Last year, the owner/chef at a local restaurant we frequent invited us to tour Tsukiji Market with him and enjoy a bit of sushi while we were there. Due to his busy schedule, we weren’t able to make the trip until a few months later. However, when it did happen, the plan escalated into pulling an all nighter, in order to circumvent the train system that closes between 12 to 5am, and get to Tsukiji Market early enough.
I’ll follow the order of events that evening so if you are here for the sushi, feel free to scroll down. Aside from the great sushi, Mimi and I were super impressed by our host, Mitamura-san, who came to meet us in Roppongi immediately after working a full day, partied all night and went directly back to his restaurant to open up for lunch upon our return home.
Our meeting point was Rigoletto Bar and Grill for a snack and some drinks. (Grilled fish and spinach salad)
Even though we had dinner just a couple of hours prior, it turned into a full meal. Avocado burger in the background and Foie Gras Burger in the foreground.
It’s not a proper meal without dessert so, Verry Berry Cheese Cake and…
a Strawberry Tarte were ordered.
We still had a few hours to burn before Tsukiji Market and Sushi Dai would open so we made our way to a club called Feria in Roppongi.
Our friends Akiko and Hajime joined us for the adventure. Our host, Mitamura-san of Taverna Balena on the right. It was quite a challenge to manually focus on the dark dance floor between strobes of light.
After leaving the club around 4 in the morning, we made our way to Sushi Dai and this line around the block was our greeting.
After finding out the wait from our position in line would be over three hours in the freezing cold, we decided to take turns touring the fish market with Mitamura-san
This delivery truck had a few hints of dekatora styling. I definitely wasn’t expecting to find that here.
Some fresh octopus waiting to be massaged or boiled.
Huge slabs of the tuna purchased at auction earlier in the morning were laid out on display.
An abundance of bubbling abalone.
A bucket of mini eels. I definitely prefer seeing these in their cooked state.
Tsukiji is always bustling and filled with these standing motor carts buzzing through delivery paths. We saw a few absent minded tourists get clipped by them.
Near the center of the market area, we came across a famous tuna dealer under the name of Ishimiya.
It was a treat to observe their filleting skills with the maguro bōchō.
Mitamura-san decided to do some shopping for his dinner menu that evening.
Another set of octopus tentacles.
Tuna head on display
This was my first time seeing a Cornet fish (aka. Yagara / 矢柄)
Some huge shrimp. I was getting hungry again in anticipation of the sushi and viewing all this fresh seafood.
We were there pretty early so a bunch of the shops were still receiving inventory and setting up for the day.
For some reason, I found the patina on these well worn delivery carts really cool.
On the way back to Sushi Dai we passed this giant Ice maker.
Looking at these ice blocks and large hooks made me think of the opening scene in Frozen.
We also happened across Aritsugu knife shop. A well respected cutlery dealer.
I was pretty tempted to buy a knife or two. Maybe another time…
We checked up on the progress of the line upon our return. Unfortunately, our group had only moved up a few paces and the reality of the 3 and a half hour wait set in.
Mimi and Ako decided to tour the market on their own, only to be issued this flyer while taking pictures. I’m not sure if they just assumed our group of 3 guys snapping pics and video were restaurant owners, but nobody seemed to mind when we were touring 20-30 minutes before.
After standing out in the cold and not being able to feel my toes anymore, we finally made it to the front of the shop and caught a glimpse of their omakase set (10 pieces of sushi recommended by the chef then one additional piece of your choice at the end. Accompanied by miso soup and tea.)
It was a huge relief to finally be seated at the sushi bar.
This giant scallop was calling me from inside the case directly in front of me.
The offerings for the day.
Miso soup and hot tea to warm us up.
The miso was made with fish and roe
A slice of tamagoyaki to start things off. One of the better ones I’ve tried with a light and slightly moist texture accompanied by a subtle sweetness.
The sushi assembly machine in action.
I was surprised to find that Sushi Dai serves directly on the raised counter in front of you. A little ginger to cleanse the palate between varying pieces of sushi.
Maguro Tuna. Melt in your mouth fatty deliciousness.
A pretty generous cut.
Our chef prepping the next course.
Red Snapper (Tai)
Sea Urchin (Uni).
Horse Mackerel (Aji) topped with scallion. One of my favorites.
Clam (Hokkigai). This was good but I typically prefer arc shell clam.
Non Fatty Tuna (akami). It was actually my first time trying this. I enjoyed the smooth and slightly firm texture.
Sweet baby shrimp.
Salmon/Cucumber and Tuna rolls
Spanish Mackerel (Sawara)
Salt Water Eel (Anago). Probably one of my least favorite types of nigiri sushi.
Salmon Roe (Ikura).
Botan Shrimp (Botanebi).
Mimi chose an extra piece of fatty tuna at the end.
While I decided to taste the large scallop (Hotate) sitting just in front of me.
Sushi Dai was undoubtedly better than the other big name in Tsukiji, Daiwa Sushi, but the absurdly long wait would have me turning to other options in the future. Definitely worth trying though.