Sushi Dai @ Tsukiji Fish Market

by Ed Lau on July 3, 2008

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, otoro, o-toro, tuna, fatty, uni, sea urchin, akagai, red clam, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

I’ve eaten a lot of great food in my lifetime. I’ve blown $60 on a burger before. I’ve eaten signature dishes by 10 of Vancouver’s best restaurants in a row. The Dot Com Pho Crew and I even managed to eat out of a toilet. However, I can honestly say that yesterday was one of my favorite meals…ever.

I know this is long, detailed and there are lots of pictures…but bear with me. This restaurant is epic.

There are lots of amazing sushi restaurants in Japan but Sushi Dai, located in the famed Tsukiji Fish Market is the Mecca of sushi, somewhere that all raw fish enthusiasts (I’m sure that’s an official thing…) should make a pilgrimage to at least once in their lifetime. However, expect to wait a long time in line as others like us have made the same spiritual journey. There are many others in the same area in Tsukiji. In fact, Daiwa Sushi, which is three or four stalls down from Sushi Dai, had a long line as well but apparently Sushi Dai is the sushi restaurant.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, otoro, o-toro, tuna, fatty, uni, sea urchin, akagai, red clam, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

The whole place is no bigger than my apartment. There are only about 14 seats at the counter where three sushi chefs prepare your meal right in front of your eyes.

I woke up at 5am due to anticipation…and necessity. Tsujiki opens early in the morning with the fish auction starting at about 4:30am. Most restaurants in the market open at 5am as well and close at 2pm, just after lunch service. This means unbelievably fresh fish brought in the same morning. I set out at about 6:30am to meet Ms. Danielle, who was in Tokyo for the day before heading out to the rest of Japan.

Not surprisingly, I got lost…twice. Once when trying to find Danielle’s hotel and again when we were trying to find the market, which is a 15 minute walk from the nearest JR line station. As Danielle quickly found out, Tokyo streets are nearly devoid of all signs and after asking some folks on the street how to get to one of the city’s biggest attractions (Tsukiji Market), I could tell she was starting to believe my theory that even the locals don’t quite know where they are.

Upon arrival at about 9:20am, an Astro Boy looking dude greeted us and brought the bad news: the wait would be about two hours. Since we came all this way, there was no chance we were turning back then or going to one of the other sushi restaurants. No, we were determined that this was the one.

About two hours of standing around and getting to know nearly everyone in line, we finally got inside. The restaurant is cramped but has fantastic ambiance as all the sushi chefs greet you loudly. Even though it’s a huge tourist attraction, it feels like a neighborhood spot.

Let’s get started with the food. Danielle and I both ordered the “trust the chef” meal. I’m sure they mean chef’s special. At 3670 yen for a 11 pieces plus one roll, it’s not exactly cheap but we’re not scrooges.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, tamago, sweet egg, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

We got the tamago (sweet egg) first. It was served hot, which is a bit different from the usual cool ones. It was quite good but I wasn’t blown away. It’s difficult to do too much with the most basic of sushi toppings, though.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, otoro, o-toro, tuna, fatty, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

However, those guys really know how to start with a bang. o-toro (fattiest of the fatty tuna) was next and it was the best tuna I’ve ever had. The whole piece melts in your mouth. If it wasn’t for the rice, I wouldn’t even need to chew. It tasted fresh and rich in flavor. We don’t get this kind of tuna back in Vancouver…with the gorgeous color and marbling. A beautiful piece of fish.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, sea bass, suzuki, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

Next up was suzuki (sea bass). I’ve had sea bass before but not as sushi. I watched as the chef prepared the fish, squeezing a bit of lime juice before giving it to us, specifically telling us “No sauce.” The lime juice gives the delicate fish a great zest, which is sort of a different sushi experience. At this point, I ditched the soy sauce altogether…as I’m sure any would just be a disservice to the caliber of fish we were being served.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, red snapper, tai, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

Tai is red snapper. There’s a big difference when snapper is done properly and when it’s not. Tai that isn’t quite fresh or has been frozen for quite awhile tastes fishy and has a strange, rubbery texture. None of that here. The fish doesn’t melt like the o-toro but it is still extremely good.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, uni, sea urchin, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

There were three stand-outs in the meal for me. The o-toro is one. The uni (sea urchin) was the second. I’ve NEVER had uni this amazing. While sea urchin at a lesser degree of freshness tends to be overly mushy, taste a bit rank and looks like it’s covered in a sort of mucus, this was sweet with a very…uh…”ocean-y” taste to it. Amazing uni. By far the best I’ve ever tasted. No preservatives. Never frozen. Just pure awesome.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, magurozuke, marinated tuna, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

Next was a piece of magurozuke, which is marinated tuna. The sauce is a sort of sweet soy and the fresh tuna has incredible texture. It doesn’t have the fat content of the o-toro so it won’t melt but this old school way of preparing the fish still tastes great.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, akagai, red clam, ark shell, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

The akagai (red clam) was the third stand-out for me. It was so fresh it was still moving! I’ve never had a clam this delicious in my life. Clams are usually very chewy but this was as soft as chewing through the egg. I was so blown away by this that I almost ordered it rather than the o-toro for my last piece.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, aji, mackerel, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

I’m not usually a fan of aji (mackerel) as when it’s not perfectly fresh, it tends to have an intense fishy taste. This piece was still intense but not fishy at all. It had a great aroma too. Our chef told us that this was a great time for fresh mackerel and it shows. A fantastic taste to this fish when it is as fresh as possible.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, shiraebi, baby shrimp, white shrimp, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

Some fellow foodies told me about the shiraebi (baby shrimp) beforehand. I didn’t know what to think since I’ve never had this before and assumed that it would be the same as regular shrimp but I was really wrong. The texture is slightly gloopy but they have a strong, fresh sweetness.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, kajiki, swordfish, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

Kajiki (swordfish) is another fish I’ve eaten before but never as sushi. I can’t really put the taste into words but it is delicious. No, the chef didn’t mess up the rice…I did that because I was so eager to eat it that I forgot to take a picture before picking it up with my chopsticks.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, maki, roll, shellfish, cucumber, chu-toro, fatty tuna, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

The roll came next. The first is a sort of shellfish with cucumber and the second is diced chu-toro (mid-range fatty tuna, with o-toro being the best and toro being regular fatty tuna). I couldn’t taste much in the shellfish, honestly but the chu-toro was awesome. Dicing it just makes it melt in your mouth faster.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, anago, sea eel, steamed, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

The last was anago (sea eel, steamed…I think). The flavor is nearly the same as unagi with the same sweetness from the fish and the sauce but the texture…it’s so soft that it just disintegrates. The light and fluffiness is incredible.

For our last piece, the chef lets us pick whichever piece we wanted. Danielle and I both went with the o-toro, even though I was so torn between that, the clam and the sea urchin. I was almost sad at this point as the meal was ending but I couldn’t be happier that I was eating such incredible, epic-win, ultra sushi. Danielle and I even discussed the possibility of ordering another $37 meal but we felt sorry for the folks standing outside in the sweltering heat so we snapped a couple more shots and left.

At $37, this isn’t the cheapest way to get sushi. Heck, if you want to order by the piece, each ranges from $3 (for most) to $7 (for the o-toro…with the good stuff like uni and akagai at around $5) per piece. However, it is BY FAR the best sushi I’ve ever had and probably the best place on the planet…period. I honestly don’t see how it could get better and fresher as the source is mere feet away from the restaurant and the chefs are masters, incredibly hospitable and one even spoke some English!

This was a near spiritual experience for me and I’m sure it would be for anyone that loves sushi. If you come to Tokyo, you MUST go. Don’t even think about it (as so many people outside in line were)…just trust the chef and go with the set meal. They’re not always the same things as the menu changes depending on the seasonal ingredients but they’re always guaranteed to be good. I was amazed by the freshness of the ingredients.

Sushi Dai, Tsukiji, Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, miso soup, fresh, fish, raw, Ed Lau, Ms Danielle, best sushi in the world, best sushi ever, freshest sushi

Even the miso soup (with chunks of fish…in Danielle’s. All I got was bones) was great. I was on the verge of tears, the meal was so good. I wrote a lot here but my words simply can’t do justice to the outstanding food served at Sushi Dai. As I still have another month and a half here in Tokyo, I will be back again…at least once.

I just don’t know how I’m going to deal with not having this place once I go home…I don’t even want to think about it.

in Food and Fine Dining,Photography,Travel

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

John Chow July 3, 2008 at 10:27 am

I can’t wait two hours! Don’t they have take-out???


Jon Lee July 3, 2008 at 11:22 am

I’m a big fan of sushi… but honestly, the only sushi I eat is salmon and SOMETIMES tuna. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to strange fish haha, I feel like I wouldn’t appreciate the restaurant fully if I were to go.


Saman Sadeghi July 3, 2008 at 1:38 pm

I love sushi!!!! Over the years, I’ve become very adventurous. You can only eat so many Dragon, Caterpillar and Firecracker rolls before you start looking for some new!


Ed Lau July 5, 2008 at 5:01 pm

I forgot to mention, Saman…there are very few places here that serve those kinds of rolls. Just about everywhere here serves only nigiri sushi. No, there are no California rolls anywhere.


Saman Sadeghi July 6, 2008 at 7:31 am

I thought as much, I would imagine that many of my favorite items are Americanized….


Gary Lee July 3, 2008 at 12:25 pm

dude . . looks like a lot fun . . . . jealous


Derek July 3, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Very jealous as well…I’m a huge fan of sushi but most of the places here in the Midwest aren’t serving the freshest of fish. Toro is one of my favorites so I can only imagine how good the variety was that you had there.


Saman Sadeghi July 3, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Derek, try Oysi in Downtown Chicago – it’s killer! It’s not a traditional sushi place (which I prefer) but they have some awesome super-white tuna!


Derek July 3, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Being so close to Chicago, you’d think that I get downtown with some regularity but it has been awhile. The last time I was downtown was for the SOBCon event at the beginning of May.

But thanks for the recommendation, I will put this on my list.


Saman Sadeghi July 4, 2008 at 8:19 am

No prob, it’s really the only sushi joint that I’ve been to in Chicago, but it’s one of my favorite place in the country – the food it really great, but I’ve had a lot of great times there with friends so that might be a factor too…


Ed Lau July 5, 2008 at 4:59 pm

I don’t know why but tuna in North America is white/greyish-pink while tuna in Japan is a deep red…or red with rich white fat veins when it’s the good stuff.

Different species, perhaps?


Michael Kwan July 5, 2008 at 5:01 pm

I noticed that too. My guess is that they’re not the same kind of tuna.


Saman Sadeghi July 6, 2008 at 7:32 am

Tuna belly is red!

Ray Ma July 7, 2008 at 11:02 am

ed, that fatty tuna belly looked AWESOME. man, i’m not sure i could ever eat at places like sui sha ya and tomokazu if i went to sushi dai. and it wouldn’t be due to health concerns either XD


passBy July 3, 2008 at 8:16 pm

i went there when i was in japan last sept. if you switch to tokyo metro there is a station that is right beside the tsukiji fish market (and that’s exactly what the station name is)

i ordered the chef’s special as well and it was well worth it. if you order sake, they will give you a side dish of live squid in soy sauce and that’s incredible as well. i remember ordering all the prawn sushi that have on the side to try them all out. incredible.

there is one more thing that you MUST try as well, i saw a local ordering this huge grilled scallop and they serve it to you by wrapping a piece of dry sea weed around it. the size of the scallop is a bit smaller than the size of my palm.. but it’s huge and thick! i forgot the name of it but try to describe it to the chef that speaks english. the chef that i had last time was the one closest to the door, the same one you had in the pix above.


Saman Sadeghi July 4, 2008 at 8:20 am

Live squid? Wow, I’ve seen people eat that but I don’t know if I’m that adventurous….


Ed Lau July 4, 2008 at 8:33 am

Definitely something I’m trying to find but I think it’s more plentiful in Korea (or Korean restaurants) than in Japan.


Michael Kwan July 5, 2008 at 5:02 pm

I’ve had live lobster in Vancouver. The meat doesn’t really move anymore, but the feelers on the head still twitch when they bring it to the table. This was at Dai Masu on Cambie and Broadway… doesn’t exist anymore, though the Metrotown location might do it too.


Ed Lau July 5, 2008 at 5:18 pm

You can ask AznSiR on REVscene (uh…his name is something else now. Owner of Ebisu…) about that. His family owns the Daimasu chain.

Michael Kwan July 6, 2008 at 3:19 pm

The Broadway/Cambie Dai Masu merged with… Kamei Royale (?) for the “new” Kamakura (?) restaurant on West Broadway near Heather (?). As you can tell, I’m so clear about the details.

Michael Kwan July 3, 2008 at 11:11 pm

That looks incredible. You will never be able to each sushi in Vancouver again.


ms danielle July 5, 2008 at 5:36 am

well worth the wait :D great write-up ed! of course, it’s impossible to truly describe the incredibleness of the sushi…but job well done. i don’t know if i’ll ever have sushi that compares unless i come back to japan. btw, i saw pictures of the uni from daiwa sushi, and it looked like the overflowy messy goop that i normally see. you can try it if you like, and let me know how it fares :) lucky lucky ed….. i’m soooo jealous…..!!


Stephen July 6, 2008 at 12:44 am

I thought that was you in that picture, but I was like…nah…WTF is she doing in Tokyo.


Ed Lau July 6, 2008 at 12:46 am

You didn’t watch the video, did you? LOL


Thrifty July 7, 2008 at 12:41 am

Wow I have never seen Sushi like that I am not very adventurous when it comes to Sushi I only eat Salmon and Tuna, which I love. Going to have to try out some other fish next time I do Sushi.


weew July 7, 2008 at 1:10 pm

3700 yen is a steal if you ask me!

O-toro for the effin WIN. However, many Japanese prefer chu-toro as it isn’t purely fat.

Thanks for the heads up on timing though…there was even a wait shortly after 9? I will remember to go earlier.


Jeff Kee July 7, 2008 at 4:24 pm

I’m very picky when it comes to sushi, but that’s my Vancouver standards. Once I taste that kind of stuff, I don’t think I could ever come back.


Eva White July 10, 2008 at 8:57 pm

Its not a meal, its an experience. Lucky you!


Neil Duckett July 15, 2008 at 3:58 am

Looks great Ed! This is what i love about living in Japan.


Mike Lau July 15, 2008 at 12:28 pm

I lived in Japan for 4 years but never ate at Tsukiji.

There are so many great sushi places. Even the local chains like “Bikkuri Sushi” are probably 10 times better than the 5 star restaurants located in NYC. Heavenly service with no tips or attitude.


Ed Lau July 16, 2008 at 1:31 am

If you don’t have the time to go to Tsukiji, then you can try the Tsukiji Sushi Ko chain for some quality sushi. While not quite on the level of Sushi Dai, the ingredients are fresh and the service is friendly. I went to the one in Shinjuku but there are several branches all over the place. 1200 yen gets you a very good set meal.


Kojo July 24, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Great writeup.

Although, you should know that Sushi Dai is really only like middle of the pack in terms of sushi quality in Japan. It is great value, but not quite there in terms of the “best”.

If you are truly looking for the best of the best, check out Sukiyabashi Jiro or Sushi Mizutani. Cost is quite up there ($300US/person), but they can do things with raw fish that I never thought possible. Both have earned 3 Michelin stars.


Naked SushiKing March 17, 2009 at 10:58 am

Love the write up…almost as good as being…okay maybe not! But very informative and loved the pictures.


Amber November 12, 2009 at 9:58 am

I went to Sushi Dai in July of this year after watching your video and reading your account. It was phenomenal!


Brandon March 8, 2010 at 12:14 am

Hello Ed. Great write up and excellent video on Sushi Dai! I’m a big fan of sushi myself for many years now, favoring the nigiri types over the maki’s. I recently took a “pilgrimage”, as you would say, that every avid sushi fan must do, to the famed Sushi Dai in Tsukiji just last month, having stayed in Tokyo for only 5 days. I purposely stay at a hotel 5 minutes from Tsukiji so that I can walk over there to have sushi every morning, and every evening, just to sample different sushi restaurants (to compare) and try different tane that I haven’t had before in the States (like shako and akagai, for example, since I couldn’t find any place that served those here) … You were sooo right.. its unbelievably delicious, the BEST sushi I’ve ever had, and now I only wish all sushi I eat from now on can taste that good, heavenly, beyond fresh,and perfect. Might be kinda hard, since I live in San Diego. The sushi thats very delicious tha comes close to the caliber of Sushi Dai that I’ve had now, but close only by a wide margin still, was Sushi Gen, in Los Angeles. (though I’ve to tried Urasawa and Sasabune, on my list to do!) After waiting for a hour in the 30 degrees tempurature when I arrived at 5AM, I was too excited and forgot to take pictures. But I recall that the kinme-dai (big-eye, red, alfonsino) topping was ethereal, so delicous… as well as the akagai, anago, hirame, and uni. I was lucky to have some fish meat in my miso soup, heh-heh. But again, thanks for your blog, write up, and recommendation of this sushi haven, its been so helpful… I believe it must be world famous or something, as each day I walk by, there are lines galore, with visitors from all over the world (I chatted with a family from Singapore while waiting in line) along with the locals… the sushi speaks for itself. No other place I’ve tried since compares to it, I must say. The price was 3900 Yen for omakase when I was there (Feb.17, 2010), just in case you wanted to update others. So worth it! Well, sorry to take so much of your space on the blog. I’ll read more on your other write ups, and thanks. Take care. – Brandon


Yuriko Larson May 4, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Thank you so much for the great blog entry. I was trying to explain this experience to my friends and family but couldn’t give an accurate account. You summed it up so well with amazing photos. Thanks for posting. It will be one of my most memorable experiences.


Deven Nongbri June 19, 2010 at 7:32 am

Excellent post and thanks for documenting. We visited Dai in Tsukiji on a crazy 14-hour layover in Tokyo. We waited in line for about 2 hours, but it was, as you mentioned, the BEST sushi we’ve ever had. We basically let the chef choose three courses for us and were delighted with the picks (the kaijiki, swordfish, was a nice surprise to finish up with). “Breakfast” for two was around US$88 but again, well worth it. Thanks for great pix and write-up – brought back many good and delicious memories!

Deven Nongbri


jamie dalgetty October 13, 2010 at 9:12 am

that looks so good! we will be in tokyo tomorrow so we will come check this place out!


anteos February 11, 2011 at 5:51 am


is this really worth it to try? I always woke up at 8 – 10am everyday, so waking up at 4.30 its a bit so heartache. I even drools seeing your picture.

so if its really good, I will come back the next day. sigh, I will update here. lol



Ed Lau February 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm

I hate waking up anytime in the morning.

But I’d do it again for Sushi Dai.


Chooi March 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Going to Tokyo in 10days (though will have to wait and see if situation changes for the worse) and I plan to check out this place. Great video and pics. Hope I have not hyped it up to myself too much but can’t wait. Will try to get there early :D


Fernando June 12, 2011 at 9:02 am

Ed, I was last month in Sushi Dai and after waiting for around an hour I just share all your experiences… I even got also the otoro as my free choice at the end, hahaha. It was an expensive breakfast (we just had coffee on the hostel) but it was a wonderful and worthful experience! Never ever had so much fresh sushi before! Normally I’m just used to the rolled sushi…


Dean @ Car News August 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I really love sushi!! Your picture make me hungry!! LOL. It’s really nice experience when eating sushi.


Lisa Nakamura February 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Hi guys,
Great video!!! So fun. We just went there too and had a great meal – check out our video when you get a chance :)



Degan March 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm

$37! omg, I would have ordered three. that sounds amazing.


king kong May 9, 2012 at 3:19 am

i’ve ate there last January , and for sure i’ll be back again for more
i have to queue for 2 hrs on a freezing afternoon and its pay off
Toro sushi is the hits, i still drulling everytime i imagine every bite of that soft-fresh tuna melt in my mouth


Linus Chia September 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Hi Ed,

Thanks for your excellent write up, It is because of your blog that managed to convince myself to queue nearly 4 hours before I had a chance to feast on that sushi after going for the tuna auction. Though travel books recommended Daiwa, just 2 doors away, I knew I just had to try Sushi Dai.

Oh by the way, the chef in your first photo, the one closest to the camera, is still working there. As I was seated quite near the entrance, he was the one serving me!

Linus Chia


Ed Lau September 20, 2013 at 1:18 am

Great to hear, Linus! These guys train for…well, forever so it’s not out of the ordinary that a sushi chef stays at one restaurant for a long time. Glad to hear you had a good time.


Linus Chia September 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Oh by the way it is still approximately USD $39, though it is now 3900 yen, not sure how much it is previously.


Kensei March 20, 2014 at 9:18 pm

I have lived about a 5 minute walk from Tsukiji for almost 7 years. I ate at this Sushi Dai once and the sushi is very good but it’s not worth the wait for the following reason.

There are several Sushi Dai’s in the Tsukiji area. The one described here is for tourists and not even listed on their web site (

Go to one of the other restaurants where you can get the exact same set for the same price and not wait in a line. Also, the sushi chefs are probably better; they are going to send their “A” team to the tourist shop in the inner market where the customers will be less discerning.

See my web site for more Tsukiji tips.


Kensei March 20, 2014 at 9:22 pm

“….they are going…” That should read “they are not going…”


Leave a Comment

{ 22 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: