Earlier this week, I got to the Tsukiji area for sushi at around 10am. After reading through the rundown of a few Tsukiji sushi restaurants in the Dec issue of Otona no Shumatsu magazine (see linked post from a few weeks ago), I made the choice for Sushi Dai. All signs were good. Sushi Dai was jammed and there was a short enough line to wait in. In front of us was a group who are regulars at the restaurant, and we learned through them that Sushi Dai is one of the two restaurants with the longest lines at Tsukiji. The line grew to about 20 people by the time we got in. Sushi Dai is a single cramped counter that seats no more than 15 people, and three itamae man the bar. You can order a la carte, or choose between three levels of set menus at 2100¥, 2900¥, or 3760¥. We chose the 3760¥ menu. The set included ootoro, suzuki (bass), maguro zuke (marinated tuna), shiro ebi (white shrimp), aji (horse mackerel), hokkigai (surf clam), anago, yakitate (just cooked) tamago, negi toro maki, tarako (cod roe) maki, ika, kinmedai (snapper), and bafun uni (from Hokkaido). The set also included a fish based miso shiru. On top of these, we ordered shirako (codfish milt), and saba (mackerel). The standouts were the ootoro, which was meltingly tender; the suzuki which was served with a sprinkle of a homemade salt and a touch of sudachi citron; the shiro ebi and the uni both had such unusually sweet flavor; the anago was so fluffy and melted away; the two pieces of tamago were hot from the pan, and a perfectly cooked without too much sweetness, and a nice aroma from the dashi; the kinmedai, flavored with kombu (kelp) was a first for me and also a revelation; the saba was also sublime, perfectly textured and flavored with vinegar; and the shirako just exploded with a warm soothing flavor of the sea. They also make or mix their own soy sauce at Sushi Dai, and for the most part, they brush enough of their sweet soy sauce on the nigiri that you don't have to dip it.
I'm glad I found my way to Sushi Dai. Not only was it delicious, it was an enjoyable experience all around, with the friendliest itamae at 10am. I kind of expected a little less warmth, but the guys behind the counter were as interested in their customers as the customers were about the sushi. These guys also seemed to know about half the people who came in. Next time I'm at Tsukiji, I'll be hard pressed to pass up Sushi Dai for another spot.