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Sushi for breakfast: Eating the world’s freshest fish from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market

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. sushi daisushi dai

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.

sushi daisushi dai

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.

sushi dai

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.

sushi daisushi daisushi dai

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.

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A Fistful of Ramen: Shikiji Review

Kent and I decided to meet a few friends for dinner before a movie one cold winter evening, so we rushed on over to Shikiji after work. We showed up promptly at 5pm to a completely deserted restaurant – but trendsetters that we are, soon found ourselves leading the evening charge to fill up on noodles and sushi. By the time we left, the place was about as full as you could expect for a Wednesday night – a busy restaurant is a sign of a good restaurant! (though I did recently experience one exception to this rule…)

Pound that sesame!The décor is pleasant, if pretty typical for Japanese restaurants in Calgary – though they have some interesting table elements like garlic chips for snacking/garnishing and sesame seeds that you can grind up into a powder yourself. Another unique touch is the use of reusable laminated order forms where you us a dry-erase marker to record your sushi order, rather than the typical pencil-and-paper system – I’m not sure if this actually benefits the environment in any appreciable manner, but their heart is in the right place!

As we perused the menu, the waiter cheerfully informed us that they also offered a special seafood ramen that was not listed on any of the menus. I wasn’t in the mood for ramen that day, but it did sound rather intriguing – more the reason to come back in the future! No, my attention was fully focused on the unagi don (rice bowl with BBQ eel) – nine solid ounces of sweet, succulent eel! I absolutely love unagi sushi, so I couldn’t go wrong with the unagi don, right?

I don't think humans were meant to consume this quantity of eel in one sitting

The don came out in a rather unassuming bento box, but when the lid was removed the entire eel was displayed in its char-grilled glory. Unfortunately, it does seem like there is such a thing as too much of a good thing – while the eel was relatively smooth in texture, it was a lot firmer and chewier than I was expecting and I soon tired of it after eating a little over half of it. 9oz was definitely overkill for me – it probably would have been better to share it rather than eat it as a singular dish.

That being said, the rest of the food ordered for the table was pretty awesome – from the “autumn roll special” sushi (salmon and tempura sweet potato) to the gargantuan, steaming bowls of chilli-goma ramen. Perhaps it’s because we got there before there was much of a crowd, but most of the food came out really fast (save for the unagi-don, which as the menu warns, takes 15 minutes to prepare).  While they do some decent sushi, Shikiji’s really best known for their ramen, so Kent’s got more the say on the noodle situation below.

It was winter, but luckily they still had the Autumn Roll on the menu

Kent’s 2 Cents

Sure, you can make yourself a bowl of instant noodles for about sixty cents, but that requires intense physical work. You actually have to get water from the tap, put it in the kettle, and wait for at least 3-5 minutes! Pretty outrageous if you ask me. Luckily, there are a few places around town that serve a big cozy bowl of ramen or udon.

Probably the most awkward spoon ever inventedShikiji is priced at the higher end as far as noodle soups go. The chili goma ramen weighs in at almost $15. But in return, the ramen comes with pork, bamboo shoots, and shitake in a chili sesame soup broth. Oh and it has noodles. It is actually quite big, and is fine as its own meal. The spoon is a big wooden ladle, which is also pretty neat. As for the taste, I like. The chili sesame broth is flavourful, rich and salty, which was perfect for surviving the sub zero temperatures that evening. Some might not like the salty broth, but I slurped up half the bowl after the main contents were consumed. Hello high blood pressure. The noodles were fine, not soggy or mushy. People don’t typically get blown away by good noodles (especially when you really just taste the broth and other things), but when they suck people notice. So they were fine.

The only other ramen place (in Calgary anyway) I can compare is Muku on 14th Street. Muku is definitely cheaper, but it is not as flavourful or as enjoyable as Shikiji. And they don’t give you a big wooden ladle either. The Calgary ramen/udon community needs to step it up and catch up with the five bajillion Vietnamese pho houses in the city. I didn’t try the sushi, but it looked nice. I’ll come back.

Chili goma ramen!  This is what Goku gets his special powers from

Summary

Ok, so it isn’t Japan where you can get a bowl of delicious ramen for $2, but in Japan they don’t usually serve you eels the size of your forearm or a bowl of noodles weighing as much as a small baby.  Shikiji delivers some pretty creative and reasonably sized takes on a variety of Japanese dishes, and is definitely worth a visit if you’ve got a hankering for some ramen and some cash to spare.

^_^ – Richard

Ranking

  Richard Kent
Ambiance 5/6 5/6
Service 4.5/6 4.5/6
Plating 5/6 5/6
Taste 5/6 5/6
Authenticity 5/6 5/6
Value 4/6 4/6
Overall 28.5/36 = 79% 28.5/36 = 79%

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