Our latest trip to Japan marked a few firsts in our relationship.
It was Dan’s first time going to Japan…
…and it was my first time ever queueing for anything in my life.
In fact, I queued for three things, for possibly more than 2 hours each:
1. The Harry Potter 4D ride at Universal Studios Japan
2. The Flying Roller Coaster at Universal Studios Japan
3. Sushi Dai
Here’s the thing. I hate waiting, and I have a little bit of ADD. PLUS it was summer in Japan, and the hot sun was beating down on us at USJ. After about 15 minutes I’d get restless. Thank God for Pokemon Go. What I didn’t do was to bring my portable charger along. So I’d play Pokemon Go till my battery was flat, and then Dan had to put up with whining and absolute grumpiness for the rest of the time we were in line. (Trooper.)
At this juncture I would like to add a quick tip for those planning to visit USJ: we didn’t manage to get express tickets at USJ, but what helped us jump the queue was going as single riders. Worth it. It’s not like you’d be talking to each other during rides anyway.
Back to the main point.
We’d initially wanted to visit the Tuna Auctions then queue for Sushi Dai. Google said it should be safe to get there by 3am to “chope” your auction slots. We arrived at 3:10am and they were completely gone. Here’s another useful tip; if you’re planning to visit in 2016, it pays to go even earlier. We suspect tourists are being kiasu with the news that they’ll be moving next year. Go at 2:30am to be safe. Trains don’t run past midnight (and uber is UBER expensive); so if you’re on budget, opt for a flat bed at Com Com Manga Cafe, the cheapest accommodation within walking distance to Tsukiji.
So. Since we couldn’t go for the auctions, we decided to start queueing for Sushi Dai, which opens at 5am, but the interwebs also mentioned that people started queuing at 3am, and that queues in the afternoon could have you waiting for up to 5hours :O
Initially I didn’t see the point – to me, all the sushi joints in Tsukiji were all relatively close to the source of fresh seafood. It couldn’t get any fresher. Plus (and critics will probably disagree) you can’t go very much wrong with the preparation of the sushi rice. Plus there isn’t any secret sauce marinade involved. SO WHY MUST QUEUE SO LONG FOR THIS ONE?
Still. Dan wanted to try it and I was also curious. Plus we were already at Tsukiji anyway. So we walked over to Sushi Dai and probably arrived at about 3:30am, with about 15 people in front of us.
Cue sleepy, grumpy, need-to-pee me. I spent the time playing Pokemon Go / zoning out while sitting on a pavement / looking for a toilet / whining to Dan / looking at this view:
Some people brought stools, books, iPads, whatever it took to kill time. (This is a good idea).
Words cannot express the feels you get when you’re finally at the front of the door, staring in.
A waitress will ask for your orders before you’re seated. We opted for the omakase (4,000 YEN) which comes with 10+1 nigiri+maki.
Upon walking in I was surprised at how narrow the space was. They can only fit about 12 pax in it, and you’d have to put your bags in an overhead shelf.
There are about 3 chefs manning the booth, or whatchamacallit.
I was strategically seated in front of the otoro. Omg. Look at that marbling. Can rival kobe beef!!! We also realized at this point that the Japanese weren’t that big on salmon sashimi?
You can tell how fresh these fillets are just from the colour and texture, can’t you!
Our friendly chef! He spoke many languages and made it a point to explain what we were eating & how to eat it (one bite / with shoyu). He also very attentively realized I was left-handed when I picked up my tea, and promptly changed my chopstick placement after.
1st up: miso soup + warm green tea.
Some pickled ginger. Sushi gets served to you on a narrow, wooden raised platform:
Next, a fluffy, steamed egg.
Then the otoro – what I was eyeing the moment I stepped in. DID NOT DISAPPOINT! And made the wait worth it. It was so fresh and the meat literally melted in your mouth ^_^ am just gonna leave you with pics for the rest of the course because I was frankly too busy shooting and eating to note down the names of the variants of sushi 😐
UNI, MY LOVE. So fresh. So creamy. So sweet. To quote “The Hundred Foot Journey” – The sea urchins taste of life, don’t you think ? Life has its own flavor. Hidden in that shell, raw, beautiful life.
I don’t think anything in Singapore can rival the freshness of this!
This ark shell thing!!! Came so fresh that it was still moving! The chef said IT’S ALIIIIIVE, and it was really still squirming on the sushi! I guess it’s a chemical reaction to the shoyu, but still… mine crawled off my lump of rice like it wanted to escape.
This might look a little unappetising but it was really good as well! Steamed eel of sorts?
At the end of the omakase course, the chef will ask you what sushi you’d like for your final piece – you get to pick.
Uni was my choice, of course.
Dan went for another piece of the otoro.
…and that marked the end of our meal. We left promptly after, to see a snaking queue outside! Got some shut eye at the manga cafe while waiting for the outer market to open and when we returned at about 9, we saw that they had stopped letting people queue for the day.
SO. Was it worth it?
To be fair, I’ve never queued up for any other sushi places at Tsukiji. Research shows that Sushi Daiwa (in the same row) is a good alternative, with half the waiting time.
That aside, I wholeheartedly say YES. I’m salivating just looking at these pics again. I don’t think sushi gets any fresher than it will in the wee hours of the morning. All our cuts were devoid of any fishy flavour and had such incredible textures. I’ve never tasted sashimi that fresh (I guess, that’s how it should actually be)! It was a welcome party in my mouth. Yes, at 6.30am.