After a twenty minute train ride, we exited the train station and made our way to Sushi Dai, the famous sushi restaurant inside the Tsukiji market. Immediately, I smelled fish, not in an offensive way, but in that beautiful, salty, oceanic way. Besides the smell, another reaction I had was to the high energy level of this place. If you're not careful you can get run over by one of the many "turret trucks" zooming past you carrying fish and other goods all over the market. While trying not to get run over, we were borderline walking and running to avoid the inevitable massive line that forms outside - too late. The line was... like I said, inevitable. But, the line didn't seem too long... it was only an hour wait.
The restaurant itself is very small, small by American standards, but probably just fine and dandy in the minds of the Japanese. The place seats about 12-13 people at a time and like most Japanese restaurants, it is cash only. To speed up the process of waiting, a wonderful Japanese lady assists us in the how to form/stand in the line and when you get close enough to the front, she will also take your order (omakase? which size? everything ok?).
After an hour long of waiting and staring into the window at the faces of those happily stuffing their face with all the different types of sushi, it was finally our turn. We were seated in the corner and instructed to put our bags and jackets on top of a shelf along side the opposite wall of the sushi chefs. We were greeted with green tea which was a much deeper green color than what we are served in the States. It has a bolder green tea flavor and very soothing.
At Sushi Dai, they serve the sushi right on top of the counter. And as soon as we sat down, the amiable sushi chef smiled and set down the best ginger I've had in my life. I know, it's just ginger.. ginger is ginger. But, this ginger was on another level compared to what I've had before. It had more vinegar flavor, which I adore, which tempered the strong ginger flavor.
We started off with a beautiful piece of toro that was so soft it melted in my mouth. The cut was generous and the fish/rice ratio was perfect.
hirame (fluke, flounder)
Next up was hirame, much milder and leaner than the toro. It was a nice contrast in both texture and flavor.
By the time we were served the hirame, our miso soup came out. Filled with seaweed and fish with the bones, the aroma from this soup was absolutely divine! With the first sip, you can really taste the depth in flavor from the fish and its bones.
tai (red snapper)
The color on the tai sushi was a gorgeous since the cut I got showcased the lovely red strip on the side. This picture almost looks like a golden eye snapper or kinmedai, but it is not. The snapper was extremely fresh, which you could tell by its soft texture.
tamago (sweet egg omelet)
I'm usually used to tamago being served towards the end of the meal, but in this case it was served right in the middle. I didn't mind this mini intermission and thought the tamago had the perfect amount of sweetness and a great fluffy texture.
uni (sea urchin)
The intermission came just in time... The brief break allowed me to fully bask in the briny and sweet flavor of one of my favorite things to eat: uni. The uni in Japan, which is from Hokkaido, is clearly different from the Santa Barbara uni that we are all used to. A friend of mine who had the Japanese uni told me she favored the Santa Barbara uni because the Japanese one was more "salty." J, on the other hand, thought the complete opposite. He does not enjoy uni, he'll eat it, but he won't order it. But, as soon as he ate the uni from Hokkaido, I swear I saw a twinkle in his eye. He thought it was much sweeter than the uni he has had in the States. I, too, thought it was utterly orgasmic.
magurozuke (marinated tuna)
We move onto a brightly red magurozuke. The marinated tuna was beautiful to look at and looked almost too amazing to eat. The cut was, once again, generous and the hint of wasabi left a perfect lingering of heat.
hokigai (surf clam)
Next, we were given some sort of clam that was so fresh, it was still moving! I've been debating with myself if this is surf clam or red clam. It definitely looks different from what I've been served for both, but I chose to go with surf clam because the coloration matched a bit more. If anyone can clarify this for me, it would be much appreciated! Well, despite my lack of knowledge behind this dish, it was one of my favorites of the night. This wasn't surprising since I generally do really enjoy all kinds of clam sushi. The texture was not chewey at all, just snappy - a great bite.
ikura (salmon roe)
The ikura was salty, but not overwhelming. I love how they pop in my mouth, which is a characteristic I know some don't really care for. This was another case where J really enjoyed the ikura from Japan, but never liked it in the States. This was the biggest surprise for both of us.
shiro ebi (baby shrimp)
I was really looking forward to the baby shrimp since I've never had it. The texture was a mixture of creamy and slimy, while the flavor was sweet but also slightly briny. It was outstanding - one of our favorites of the meal.
toro maki (toro cut roll)
The toro maki, two with cucumbers and two without, was next. Eaten with just a little bit of soy sauce, these definitely pushed me to the "I'm full" point. At this point, I look over to J and see that he was definitely past the "I'm full" and venturing into "I'm uncomfortably full." Never really eating breakfast in the morning (he loves breakfast food, but never in the morning), I knew J was pushing himself to finish. I gave him the encouraging "hang in there" look...
aji (horse mackerel)
Here, we have the aji, which is an oilier fish that tends to have a fishier taste. I personally like mackerel and enjoy the fishy taste, but J doesn't. In the end, it didn't really matter because the fishy taste was fairly mild due to the ginger and onions on top that broke up the oiliness of the fish.
unagi (freshwater eel)
The last selection chosen by the chef was the unagi that was lightly dressed with sauce. I found the texture of the unagi to be a lot smoother than what I'm used to, which I adored. The eel was warm and sweet and very delicious.
After we finished off our unagi sushi, the chef told us we could choose our last piece. Of course, I chose the uni and J chose the toro. He was so full by this point, I ended up eating the toro... I could barely finish my uni, but I took one for the team and ate his toro (nice teamwork, huh?).
After we finished our amazing sushi breakfast, we saw that the line for Sushi Dai had grown twice as long. The wait was now over 2 hours. I was so glad to have beat that horrendous queue! We walked around the fish market and tried our best to stay out of people's way. The tuna auction was long over by this point so it wasn't as hectic and as crowded as it was earlier in the morning. It was a bit overwhelming at first, all my senses were on high alert. I smelled ocean, but each corner I turned that scent morphed into another scent altogether. I saw lobsters to uni to tuna to baby shrimp... you name it, it was there.
Yes, the fish market was crazy, but the real journey, for us, began after leaving the Tsukiji market.
Why? Because we got lost.... of course.
We ended up taking the train going in the opposite direction which resulted in a twenty minute detour. But, it was all a part of being on vacation and exploring the city, so we remained in good spirits. Regardless of getting lost, J and I tried to go to the Imperial Palace Gardens, but, sadly, they were closed. So, instead, we decided to walk to the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo which was about "3 football fields away" (J's words, not mine). Felt more like 5 football fields....
There was another line forming to get inside the museum, but it was all senior citizens. J and I were the only younger ones in line. I'm guessing it was so popular because the Uemura Shoen exhibit was ending... Don't ask me who Uemura Shoen is...
Despite the museum being on multiple floors, the whole tour of the museum was pretty quick. I was getting tired, but I didn't want to waste the rest of the day so we headed to Ginza. Oh, Ginza... how i love thee.
LV and Chanel and Dior, OH MY!
Even during the daytime, all the shops are amazing. I wish I had the money to shop here every day.
After sightseeing and spending a good solid 2 hours in the Sony building, J and I needed to recharge. Still full from the sushi breakfast to eat a full lunch, we decided to get coffee (his favorite) and dessert (my favorite). We passed by this cafe while sightseeing which had a nice patio for people watching. Perfect.