Tsukiji Fish Market Trip: We set the alarm for 4:45 AM (Tsukiji opens at 3:00 AM!) and got there around 6:00 AM. We went on a crazy walking tour of the entire inner market, dodging the many motorized vehicles and vendors with carts. The floor is wet and slippery and the activity is frenetic. Don’t expect the feel welcomed in this area–it was about the only place in Japan where people didn’t smile and act happy to see us.
It’s the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world with 900 wholesale dealers in the inner market and streets full of kitchen supplies and more seafood products outside the market.
There are over 400 different types of seafood for sale at Tsukiji Fish Market. As you can imagine there are sushi restaurants all over Japan that rely on the fresh fish from Tsukiji, but the best sushi restaurants are right there at the market. I researched a little bit before our trip and found many references to a place called Sushi Dai, reportedly the “best sushi in the world”.
The first challenge was finding it because it had no sign in English. I had printed out the sign and showed it to Steve and we started looking. Steve was the one to spot it first and we proceeded to get in line. Yes, at 7:30 AM there was a line to eat sushi. Not just a short line but a 3-4 hour wait line! The owner kept coming out to the line and telling us it was a 4 hour wait as if to discourage people from waiting. Several left but we didn’t. By the way, most of the people in line were Japanese–not foreigners.
Can you see me in the line wearing the orange scarf? Yes, we waited 3 and a half hours to eat at Sushi Dai. When my Aunt Yasuko heard about this later she said, “That’s stupid–just go somewhere else!” Hmmm, that sounds exactly like something my mother Tommie would have said. Once we got inside the very small 12 seat restaurant with barely any room for the woman serving tea to move around behind us, we were in for a real taste experience.
We ordered the “Omakase” (chef’s choice), at 3,900 yen (about $40.00) a person and consisting of the best selections of the day. Our sushi chef was friendly, tried to talk to us in English a bit, mentioned Texas Rangers when he heard we were from Texas, that type of thing. We were served one piece of fish at a time right on the wooden ledge. The chef would tell us what it was, then advise us to use “no sauce” or “sauce” depending on each piece. In Japan they do not drown their sushi in wasabi mixed with soy sauce, rather the sushi chef puts wasabi on the sushi as appropriate and may brush a sauce on the piece of fish. With fish this fresh and tasty the idea of smothering it in heavy sauce and wasabi makes no sense. We had: o-toro, red snapper, sea bream, uni, o-toro maki, anago, maguro, horse mackerel, spanish makerel, baby shrimp, clam, chu toro served with a delicious miso/fish soup and lots of green tea. Was it worth the wait? Yes! This really was the most amazing sushi I’ve ever eaten and Steve agreed. Every bite was a taste explosion in our mouths. We will go there again (maybe try to get there earlier though : )