22 March 2014

Tokyo | Tsukiji Market & Sushi Daiwa

There are three types of people who visit the Tsukiji wholesale fish market : 

(a) those who can't be bothered waking up so early. They choose to visit the fish market after 9am when the action is mostly over 

(b) those who are able to defy all odds to wake up and get one of the 120 first-come-first-served tickets to the two must-see tuna auctions at 5.25am and 5.50am

(c) those who are able to defy all odds to wake up but fail to get the ticket to the tuna auction.

Unfortunately, I belonged to the last category. Despite waking up at an ungodly hour of 4am, I was faced with the disappointing truth that all tickets were given out when I arrived at 4.50am. So sad because I am not usually a rise and shine girl. It was probably going to be the only day in 2014 that I woke up at such a freaking time. Damage: irreplaceable restorative beauty sleep, disappointing truth that hard work doesn't pay off, and ¥1000 (~S$12) taxi fare (trains don't run before 6am). 

So I took a walk in Tsukiji market at 5am, and snapped some pictures before a uniformed security guard rushed to us to inform us that the market is not open for visitors until after 9am. 

They used these small and nimble motorised vehicles to move around in the market and transport the freshly caught seafood!

Glorious seafood as fresh as you can get.  Freshly caught by hardworking fishermen in the wee hours of morning while we were still in zzz-land.

Really huge tuna!

I love scallops. They are my favourite!

A sushi breakfast at Tsukiji is a must per Lonely Planet. At 5.15am, the queues outside the famous Sushi Dai restaurant and it's next-door neighbor Sushi Daiwa were already formed. Sushi Dai had a much longer queue which continued at the corner of the block after skipping a shop (the photo below doesn't show the end of the queue). I kept in mind the wisdom of a colleague who said Sushi Dai was not worth the time queuing, hence I queued for Sushi Daiwa instead. And got in after 20 min after the first round of customers completed their omakase style sushi breakfast.

How come these people no need to sleep?
The sushi is served omakase style, which means "leave it to the chef". Meaning the sushi chef makes whatever sushi he wants (ok I think it's based on what are the fresh seafood available that day), and you just eat. The sushi is served with wasabi inside the rice and glazed with soya sauce. At 5am, you can expect fresh seafood that was caught just hours before you woke up on the day itself.

Our chef today. With his limited mix of English and Mandarin, he's still quite entertaining. Kept asking us if it's oiishi (delicious in Japanese). 

In no order of preference but in the precise order they were served, I present to you the best sushi of my life:

Toro (tuna) - Very fresh piece that's worthy to be my first bite of the day. It melts!

At that moment I was thinking, "Damn the start is already so good."

Toro (tuna)

Squid - Yup it is as fresh, smooth and chewy as it looks. 

Prawn - Per chef, this was still alive when served!

Sea urchin (uni) - The world changed when I put this in my mouth!!! The creamy sweet uni just melts. You know, like melts. I thought the entire ocean was inside my mouth.
Sea urchin (uni)
Tuna and Ikura (roe) rolls - I love the Ikura roll which was sweet.
Tuna (left), Ikura (right)
Prawn head - Which was fried and omg it was so good and fragrant and crispy.
Prawn head
Otoro (medium fat tuna) - Best tuna ever. The fats disintegrated automatically in my mouth. Enuff said.

Kampachi (yellow tail fish) 
Kampachi (left), Otoro (right) 
Sea eel - This also just disintegrated automatically into bliss. Best eel ever. Enuff said.
Sea eel
Tamago (egg) - Soft, fluffy and fragrant
Tamago (egg)
Hotate (scallop) - this was the extra sushi that we ordered, at the recommendation of our chef. Freshest scallop ever.
Hotate (scallop)

Akagai (clam) - chef keep saying it is "action". This was also still alive when presented. 
Akagai (clam)
Hot green tea and fish clam miso soup were served.

The meal ended at 6.15am. I paid ¥4,200 (~ S$50). Thanks to the weakening Yen. 

At the end, I asked myself why I visited Sushi Daiwa. Because after that fateful day, sushi will never be the same again. Every piece represented the freshest form of seafood I had ever ate. The chef asked me to come back the next day. I told chef next year.

I went back to the hotel, with the prawn and the clam fighting each other in my tummy. Not sure who won but it must have been a tiring fight because I fell into food coma after that.

Sushi Daiwa (大和寿司)
Tsukiji Market Part 6 Building, 5-2-1 
Opening hours : 5am to 1pm 

Nearest train station: Tsukijishijo station

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