Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo.
if you’re planning a trip to Tokyo, Tsukiji Fish Market shouldn’t be unfamiliar to you. especially half of this world renowned market is going to be relocated in 2016 so this year is the only last chance you have to enjoy Tsukiji as it is. and if you’re planning on a trip there already.. you might probably have heard of the most famous sushi
restaurant bar in Tsukiji, Sushi Dai. BUT, you might’ve also heard of the sushi bar a few shops away, called Sushi Daiwa. and as a sushi enthusiast as myself, I went to both.
okay, actually because of my budget, I could barely afford such luxury but I skimped throughout my whole Tokyo trip for it. so it better be worth it. so at first, I was dying to look for someone to be kind enough to go with me to Tsukiji as NOBODY wanted to wake up early and queue for hours just for good sushi.
I started queuing for Sushi Dai from 6:15AM as soon as I’ve reached (my friends told me how it was complicating to find bla bla but I found it ridiculously easy to find. just google for the directions from Tsukijishijo Station to Sushi Dai and screen cap it. then use it as your guide there. =). that’s what I did for EVERYTHINGGG hahaha.)
I queued all the way till 7:30AM and I barely moved. I literally have about 30 people lining up in front of me after waiting for a little more than an hour. the line only decreased by around 10. since the person I DRAGGED to come with me had to go to work at 8:30, we headed for Sushi Daiwa instead.
and man, I wasn’t disappointed.
Daiwa has two restaurants all together and a queue of around 20 to 30 people at 7:30AM whereas Sushi Dai has a MUCH longer queue but with only ONE restaurant. and one restaurant can fit up to around 12 people.
whatever it is, let’s start with Daiwa’s 7 nigiri + 1 roll. and it costs… 3,500yen.
firstly, Daiwa wow-ed me with their succulent Otoro (Fatty Tuna. most expensive sushi!) and it tasted SOOOOOOOOOOOOO goooooooooood. it was literally like heaven on earth when I had it. you’ll get what I mean when you read on.
they totally did not ask if I was ok with wasabi but I am not exactly sure since I had a Japanese sitting next to me doing all the job for me =D. but I was shocked how that amount of wasabi tasted JUST RIGHT and not over powering its taste.
top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right. the sequence of my expression. IT WAS JUST SO GOOOOOOOOD. I could barely write it in words, the fatty tuna was just bursting in my mouth like confetti and fireworks and I was so tempted to get another one. (BUT MY BUDGETTTT T_T).
the Ebi was good. as good as the one I had in Hokkaido but again, the Japanese said he had better in Hokkaido.
the maguro (tuna) and ikura (salmon roe) maki was pretty normal, I have to say =S.
they served a very seafood-y miso soup with mini clams inside and hot tea all together.
as for the Uni, it was bloody goood. I don’t eat Uni if it isn’t very fresh. I would give it a 9/10. it could be even better but it was good enough for me U_U. the most expensive uni I had in Malaysia made me want to puke it all out. so I am greatly satisfied.
what I liked about Daiwa was this. HAHAHAH. and the Otoro of course. after serving you the Ebi, they serve you its head. cooked. and boy was it good.
Hamachi! probably the 2nd best sushi I had in Daiwa. it was so fresh and thick I want moreeeee T_T. I hope I could have two portions of everything I had here. and that’ll be 7,000yen. HAHHA.
Ika. Squid. I hated this sushi. until the Mr.chef at Daiwa showed me how fresh Ika could taste so wonderful T____T. I now actually like Ika. and I would love to have more. it doesn’t look exactly beautiful but it was good trust me. the one beside it is Chutoro. medium fatty tuna. just as good. MMMMM.
Anago. I don’t know what you call it in English but my guess will be.. baby eel? it tastes and looks like eel but it’s somewhat sweeter. you don’t eat this with shoyu (soy sauce) and it’s really good just like it is. but my favourite sushi with Anago will still be the Kyoto-styled sushi called Hako sushi. I always order the Deluxe Hako sushi set there so I can have a variety but their Anago is the best!
Mr. Chef liked me very much as he kept talking to me while his other customers get jealous teehee and at the end of the meal, he asked if I would like more. and I was having a hard time selecting (BUDGET BUDGET BUDGET!!!) and he took out the tray with FRESH HOTATE (scallop) which were so huge and so beautiful I just had to have it. I didn’t know how much it costs but.. a piece of Otoro costs 800yen here while it costs 700yen in Sushi Dai. I would say, go queue up for Daiwa (it isn’t that long) JUST FOR THE OTORO. it’s PHENOMENAL.
so after two days. I found myself at Tsukiji again because god knows when will I ever get to visit Tokyo again and have the chance to eat Sushi Dai. I wasn’t contented with only Sushi Daiwa despite their Otoro being so good I couldn’t imagine anything better.
this time, I queued outside the restaurant at 5:20. and I found myself at almost the SAME BLOODY PLACE I was at when I arrived at 6:15. (I took the first train the first time. and a cab the 2nd). I had 39 people ahead of me (yes, I counted) and I waited for 3 LONG hours.
at around two hours of wait, the lady who works for Sushi Dai came out with a tray of hot tea and my heart melted. that was exactly what I needed. it was dark, cold, and freezing in the morning T_T.
at this point, my feet was literally frozen despite wearing snow boots. it was sooooo cold. and since I was barely moving.. I was shivering.
I was third in line and what a bummer because if I had only arrived a little earlier, I would’ve skipped an hour of wait because most people order the Omakase (a set of 10+1 nigiri and maki costing 4,000yen. the nigiri of 7 sushi’s costs 2,500yen. 1,000yen cheaper than Daiwa but I am not sure about the variety of expensive sushi in it.) and it takes around 45minutes to an hour for them to complete their meal. so for each 12 people, expect to wait for an hour. except for some foreigners who went ala-carte instead and left early. what a waste though, after all that waiting and only have a few sushi >_>. but better for those in line behind!
also, don’t spend loads and loads of time taking pictures. there was a group of.. three foreign girls whom kept taking pictures and selfies who left after an hour and a half. they totally got that Hong Kong couple behind me angry.
I thought I’d not take a picture of the soup but this is no ordinary Miso soup.. it’s fish soup! the fish was so deliciousssss <3. sorry for the disgusting picture hahaha. for the soup, I’d give it to Sushi Dai.
here’s my chef! I am not sure but I am told that the two chefs who had served me are the “famous” chefs in both restaurants. and I guess I was really lucky to have both of them serve me! they asked me where I was from and I said Malaysia and they started speaking to me in Malay and English hahaha. but I didn’t get their explanations well so I asked him to talk to me in Korean. weird huh. but I understood better >_<“. I guess because I am more used to listening to Foreigners speaking Korean since I am one too.
unlike Sushi Daiwa, the chefs here seems to serve a lot of foreigners and will ask stuff like.. if wasabi is fine.. let you know what you’re eating and how it should be eaten. with or without Shoyu. even though Daiwa explained what sushi it was. Dai explained it with detail (like if it has salt so you don’t need shoyu) and up till how you should eat it. and they’d warn you on stuff that are too hot. perfect foreigner service I’d say.
I came to Sushi Dai alone and the two Japanese couples on my right and left BOTH HAD BEER. I wanted it too but.. it was so early in the morning and I’d look dumb having beer alone. and also since I had very little left to spend..
when you order beer/sake, they’d ask you if you want these side dishes for 300yen. hell yeah I’d love some!!! I’ll definitely come again.. NOT ALONE AND WITH MORE CASH!!!
so first up! OTORO! I was very happy to see the piece of Otoro in front of me but when I ate it.. I realised that it wasn’t as good as the one at Sushi Daiwa and I was quite disappointed (the queue was 6 times more!!!). it was good of course but I don’t know why was my piece of Otoro so slim T______T. I googled for other reviews and other people seemed to have a thicker cut. I guess I was just unlucky or something sigh. but even with the bigger cuts, the Otoro here looked like Chutoro to me somehow. it was sleek and shiny. it wasn’t like how the FAT SLAB of Otoro looked like in Daiwa. but then again, I am no Sushi expert. but according to my palate, I preferred the Otoro at Daiwa.
Tamago. oh did I mention how Sushi Daiwa had so-so egg? I didn’t know Daiwa had so-so egg (I thought it was just standard) until I had the one here. it was slightly too sweet to my liking but it was really good! like REALLLLLY good. and my friend living in Japan told me that she noticed that Japanese people like sweet things a lot and how they’d drink sweetened stuff over plain water anytime. I guess it’s true.
Suzuki. Sea Bass. since I live in Korea, I am very very very familiar with this fish. but I had never had one as good as this. I had it in Busan, Jeju, quite expensive places but this one beat them all. of course, I have yet to try the VERY EXPENSIVE PLACES. haha. it was so sweet and it was less chewy like how it is in Korea. it was really my first time tasting the true flavour of it (in Korea, we dip it in a lot of sauce hahahahah).
but one complain. I just wished that they gave a bigger cut.
Dai. Snapper. no this Dai and the Sushi Dai’s Dai isn’t the same. it was good but again, the cut was a little disappointing but I still loved its taste and texture since I am not usually a fan of it.
the overflowing uni. should I explain more? the sea urchin was sooooooooooooo fresh and it looked so pretty. but it was a tiny piece. just right for my tiny mouth but still, it was really small compared to other places. hands down for it’s freshness though. the moment I had this Uni, I was just lost in my own sushi wonderland. it melts like butter but its taste’s soooo good. if you hate uni, try this and tell me again.
Aji. Horse Mackerel. it’s visually stunning. and it surprised my taste buds. I was never a fan of Aji. it’s always THE boring sushi for me and I wonder why people eat it. but the way they prepare it here.. I loved it.
Akagai. or Red Clam. this was MOVING. I wanted to take a shot of it but I didn’t know that.. IT MOVES!!!! the chef was so cute when he presented this to me. he said “Sal-a-isso-yo~~~” (it’s alive in Korean) and for a second his facial expressions was more attractive than the moving clam in front of me.
I don’t think I need to explain how fresh it was if it’s literally moving in front of me right? and it was.. SWEET!!!
Maguro. Tuna. okay. I had a pair of very expensive Maguro at Hyundai Dept Store and this was similar. except a little better and thicker. you don’t need a lot of shoyu with this. just taste its original taste. =3.
I had a little allergy from eating the prawn (stupid allergy. I loved prawns so much I had 30+ of it and then I got prawn allergy. hah.) two days ago at Daiwa so I opted out for it. and I bet there wasn’t a same priced sushi anyway so he replaced it with.. Kohada. it tasted like Saba to me. but I guess since I got a less expensive sushi, I got a MUCH BETTER looking sushi. it was pleated and it tasted so very good.
but ugh. the girl beside me who had the less better looking Shiroi Ebi (white baby shrimp) shouted softly “AMAIIIII~~~ <3” and I was so jealous T_T. amai means sweet in Japanese =). but the white baby shrimps on top of white rice didn’t look very good to be honest. it just looked like.. only rice. until you look again. closer. but I BET IT WAS GOOD!!!! it was just weird how every baby prawn didn’t have their shell on. hence it was fully white. that must be some crazy prawn peeling skill.
here’s a picture I found on google.
SAWARA!!!!!! I remembered this sushi the most. it’s the King Mackerel! and the King of Sushi Dai. to me. I absolutely LOVE this sushi. my favourite of Sushi Dai. I had never had ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE. it was such a huge slab of sashimi I had to use my fingers to push the remaining fish into my mouth since eating sushi like a pro means eating it in one bite. =3. I was so happy with its cut. I think it was marinated with ponju or something sour. lemon perhaps? or.. vinegar.. hmm. but the slight sourness of the sauce went PERFECTLY with the fish. so so so so so good. mmm.
Negitoro and Tarako. minced tuna and cod roe. decent.
Sushi Dai’s Anago. I don’t know why the more disgusting sushi always taste better. (like how the otoro at Daiwa doesn’t look so nice but tasted like heaven) this sushi might look awful compared to Sushi Daiwa’s Anago but it was SO GOOOOOOOOOD. I saw the trainee chef picking the bones of the Anago carefully beside and it was super sweet! I loved it!
at this point, I have had 10 pieces of Nigiri and the Sushi Master asked me “what would you like finally? I will give you one as a service!”
man. this was a tough choice. if this was Sushi Daiwa I’d definitely go for one more piece of Otoro. but since the first piece was a let-down, I was contemplating to get another Sawara. but I thought to myself.. why get the same thing? I seriously couldn’t pick. so I decided to observe the two Japanese couples sitting on both sides of me. and the first 3 orders was.. SHIRAKO. if you don’t know yet. Shirako is the Sperm Sacs of cod fish. I had it before but I wasn’t too fond of it. it tasted like Mayonnaise. and the thought of it being sperm sacs was just.. >_>. and finally, one girl ordered Amberjack. since I was told Amberjack was in season just a few months ago when I was in Jeju, I gave it a try!
I still remembered how I purchased my first sashimi plate of Amberjack from the market and liked it. but.. now I think I love it. Sawara’s still the best of course!
but I guess I’m kind of silly to have ordered a cheaper fish since most foreigners would opt for the more expensive sushi. but what I think is that they skimp on the Otoro while they give huger cuts for the cheaper ones. still, the next time, I’ll give Otoro another go at the end and order kampachi, oysters, hamachi and saba!
VERDICT : I’d say I prefer Sushi Dai overall but I am still salivating over Sushi Daiwa’s Otoro Fatty Tuna which was absolutely amazing. if you have the time, visit both! but if you’re lacking of time, go for Sushi Daiwa as the wait is much shorter and their sushi ain’t bad. if you have a lot of time like me (it’s my 2nd time in Tokyo so I had a lot of time to spare lol) get your butt up early in the morning and wait for 3 hours. I heard I was lucky as some people stood there since 5AM and waited for 5 hours for Sushi Dai. I guess it really depends on the season/day. plus since Sushi Dai is voted as the best Sushi restaurant in Tsukiji online, it’s voted as the foreigners favourite.
here’s a summary of the two restaurants.
SUSHI DAIWA (3,500yen for 7 nigiri + maki) – friendly (and funny) chefs. the line moves very quick hence short wait. 30-45min wait. superb Otoro. wonderful Ika. amazing Hamachi.
SUSHI DAI (2,500yen for 7 nigiri+maki, 4,000yen for omakase 10+1 nigiri+maki) – 3-5 hour wait but it lives up to its name. might not be worth your precious time if you have limited time. SAWARA was phenomenal. loved their Anago. friendly (funny too), detailed and attentive chef. better presentation.
but honestly, my friends (living in Tokyo) whom had been to Sushi Daiwa and not Sushi Dai were very satisfied with Sushi Daiwa and of course, they had to order extra Otoro pieces. so if you really hate the wait or waking up super early in the morning, Daiwa isn’t such a bad choice although I stated that I personally preferred Sushi Dai.
OPERATING HOURS : 5AM – 2PM.
PS: Tsukiji is walking distance to Ginza. so you can head there after your orgasmic sushi meal!