I waited five hours in line for this meal. I didn’t expect there to be anyone waiting though when I arrived at 1:30am but there they were, seven diehards. By the time 4:30am rolled around, this had turned into 70 people…
It’s fair to say that Sushi Dai is popular. Extremely so. But this is no cheap music style popularity. The sushi here is good. Perhaps not in an elegant refined kind of way but more like a returning from the wild waters with a catch of class in tow. But then, what else should you expect from a 13-seat sushi bar nestled within Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish markets?
Chatting with a Sushi Dai veteran waiting next to me, I was told that in most places in Tokyo, the sushi we were about to eat would have set us back anywhere between 10-15,000 yen. That’s roughly $100-150. Sushi Dai only charges 4,000 yen. You do the math. Mr Veteran had no idea why Sushi Dai kept its prices so reasonable but we were all glad for it.
Like everyone else, I ordered the chef’s choice set. That’s 12 pieces of sushi including an egg omelette and my own choice from what was on offer that day.
We were offered some customary green tea and miso soup before the first dish was served. The first couple of pieces tend to have gentler and milder flavours so to see that fatty tuna was first on the list was a surprise. These days fatty tuna usually appears later but upon tasting it, I got a sense as to 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, with its typical shellfish ocean crunch, melted away. The thick slab of yellowtail followed the same pattern, a brush of freshness whilst dissolving into the rice as you ate.
The sea urchin, I was told, came from Aomori, up in the north of the country and instead of a blast of salt water, the piece offered a tender vanishing act. I’m not sure where it went but I had the distinct feeling of wanting to get back on the boat to find some more. The salmon roe, too, played the same trick on me.
The flounder, golden eye snapper, horse mackerel 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. 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. Needless to say, it melted and was thoroughly enjoyable on the palate.
If you ever have the chance to eat sushi 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.
By the way, I should mention that the first guy in line had been waiting since 10:30pm the previous evening. He evidently thought that Sushi Dai was worth the wait. Having tried it, I can tell you, it is.
Very much so.