My hands are still trembling and I’m still getting goosebumps as I thought about what I tasted here. I really don’t want to abuse the term “the best”, but it is only appropriate to say that I’ve had, clearly, by far, the best, and the most memorable sushi of my life.
The sushi breakfast at Sushi Dai commonly came up in food recommendations and is one of the “must do” while in Tokyo. Along with that is the notorious long line up’s associated with it – an indication that it has serious credibility. Though I just landed in Narita just a few hours ago and still suffered from jet lag, I took no chances and set the alarm on my Xperia Z AND my newly acquired Xperia Z tablet.
I woke up at around 4am and the Tokyo Metro wasn’t even running yet, but Tokyo’s streets were never out of taxis, not even at this hour. I arrived at Sushi Dai a few minutes before the shop opens at 5:00am. But I already arrived too late, there was already a line in front of the store…
…and then there was another line around the corner.
The wait was long and torturous, but taking pictures of the busy Tsukiji market and playing with my Xperia’s helped kill the time. While we wait, a waitress handed out hot green tea and asked us which menu to order. Basically there was a more expensive option and a cheaper version for people on welfare. Travelling all the way out here at this hour, you just have to go big or go home. About 2 to 2.5 hours of wait later, I was in.
The waitress parked me in front of a giant, steaming hot slab of tamago.
Tamago. The tamago was served fresh and hot. It was sweet and fluffy, setting the standard of what was to come.
Matcha. The matcha had a strong flavor and very saturated. So saturated that it almost made me choke, in a good way. Great way to start the day!
O Toro (Fatty Tuna). Just look at the marbling on this thing, it was like Kobe beef of the sea. Amazingly fresh, I didn’t even remember chewing this: it just melted in my mouth like some kind of tuna flavored gravy or nectar. What witchcraft was this? I’ve had Toro before, the difference here was the fat revealed itself through the texture rather than the taste, so the result was that it still tasted like tuna with an almost creamy texture. This thing was impossibly good and was easily one of the highlights of the whole trip.
Miso soup. Served with mussels.
Tai (Red Snapper). While the taste was less of an impact compared to the other fishes, I noted that it was slightly more chewy but it came off with a good taste. It was so fresh that I was convinced that it was probably yanked from the sea just minutes ago.
Uni (Sea Urchin). Instead of being pasty and having a pate like texture, the whole thing was intact like an oyster. Fresh and never been frozen, it was creamy and tasted like ocean with a hint of sweetness. I’ve had uni whenever it was available in Vancouver and none of them was remotely close to this. Sensational!
Aji (Horse Mackerel). In my opinion, the best looking piece of nigiri of the meal, a beautifully colored piece of fish with a small bit of chopped scallions on top. It tasted slightly different than the Saba (mackerel) that I’m used to, but I still appreciated its fresh, distinct fishy flavor nonetheless.
Akagi (Red Clam). “This one is still alive!” exclaimed the chef as he placed this in front of me. He was right, this thing was still moving. Freshness was an obsession here so I guessed eating something that was still alive shouldn’t be far off. It wasn’t as chewy as I expected, rather, it was tender and I was able to taste the freshness of the clam. Amazing stuff.
Baby Squid. Beautifully constructed, I could taste the flavor of the squid with its slimy, rubbery texture.
Tuna and Cod Rolls. This was the less memorable course of the meal, as the fish was buried in a sleeping bag of rice and I couldn’t exactly explore the flavor of the fish. It still tasted fresh and was fairly good by itself despite being overshadowed by its ultra fresh nigiri brothers.
Shira-Ebe (Baby Shrimp). White and slimy, it did not look appetizing. But my taste bud told me a different story: it was mushy and very tender. The freshness allowed the taste of the shrimp to shine (instead of the tasteless rubbery stuff typically served in Vancouver’s Japanese restaurants).
Akami (Lean Tuna). The top/back of the tuna. Visually, it looked like some kind of tuna jello, almost transparent, with a dollop of wasabi resting on its peak. On the other side of the spectrum of the fatty O-Toro, the leaner Akami offered a slightly firmer, chewier texture. The flavor was as fresh as ever and had a more sophisticated tuna taste. I’ve never had tuna quite like it.
Abalone. I’ve never had abalone on a nigiri before but again the last twenty minutes had been many first’s. It was not chewy as I expected, and I could actually taste its fresh, natural flavor unlike those frozen jokes they serve at “high class” Chinese restaurants. The sweet marinate was just enough to enhance the abalone without overpowering that fresh sea taste.
At the end of the omasake, I am free to pick another piece of sushi from the a la carte menu. A difficult choice, but I ended up treating myself to another piece of O Toro.
The thought about waking up at 4:00am and waiting for 2+ hours was quickly forgotten. However, the sad thought that I will never have sushi of this quality again in Vancouver slowly sank in as I passed through the shop’s sliding door. How could something so simple tasted so good? The sushi I’ve had here spoiled me so much that I can never eat sushi in Vancouver again.
JAPAN™ Ratings: The average food and service quality in Japan far surpass the same we have in Vancouver, it is only appropriate that they should be rated on a different scale.