Sushi Daiwa (Tokyo, Japan)
Tsukiji Fish Market
5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0045
Dining date: 10/12/12
Tsukiji Market was close to the top, if not the top, of the list in terms of places to visit while in Tokyo. There are a ton of things to see, from all of the food stands and market stalls to just the observation of interactions at a real, working fish market. One of the most unique activities is going to the tuna auction; only 120 tourists per day are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. Early arrival is a must…all spots were taken by about 4:30am.
At the auction area, dozens and dozens of tuna were laid out and inspected for quality. Occasionally an auctioneer would come out and start yelling unintelligible (to me) things; tuna were sold in a matter of minutes.
What surprised me most was that all of the tuna were already frozen. They were presumably flash-frozen at sea, then brought to market. It made me wonder – is proximity a chief determining factor in the quality of fish anymore? If the fish is already frozen, what difference does it make if it’s defrosted at the market that morning or in Los Angeles the next?
While there are many things to see, eating some of the sushi fresh from the market is a must. The most famous sushi shop at Tsukiji is probably Sushi Dai, home to consistently long lines in the mornings. Next door is Sushi Daiwa, a shop that I’ve heard having similar quality but a shorter line.
At around 6am on a Friday, Dai’s line was already greater than an hour; however, our party of 5 was able to squeeze into the last 5 seats at Daiwa’s bar without a wait. Most of us (myself included) went with the daily omakase.
That picture is pretty much the whole shop. Not more than ten seats at the counter and no tables; the narrow pathway through the restaurant couldn’t be more than a couple feet wide.
Miso Soup with Clams
We began with a bowl of miso soup. I noticed a nice sea flavor coming through and lo and behold, there were these tiny clams at the bottom of the bowl. Delish.
The sushi came next, at a pretty quick pace.
Tuna, Negitoro, and Ikura-Cucumber Cut Rolls
Anago (Sea Eel)
This was the conclusion of the omakase. Expectantly, the sushi was fresh and well-made, and it was interesting to find such tiny pieces of uni (I believe they came from Russia).
I ordered three more pieces; a side-by-side toro comparison and another piece I saw going to a neighboring diner.
Aji (Mackerel) ginger, scallion
My second piece of otoro wasn’t as fatty as I anticipated…and was kind of chewy and sinewy. Definitely not what I was expecting. Overall, I found the sushi at Daiwa to be good, though not particularly special. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I found the sushi to be comparable to a good spot in LA (which isn’t a bad thing, but maybe I was looking for something more). At about 5,400JPY/69USD, it wasn’t exactly a bargain, either.
The next morning we made an attempt to eat at Sushi Dai. There was already a lengthy line at 6am, estimated to be a 3.5-4 hour wait. Ridiculous. I didn’t wait but I’m determined to go…stay tuned.
UPDATE: I managed to finally try Sushi Dai!
Other Tokyo sushi:
Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi | Sushi Dai | Sushi Kanesaka | Sushi Yoshitake | Umi
Being flash frozen is already a standard industry practice that has been happening for years. How else would you be able to get your fresh fish, it would be nearly impossible to get it to America and keep it fresh? If you had seen the documentary Jiro you would see that even he buys frozen fish. It’s also a safeguard to kill off any worms that may be present which is a risk if it’s never been flash frozen.
The quality of the fish doesn’t really degrade if it is handled properly and flash freezing doesn’t burst the cell walls which cause water to burst out thus losing juices.
Got it – it does make sense. I know that legally, all sushi in America must be frozen at some point. However I didn’t realize it was an industry practice worldwide; in America I feel like we sometimes think of things as fresh vs. frozen, which isn’t the right way of thinking.
Hello, Tokyo! Looks like you’re off to a delicious start! Keep these updates coming, please 😉
You should check out Kyubey in Ginza for sushi. Go during lunch instead of dinner (pretty much the same menu at half the price).
Ippudo (Roppongi location)
and of course…MOS Burger!
Thanks James. Kyubey is on my radar but I hadn’t been quite sold yet…sounds like a good lunch option though! I’ve already been to the Ippudo Marunouchi location – any particular reason why you recommend the Roppongi one? As for MOS, I haven’t heard of it,must look into…
Ippudo is good, but my favorite was Roppongi….probably not worth going out of your way if you’ve already gone to Marunouchi.
MOS Burger is just a Japanese fast food chain. Don’t think they have any locations in the U.S. anymore. Worth stopping in for a quick snack, if you pass one.
Gotcha. Given I’ll be here a while, I do want to go back to Ippudo so I’ll probably check another location.
Stumbled upon a MOS burger today too! I’ll keep it in mind..