasn’t for the rice, I wouldn’t even need to chew.
Next up was Suzuki (sea bass). I watched as the chef prepared the fish, squeezing a bit of lime juice before giving it to us, specifically telling us “No sauce.” The lime juice gave the delicate fish a great zest, which made for a different sushi experience.
Here goes Tai. ‘Tai’ is red snapper. I’d eaten red snapper sushi before in some sushi chain restaurants and I’d come to believe that it ALWAYS tasted fishy and had a strange, rubbery texture. But then there was this. The real Red snapper turned out to be the BEST of all the sushi here, for me. It was slightly chewy and not as melty as the o-toro, but the fresh taste of the fish (I literally don’t have any other word to describe the taste) was just perfect.
The Uni (sea urchin) was brilliant. Third favourite of my sushi experience, I’d NEVER had uni this amazing before. This wasn’t mushy and tangy at all, it was instead sweet with a very ”ocean-y” taste to it.
The Aji (mackerel) was bright inside and it was really thick. Like half a cm or more. This piece was intense but not fishy at all.
“This one still alive!” were the words of our chef after he placed this wickedly obscure piece of sushi on the table. At first we thought it was some kind of octopus, the Akagai (red clam) was so fresh it was still alive and moving! Chewing the somewhat rubbery creature while the tentacles curled a tiny bit in your mouth was a…unique experience. It was weird. The tasty kind of weird.
This one was Sawara (sierra). I’ll be truly honest, I don’t particularly remember anything unique about the taste. It was somewhat similar to saba (mackerel).
After such an explosion of flavours from the previous sushi, I was ready for anything. The chefs then served these delicate cubes of yellow egg omelette, all steamy and fluffy. I took a bite expecting, well, egg.
But no, oh no, it was not just any egg. After a bite, it became obvious that the Tamagoyaki (sweet egg omelette) was prepared with such meticulousness that the texture, sweetness and taste were simply perfect. It was amazing how these measly cubes of fried egg could deliver such complex piquancy on your tongue.
The Magurozuke (marinated tuna) had such a deep and intense colour it looked like it was dyed. Seriously, I kept telling my friends that it was literally glistening. It was great too, a different kind of experience from ōtoro, which melted in your mouth – this one was sweet-salty and the chewy texture was fantastic. Immaculately sliced and seasoned, perfection like this is something you can find only in Japan.
Apparently Ankimo, or monkfish liver, is often considered the black truffle of gourmet sushi cuisine or ‘foie gras of the sea’.
I ate it without being sure of what it was (it looked like a piece of cooked fish meat) but when I had the first bite I kind of understood. The liver meat disintegrated and melted and became rainbow as I swallowed it.
The closing item was Anago (sea eel). The flavor was nearly the same as unagi with the same sweetness from the fish and the sauce but the texture was completely different; it was so velvety that it just disintegrated. Light and fluffy, it was incredible. We also saw how the chefs masterfully picked out the tiny bones from each of this sushi in a matter of seconds!
All in all, eating in Sushi Dai was indeed a pleasure, and it was totally worth the torture that was waiting in line for hours and hours since before the first light of day even hit the market. Do give it a try at least once to understand what the fuss is all about, before the fish market relocates to Tokyo Bay in 2016.
Wakkoqu (和黒) Address: 3F Shin-Kobe Oriental Avenue 1, 1-Chome Kitano-cho Chuo-ku Kobe-City 神戸市中央区北野町1丁目1 新神戸オリエンタルアベニュー3F Phone:+8178-262-2838 Hours: 11:45 am – 22:00 pm