11/05/2010 (Fri) Tsukiji fish market -> Ghibli museum -> Nakano broadway -> Asakusa
Yes! we went to Ghibli museum again! We did a lot this day, each post is getting very long, so I’m splitting up the post for this day in two!
Tsukiji fish market is where all the good fish come from in Japan. They have the famous tuna auction where they auction hundreds of huge frozen tuna.
TIPS & NOTES:
With so many tourists coming to see the tuna auction from all over the world, they have new strict rules now. Only the first 140 people get to see the auction starting from 4:30 AM, and only 70 people get to see the second auction starting from 5:40. Remember, the trains don’t run 24 hours a day in Japan. Usually the first train of the day is no earlier than 4:00 AM. So depending on where you’re staying, you might not even get to Tsukiji for the tuna auction. Even once you get there, the place is so busy you might want to check out the map and read the rules ahead of time. But that shouldn’t stop you from visiting the paradise for seafood lovers. For more info, check out the Tsukiji Fish Market guide in JapanGuide.com site. (I found their site is far more helpful than Tsukiji’s official website.) Also make sure you have a map of the Tsukiji market with you. They have a map by the station but every corner looks alike, and you can easily get lost in there and a map will help you when you want to ask people for directions.
We were going there with my friend whom I went to school (S.V.A) with in New York. But because we went out the night before and with all the new rules, we decided to save the tuna auction for the next time.
Tsukiji fish market was very energetic to say the least. The place is like a maze and they gave turret trucks (the hybrid of segway/electronic motor car things) driving all over the place. It’s cool to see them zipping all over the place through the market with the freshest fish in Japan, but the place is still a fish market and definitely not designed for tourists (which is fine with me.) It was my second time there, but I still got nervous when I was there.
There are so many sushi place at the fish market, so I asked my brother for a good place to eat and he recommended Sushi Dai. Sushi Dai is very popular and if you Google it you can find many people including foreigners & Japanese people praising the place. I’m usually very skeptical about a restaurant that gets so much praise. Last time I went to Tsukiji, I went to a place called Daiwa Sushi (no relation to Sushi Dai) which was couple doors down from Sushi Dai, so I wanted to try a new place this time.
Long story short, we got in the line at 6:45 AM and got inside around 8:45 AM.
Sushi Dai, Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo
We ate: Omakase (chef’s pick) sushi (3900 yen)
While we were in line, a kind waitress asked us what we’d like. You can order piece by piece but also there were two sushi courses. Regular sushi course and omakase course (chef’s pick). Regular sushi was 2500 yen for 7 pieces of sushi, rolls, a piece of Japanese style omelet, and miso soup. Omakase sushi was 3900 yen for 11 pieces of sushi, rolls, a piece of Japanese style omelet, miso soup.
We were hungry after waiting in line for 2 hours so we all ordered Omakase course for 3900 yen. (besides, I wouldn’t know which sushi to pick) The waitress told my friend and I that the sushi chefs would ask us if we were full before serving the rolls (because we were girls), and if we were, they’d give us a piece of sushi instead of rolls. We thought it was very thoughtful.
With that kind of price, some might think you’re getting ripped off because the place is famous and is right in Tsukiji market. We kind of thought of it too, but we wanted to try it before we make any judgments about the place. We didn’t know that we were in for a HUGE surprise.
We were seated after two hours of waiting. I’d say there were about 14 seats inside all around the counter. There were three sushi chefs and the chef in front of us asked us where we came from. I said New York. Then he apologized for making us spend our precious time (since we’re tourists) waiting in the line. We were still a little skeptical at that point, so we said something like “It’s okay. We heard this place was good” and waited for our food.
First he put sliced ginger to the right side of each of us on the raised counter. (they don’t use plates there)
We were hungry, so we started munching on the ginger, and making a chitchat with the chef. Then he casually & quickly took the ginger that was in front of my friend, and placed it on her left, saying “I apologize. I didn’t realize you’re left-handed.” My friend who’s left-handed was so moved, saying that no one has ever done that for her. He smiled and brushed it off saying “Everyone (who’s in the food service industry) should notice it.”
I won’t lie. I’m definitely not a sushi expert. My tongue isn’t trained to detect the subtle differences in fish, but even I could taste the difference. It’s not that we had new kinds of sushi either. I’ve had the same fish before at a restaurant but every piece of sushi tasted COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from what I’m used to. I’m not exaggerating. Each piece was so fresh it MELTED in my mouth. Each sushi piece was like a punch in my face. (in the most awesome way) Without further ado, I’ll give you the photos of Omakase sushi!
Even while we were eating or waiting for the next piece, the chefs were very friendly, asking us about New York, what sushi was like in New York, etc… They seemed like they genuinely love talking to customers and seeing people get excited with the delicious sushi. Even with two dozen people waiting outside, they never rushed us. They explained every little thing we asked them about the fish and the place. Their service reminded me of the cafe at the Ghibli museum. Their main purpose wasn’t to make money, but to serve quality food, pay attention to the customer, and the most important thing was for the customer to enjoy the food and the time at the place. I’ve been to Nobu, the fancy Japanese restaurant own by Robert De Niro and their food sure was great, but the place was huge and noisy. And the waiter (which was far better than any regular restaurants) at Nobu was nowhere near as personal or friendly like the chefs at Sushi Dai.
The visit to Sushi Dai was an amazing experience for us. The food and the attitude of the chefs made the long wait so worth it. We enjoyed their fish and their company so much that we couldn’t stop talking about the place to everyone. Derek and I knew that this place was going to be the “place we’ll always go when we go to Japan” from that day on. If you ever go to Tsukiji fish market, you should make the time in the morning definitely visit Sushi Dai. You won’t regret it.
We have over 4000 photos from this trip and there’s no way I can post them all on my blog. So I’m uploading photos from our trip to flickr as I write a post for each day. If you’d like to check out random photos from Japan or us goofing around in Japan, check out my flickr collection by clicking the link below!
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