Sushi Daiwa

Sushi Daiwa
Tsukiji Market is a must-see destination for any true food lover.  A true food lover is someone whose passion for food doesn’t just begin and end with consumption, but encompasses a desire to know how the food, we know and love, comes to be.  Tsukiji Market is such a place to learn where and how the seafood of much of Japan and the world ends up onto our plates as sushi.  It is also a place to get the freshest sushi for the cheapest price with two big caveats.  You better be able to wake up ass early and wait in a line for a couple of hours.  Google “Sushi Dai” and you’ll come across numerous links to articles and blogs about how Sushi Dai is the place to get the cheapest and freshest sushi of your life. Some other facts about Sushi Dai:
1. It opens at 5 am – So, if you want to be one of the first people in line you’ll have to fork up the money for cab fare since the subways/trains don’t run until 5 am.
2. The sushi bar only seats 12 people – As you can imagine, that’s why the line moves so darn slow and the wait can be anywhere from 2-6 hours.
3. Sushi Dai is CHEAP – For about 10 pieces of nigiri and 1 maki, you’ll pay a whopping price of 4000 yen, which by today’s conversion rate comes out to $35.79.  That may not sound like a deal, but for the quality and freshness, it cannot be beat.
The Annoyer and I were prepared for a 2-3 hour wait, but when we arrived (granted a little later than planned) at around 6am, it turned out to be a 6 hour wait.  Even the guy who showed up at 3am was still waiting, 10 people shy of the gates to sushi heaven.  I think the fame and popularity of this has just exploded.  Even if we wanted to wait 6 hours, we couldn’t because we had lunch reservations at 12pm.  After 2 hours of humming and hawing, we finally decided to jump ship for Sushi Daiwa which is just 2 doors down.  Some other facts about Sushi Daiwai:
1. It opens at 5:30 am
2. It’s twice as big as Dai occupying two spaces and therefore 2 sushi bars – The line moves faster.  And since it is located in the middle of an alleyway, as opposed to the end like Dai, it can’t really accommodate a large line snaking out around and to the end of the block like Dai.  The day we went, there was a guy cutting the line off and telling people to come back at 8 am.  He would then leave and whole bunch of new customers would line up again.  So you may just need to time your queue right.  We probably waited no more than 30-45 minutes.
3. Sushi Daiwa is cheap too – For 7 pieces of nigiri and 1 maki, you’ll pay 3500 yen, which comes out to $31.63
Hands down, the freshest toro I have ever eaten. The thing about toro is that if it’s not fresh it’s takes on this fishy oily and unpleasant taste. This seriously tasted like a cool piece of melting richness in the mouth. Words just cannot describe the quality.  I have never tasted toro like this before. YUMS!
There is something special and very remarkable about the squid in Japan. It’s not chewy! I mean you can still tell it is squid and not fish by the texture, but it’s relatively tender compared to squid I’ve had in the past. YUMS! DSC08324

Relatively smaller and less sweet than what I’m used to but still good. DSC08325
Instead of having the option of a deep fried head or shrimp head in miso, the shrimp heads here are served one way, grilled. The smokey char from the previous nights grilled crab was echoed here. YUMS!
Obviously, Daiwa sources their Uni from Hokkaido and not Santa Barbara. The lobes are much smaller but it does not mean they are any less amazing. Sweet and really clean. Better than the Hokkaido uni I’ve had in the States.

The amberjack in Japan is also very remarkable.  It is more buttery and reminiscent of hamachi, of which it is related.  It was something truly special.  I’ve never had kanpachi like this.

There’s just something indescribable about how fresh the fish tastes.  Unbelievable.

Tuna Maki
Ikura Maki
A little less memorable compared to everything else but still probably the best tuna maki roll I’ve had for its freshness.  The ikura was delightfully salty and slightly fishy in a good way.

Salt water eel is the thing in Japan, more so than the fresh water variety or unagi.  It was still great, but the meat is much softer and less fatty than unagi.

I ate a lot more tamago in Japan than I ever did at home.  I always found it too eggy and oddly sweet.  However, I’m beginning to be a fan.  This concluded the omakase.

From here on, we ordered some a la carte options.

The horse mackerel was luscious and not too fishy, like most pieces I’ve had before. DSC08340

I think gizzard shad is related to mackerel, which explains why I’m not too big a fan.  It’s vinegared either to mask that fishy mackerel flavor or to enhance it.  I’m not sure.  The Annoyer likes it.

This is The Annoyer’s favorite fish.   It was way chewier than what I am used to.  I found it distracting, but The Annoyer liked the texture.  Flavor wise it was very clean and fresh.

The scallop was pretty delicious, but nothing beats Ohshima.

Pretty tender for octopus, and that bit of roasted seaweed was like icing on the cake.

Our chef was friendly, but he certainly did not dilly dally.  Our sushi breakfast was completed in a lightening fast 20 minutes.  I found it hard to believe that the sushi would be as incredible as everyone said it would be.  How could anything live up to that kind of hype?  I think my sushi palate is fairly experienced.  So even though I only got to eat at Sushi Daiwa, I firmly believe that I tasted some of the freshest sushi of my life, without a 6 hour wait, and at a bargain price to boot.  After eating at some higher end sushi spots during the trip, I would conclude that the fish really did taste quite similar.  The higher end places may just give you some more exotic fish.  I would conclude that you’re probably not missing out on much more just dining at Daiwa.  It really is the quality to cost ratio that makes eating at either of these places so awesome anyways.

10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome 
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here

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