Daidaiya Akasaka - short review
In a nutshell, don't bother.
Some friends recently organised an evening at Daidaiya in Akasaka. Not normally a huge fan of fusion izakayas in comparison to more 'standard' ones, but I was quite curious because I had read some good things about the place, so was happy to go along. However, the hype is absolutely not justified. We ordered lots of menu items a la carte, but apart from the buri kama (which was genuinely excellent), the rest was rather disappointing.
I read that - being a fusion izakaya - Daidaiya offers some exciting and unusual sushi. Some of it was indeed quite interesting (though not interesting enough to remember specifics, and it's only been about a week; I remember Korean seaweed featured, but that's it), but not sufficiently so to detract from the fact that the quality of the fish just wasn't very good at all. I glanced at the tired and depressed looking uni and maguro, both of which had clearly seen much better days, and wished I was in a little neighbourhood izakaya where the money that clearly went into Daidaiya's slick architecture had gone into quality ingredients instead.
Much of the remaining food was perfectly fine, but no more than that, and overpriced for what it was. If you feel you absolutely must visit this place, order three or four buri kama and nothing else. Maybe the place had an off-day, but in a city like Tokyo with its huge abundance of inexpensive izakayas with top quality fish and other food, Daidaiya is not good enough to justify the price tag.
I should say that maybe their other branch (or branches?) is / are very good - often different branches of the same restaurant chain in Tokyo differ quite a lot from one another, and I heard good things about the Shinjuku branch. But the Akasaka one was certainly a disappointment.
I had a very nice dinner at the Shinjuku branch of Daidaiya this week. Their famous "King of Kimchee" is still excellent (fresh seafood, greens and nuts stuffed in leaves of kimchee), the foie gras sushi was spectacular, and all the vegetable sushi bits were entertaining. The fillet of beef with foie gras was very tender and flavorful, with an interesting berry sauce. Lotus-root mochi in crab ankake and beef-tongue kakuni stew were both very original and well prepared.
Unfortunately the sake list wasn't quite up to the same level - I suspect they don't have sufficient turnover in sake, given all the other drinks choices available. And they had run out of a lot of bottles we tried to order, even though it's the beginning of the month.
All in all though a very good meal, and quite reasonable at Y7000 per head with lots of food (including expensive items like steak and foie gras) and lots of sake and other drinks.
I don't know if it's a difference between the branches, or a difference in level of expectation. (Or maybe you just have higher standards, also a possibility.) I'm sure there may be sushiya and fish-centered izakaya with higher-grade fish, but I think Daidaiya strikes a nice balance, with creative, original flavors, great atmosphere and good value for money.
(FWIW I just talked to a friend who eats lunch at Akasaka Daidaiya quite often, and he reports no problems with the raw fish or anything else, so maybe it was a bad night.)
re: Robb S
The first paragraph of your post sounds absolutely mouth watering and nothing like my experience at Daidaiya. Foie gras sushi? Beef tongue kakuni? How wonderful!
I don't think my assessment of the Akasaka branch has anything to do with having too high expectations or standards - you'll come across many cheap izakayas that do much fresher fish than Daidaiya had that Friday night - they don't have to be fish-focused either. Maybe they did just have an off-night, which does happen. As I mentioned, most of the food other than the sushi was perfectly fine, but did not come close to justifying the price tag - for half the price, I would have been happy with the food (with the exception of the buri, which was absolutely outstanding).
Just returned from a dinner at Ishikawa - there is a place that justifies its high prices. Quite a different kettle fish of course, but what a great kaiseki restaurant. And the best nasu I have had in my life. Still on a high.