Tokyo #15: Sushi Dai

Sushi: the Breakfast of Bleary Eyed Champions!
Having failed to see the tuna auction we waited, in the pre-dawn twilight, outside the tiny shop-front of Sushi Dai. It was a little chilly at 5am but we were warmed by our anticipation of sampling some of the freshest fish from right beside Tsukiji market. Our guide and host, K-san, assured us of great Ginza style sushi, normally costing a small fortune, but the best bang-for-buck in town because it was so close to the supplier and so small and pokey. We cued for a mere 40 minutes and got seated before 6am at the counter by the window where, by pure luck, the master chef entertained us while conjuring the much anticipated fishy morsels.

First off the sushi line-up was the full fat tuna belly (O-toro). Dwarfing the hand rolled sushi rice it sat on, the generous slice of tuna had more marbled veins of white fatty fish goodness than meat. As I slid the whole thing into my mouth I was unsure if my mouth was watering from anticipation or the tuna fat goodness. Yuuuuummy!

Next up was flounder with wasabi , the sushi master chef finished the next piece with a single drop of sudatchi deftly squeezed from a tiny wedge of the citrus. He smiled brightly as he cheerfully popped the next piece on the tiny wooden ledge used for eating off. His admonishment of 'no sauce' was gentle but a clear warning to trust his 20 plus years of experience making sushi. A moment's cynical hesitation, then I put the whole thing my my mouth and chewed. I watched Jing's eyes widen in delight and felt my own brows mirroring hers as our tastebuds were assaulted by the barrage of flavours. Opening with a jab of sourness, then a powerful umami cross followed by a subtle faints of sweet and salty (from the flavoured rice) so when your guard is down a fiery wasabi uppercut sends you rocking. 'Plain old' white fish shouldn't be this exciting to eat!

Red snapper (Tai) was meaty and subtly sweet.

Sea Urchin (Uni) creamy and very rich umami pairs up well with the contrasting sweet and salty crunch of nori.

Lightly marinating the tuna (Magurozuke) brought out a gorgeous deep red colour to the fish. Another huge piece of tuna gladly goes down the hatch.

The Red clam (Akagai) was woken up by giving it a loud sharp smack just before serving (see video for the results)

Horse mackerel (Aji) with chives - beautifully silver and blushing red it was nearly too big to fit in my mouth in one go. It was surprisingly unfishy and smooth and the oiliness was cut by the tang of chives; one of my favourites.

The Baby shrimps (Shira-Ebe) were seasonal treats. Looking likes tiny brains they tasted much nicer and sweeter.

Baby squid sushi wrapped in nori with grated ginger. Another even more seasonal treat; these babies were only available for 2 months of the year. We got them while they were innocent, young and juicy!

Four maki rolls of fish eggs and tuna

Egg omlette (tamago) rolled and layered in the the traditional way using a square frying pan

Baby abalone (awabi)  - Eating a third type of baby fish felt just a tad threatening to the local marine ecology but what the hell, it tasted sooo right!

Finally, the last piece of sushi which you are allowed to choose freely. K-san and Jing went with the Chef's recommedation of swordfish (me-kajiki, 目梶木) and were not disappointed.

By the time we left the sun was blazing its way across the fresh blue morning sky and the que was trailing around the corner. At 40 minutes per seating of 13 persons, that's a 4 hour wait for the sushi addicts a the end. As we wandered past into the heart of Tsukiji market, never for a moment did I think they would regret the wait.

Name: Sushi Dai
Address: Tsukiji Market Part 6 Bldg. 5-2-1 Tsukiji-shijo, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Prices: Omakase course, ¥3,900