Sushi Dai 寿司大, Tokyo

After my first failed attempt to visit Sushi Dai in 2013 (find out what happened in my post), I thought I may not have the chance to try again when I heard of the news that Tsukiji market would be relocated in late 2016. As the clock ticks down to the scheduled relocation date, news of toxic contamination of the new site surfaced. Amid concerns about soil and air pollution at the new site, the Mayor made the decision to postpone the shift.

Armed with lessons learnt from my past experience, I was more committed to snag a seat at the hugely popular Sushi Dai. First of all, it totally affected the location of hotel that I would be staying in Tokyo. The metro would not have started operation in the early hours when we needed to get to Tsukiji market. Instead of spending money to get a taxi, we decided to stay in Ginza area where we could walk to Tsukiji.

This time round we joined the queue at 4.30am and found ourselves at roughly the same spot as we did 3 years ago (back then we joined the queue at 8.30am)… Needless to say, we were pretty disappointed that the queue was longer than expected…although now we were mentally (and physically) prepared that it would take at least 4 hours for us to get our hands on the sushi…

We needed to be physically prepared as we had to wait in the chilly weather of as low as 2 degrees! Armed with our thick winter jackets, hand warmers, warm coffee, snacks and a small cushion pad, we were definitely more prepared for the challenge than the folks around us.

At 5am, the queue started to move as the shop opened and welcome in the first batch of diners. Due to the tiny shop space, each round of seating can only accommodate about 12 pax. Having read that it takes on average around 45 mins to 1 hour finish the set meal and with around 30+ pax ahead of us, we were expecting another 3 hours wait.

At 7am, we were finally in the queue right in front of the shop! This was a new milestone for us as we did not get this close to the shop in 2013. Back then we had to give up the queue after 3.5 hours as we had to make a move for our 12.30pm lunch appointment.

Staff was distributing hot brown tea to patrons in the queue and we were 1 step closer to entering the shop. The most agonising moment had to be when we were at the front row, looking at the ‘menu’ pasted on the door.

At 8+am, we finally stepped into Sushi Dai. The seating space was really cramp even for Asian built, less to say for the foreigners who are usually taller and bigger built than us. Hot tea, soup and egg roll was served promptly while we were still trying to settle down comfortably in our stools.

Without much delay, the Chef started preparing our omakase set which we were having along with other 4 patrons who were seated at the same time as us.

The first sushi served was the fatty tuna. The tuna is an iconic dish at Sushi Dai and many patrons asked for Chutoro as the final nigiri at the end of the meal. The freshness of the tuna was a promising start for a relatively affordable sushi meal.

The 2nd piece was the light flavour flounder. The 3rd piece was my favourite piece at Sushi Dai – Horse Mackerel. The stunning piece was beautifully coloured, topped with chopped spring onion. With its fantastic texture and flavour, it was the most memorable piece at the restaurant.

Uni sushi, nice but not really impressive…

I didn’t catch the name of this sushi, Chef had mentioned it to the patrons who were served ahead of us and didn’t repeat it. I guess it was Red Snapper?

Didn’t catch this either…Yellowtail?

The Clam was “curling” when it was served to me.

Loving the texture of this piece – Amberjack

Chef had to repeat the name of this piece to the other 4 patrons ahead of us several times. It was also the first time I heard of this sushi – Cutlassfish.

Sushi roll was Tuna and Shio leaf octopus.

The last piece of Chef’s choice piece was the Sea eel.

We could choose the final piece of nigiri sushi that we wanted, we decided to go for Shirako. Throughout our trip, we had tasted many dishes made using Shirako. On the last day of the trip, we finally got the chance to taste it in the original form.

With that we finished the set meal, guests who are still hungry can continue to order additional pieces at ala carte price. In honesty, we were more sleepy than hungry at the end of our meal, although it was only 9am in the morning…we had less than 3 hours of sleep the night before (slept at 1am, woke up at 4am to join the queue)…

I shared with the Chef that I finally get to taste his sushi on this 2nd attempt. He was pretty apologetic and said in simple English “I’m sorry…too many people“.

Including the time clocked on my 1st failed attempt, I spent a total of 7 hours to get a taste of the fresh sushi from this famous joint. Would I do it again? Not really. Been there done that, I could finally tick it off my bucket list. The shorter and faster queue at Sushi Yamato (aka Sushi Daiwa) looks more appealing to me. I would not mind queuing 1+ hour for it versus the arduous 4 hours at Sushi Dai.

Another tip to share: Do remember to check the Tsukiji market calendar as the restaurant is closed when the fish market is closed.

We did not have time to explore other parts of the Tsukiji market as we had to head back to our hotel to catch some sleep and pack our luggage. Thereafter we were off to catch our flight in the afternoon.

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