Sushi Dai -- Tsukiji, Tokyo
Earlier this week, I got to the Tsukiji area for sushi at around 10am. After reading through the rundown of a few Tsukiji sushi restaurants in the Dec issue of Otona no Shumatsu magazine (see linked post from a few weeks ago), I made the choice for Sushi Dai. All signs were good. Sushi Dai was jammed and there was a short enough line to wait in. In front of us was a group who are regulars at the restaurant, and we learned through them that Sushi Dai is one of the two restaurants with the longest lines at Tsukiji. The line grew to about 20 people by the time we got in. Sushi Dai is a single cramped counter that seats no more than 15 people, and three itamae man the bar. You can order a la carte, or choose between three levels of set menus at 2100¥, 2900¥, or 3760¥. We chose the 3760¥ menu. The set included ootoro, suzuki (bass), maguro zuke (marinated tuna), shiro ebi (white shrimp), aji (horse mackerel), hokkigai (surf clam), anago, yakitate (just cooked) tamago, negi toro maki, tarako (cod roe) maki, ika, kinmedai (snapper), and bafun uni (from Hokkaido). The set also included a fish based miso shiru. On top of these, we ordered shirako (codfish milt), and saba (mackerel). The standouts were the ootoro, which was meltingly tender; the suzuki which was served with a sprinkle of a homemade salt and a touch of sudachi citron; the shiro ebi and the uni both had such unusually sweet flavor; the anago was so fluffy and melted away; the two pieces of tamago were hot from the pan, and a perfectly cooked without too much sweetness, and a nice aroma from the dashi; the kinmedai, flavored with kombu (kelp) was a first for me and also a revelation; the saba was also sublime, perfectly textured and flavored with vinegar; and the shirako just exploded with a warm soothing flavor of the sea. They also make or mix their own soy sauce at Sushi Dai, and for the most part, they brush enough of their sweet soy sauce on the nigiri that you don't have to dip it.
I'm glad I found my way to Sushi Dai. Not only was it delicious, it was an enjoyable experience all around, with the friendliest itamae at 10am. I kind of expected a little less warmth, but the guys behind the counter were as interested in their customers as the customers were about the sushi. These guys also seemed to know about half the people who came in. Next time I'm at Tsukiji, I'll be hard pressed to pass up Sushi Dai for another spot.
Eric, just wanted to thank you again for posting on this place--I went last week and it was truly a great experience. We arrived at around 10:30am on a Tuesday and were seated by 11. We also had the omakase set. I think the main differences between our two menus were that we had hirame with salt and sudachi rather than suzuki, and had buri as one of our pieces, and had one fewer roll than you. Really, most of the stuff we had was just a revelation in terms of flavor and freshness, and it made me wonder why I hadn't spent more time in Tsukiji when I lived in Tokyo. The price is a real bargain for what you get!
For those who don't speak Japanese, there is an English menu available inside, and the itamae-san closest to the door, who is apparently the head, likes practicing his English.
re: Rachel M.
Just a word of advice: make sure you have the name of the restaurant written in japanese.
Before we left for Japan last autumn, I had a nice list of restaurants which I wanted to visit while in Tokyo and Kyoto. To my shock, I found out quickly that this list would deem 'worthless'. The names of the restaurants are in Kanji(or Hiragana), and asking the people often did not prove to lead me anywhere.
So.....consider yourself informed :)
(By the way, we accidentally found Sushi Dai while exploring the areas of Tsukiji, which was actually on our list - found out afterwards. I had taken a picture of the restaurant because the queue was out the door, so I really wanted to know the name. And my japanese friend said it was "sushi dai". )
Considering the wide variety of restaurant and cuisine choices in Tokyo and Kyoto, although we missed out on the "prefered list recommended restaurants", we did stumble upon several "gems". We didn't feel as though we missed out on eating good japanese food.
Have fun in Japan. We enjoyed our visit tremendously....and already planning a visit back within the next few years.