Next to being a die-hard dessert lover, I am a hardcore sashimi fan. After all the beautiful patisseries and dessert boutiques in Tokyo, Tsukiji market is the next place I look forward to visiting the most. Whenever I watch features on its tuna auction and sushi bars, I always have to run to a Japanese restaurant afterwards to satiate my craving, lest I want to create a puddle of drool in front of our tv. And I know I have to see it live when I get the chance to visit Tokyo. So finally, a trip to the Japan capital booked, an itinerary with Tsukiji market scheduled the very next morning, I can hardly contain my excitement.
Wake up call: 4am
Dinner the night before: Steak House Satou
Quick night cap: New York Bar
No more late night activity. We skip Shibuya. Skip Roppongi. Skip Kabukicho. Early to bed, early to rise, all in preparation for the big day.
Then the big ‘Tsukiji-market-fish-auction-at-5am-and-sushi-breakfast-at-630am’ day comes…
…and we did NOT wake up!!!
So, sorry guys, no pictures of the tuna auction! You can still watch it on tv though, or youtube, and we can go stuff our faces with sushi after. *sheepish smiles*
Some after-auction scenes:
There is actually an art to cutting up the fish
Other things they sell at the market:
There are more, but I want to eat already. So we head out to search for the two most recommended sushi places in Tsukiji.
Daiwa Sushi: 2 hour wait
OH. MY. GOD.
But we are not people who give up easily, especially if a few good pieces of raw fish over rice is the reward. We are, after all, slaves of good food. We split up and queue patiently at each of these two sushi temples.
Just before we hit the forecasted 2 hour wait, we are led into the tiny, narrow, resto-in-a-box that is Daiwa Sushi. Next time, Sushi Dai! Greeted with warm smiles and nods by the sushi chefs as soon as the door slid open, I instantly develop a liking for this place... until this old crabby woman appears to show us our seats.
"NO!!!" she scolds us as we are about to take out the camera. "No ca-me-la! No po-to!" together with frantic hand signals. What?!?! No pictures to commemorate my very first Tsukiji Market meal?!?! Oh well, there is nothing we can do, and that old lady really freaks me out.
We order the Omakase and put our stomachs' fates in the hands of the smiling man behind the sushi counter. And what masterful hands he's got! Each of his creations tastes like magic. I am smitten.
He has me at the first sushi. Toro. Creamy, buttery, melt in your mouth quality. I have never had anything like it before. Even the rice hiding underneath the generous slice of fatty tuna is perfect - soft, moist, a hint of sweetness here, a hint of sourness there. I who usually prefer sashimi over sushi, can’t get enough of the rice. Only Daiwa has that power to make me suddenly BFFs with the grain. Next comes an assortment of sushi which includes amaebi (sweet shrimp), anago (eel), uni (sea urchin), ika (squid), hamachi (yellowtail), and hotate (scallop). Every piece is perfection, from the presentation, down to the smell and taste. Yes, I smell my food on such few special occasions. :)
The Omakase includes 7 pieces of sushi, a tuna roll cut into 6, and miso soup. By charging a mere ¥3,500 a set for the freshest sashimi paired with the most flavorful sushi rice, the people behind Daiwa are doing all mankind a great favor. Here in Hong Kong, the same amount can only get you a piece and a half of toro at Inagiku. The sashimi at Daiwa is so fresh that my amaebi is still twitching when it arrives on my plate. The tuna rolls, on the other hand, are quite ordinary. I want to pass on them so I can have more stomach space for
another omakase set a take two of the sushi I like, but it seems disrespectful to do so after the chef has brought me so much pleasure. So with an ever grateful heart, I wipe clean my plate.
Taking cue from the chef and the scary old woman that it is time for us to give up our seats, I suddenly panic. I am not yet ready to leave, at least not until I’ve had seconds of my two favorites. “One more toro, and one more uni, please!” The sushi chef beams and proceeds to prepare my request with a smile. And I reluctantly say my goodbyes to the sushi chefs at Daiwa after savoring the aroma, the texture and the flavor of the two best pieces of sushi in this world.
It is simple meals like this, ingredients of the highest quality prepared with so much love and care, that makes dining a most sublime and pleasurable experience.
Daiwa Sushi 大和寿司: Tsukiji Market Building 6, 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. 東京都中央区築地5-2-1 築地市場6号館.