If you are seeking the freshest seafood on the planet, look no further than Sushi Dai, located at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. Tsukiji is the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, and pretty much everything caught in the area will be sold through here. This is the same fish that is eventually sold to restaurants across Tokyo, so the seafood is that fresh.
Having it for breakfast is almost not an option, since it is usually a 2-3 hour wait in line to get into the 12-seat restaurant. We woke up at 3AM on a Friday to make sure that we would get into the fish auction, which is held every morning here at Tsukiji. They only let about two groups of 50 people each in to view the auction, so its better safe than sorry. Rows of frozen tuna will be first inspected for quality and size, and then for 20-30 minutes, each slab is auctioned off for thousands of dollars, before it gets portioned off and sent to the winning restaurants. My friends and I didn’t even hit the lineup for Sushi Dai until about 6AM, and I don’t think we got inside until 8:30-9AM.
The four of us all got the Chef’s choice. At 3900 yen (about $40 CAD at the time of this writing), you get 10 pieces of nigiri chosen by the chef, one roll, and one nigiri of your choice. It sounds like a lot of money for 12 pieces of sushi, but the entire meal is really filling, and the quality of the fish is completely worth it.
Everyone is seated right in front of the three chefs working. Not only are you entertained by the work of art that is created in front of you, but the chefs are humorous and engaging, chatting with every customer. They are definitely used to tourists. Each sushi is made one at a time: the chef makes it, places the single piece on your plate, and waits for you to finish before the next one is made. There is the standard fare, like fatty tuna and shrimp. And there is stuff that is just uncommon here in landlocked Alberta, like mackerel and sea urchin. If you’re wondering exactly how fresh some of this sushi is, well the clam is still moving when the chef places it on your plate. Back home in Alberta, squid at a sushi restaurant is usually tough and hard to chew. Here, your teeth slices right through like butter.
Was the 3 hour wait worth it? Definitely. But if I ever return to Tokyo, I don’t think I will do it again since there are plenty of restaurants at Tsukiji of almost equal quality. Maybe I am too impatient. If you already plan on visiting the fish auction, you might as well swing by Sushi Dai right after.