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!