I waited in the hot Tokyo sun at six in the morning for four and a half hours to eat at Sushi Dai. Four and a half hours at six in the morning! (And I rarely use exclamation marks.) But, based on its reputation as serving some of the best sushi in Tokyo, it was really the only thing that I had wanted to do in the city. And unlike most sushi restaurants in the city that charge upwards of $200 for a meal, Sushi Dai only charges about $35 for their set breakfast or lunch (depending on when you get admitted).
I had read that wait times were close to three hours; nothing as ridiculous as four and a half hours though. I ran a marathon faster than that. And just like a marathon, when you think things are going to get easier because you’re moved into the home stretch–which for Sushi Dai was in the shade–you wind up hitting the wall.
You’re tortured by the door sliding open, only to see the waitress coming out instead of a patron vacating a seat. You’re driven to madness gazing through the window like some hungry jackal as you glimpse the chef balling up rice, grating fresh wasabi, brushing on the appropriate amount of soy sauce, slicing large pieces of fish, and reaching over the counter to deliver the top-shelf sushi. (It’s literally top-shelf sushi, as each piece is hand-delivered to the top shelf of the sushi bar, just above where diners have their fish-filled miso soup and green tea.)
And, again, just like a marathon, there’s no greater feeling than finishing, (in this case finishing the wait. In fact, I’d say that taking my seat at the sushi counter was more satisfying than crossing the finish line in Philadelphia.)
The wait exhausted me and I don’t have any more energy to even go into detail about the meal. (Anyway, I think my descriptions wouldn’t be more interesting than buttery and smooth and fish sliced from some creature that had swum through heaven. Did I already say buttery?) So here are pictures to highlight both the wait and the meal.
Waiting for the Best Sushi in Tokyo:
In order to get the full experience, here are the highlights that I experienced in the four and a half hours that I had waited for the best sushi in Tokyo…
The Best Sushi in Tokyo at Sushi Dai After 4.5 Hours
1. Fatty Tuna: Man, was that buttery, errr…
2. Sea Bass
3. Golden Eye Snapper
4. Sea Urchin: I’ve ordered sea urchin at many sushi places before and it always tastes like it sat for too long in a stagnant tidal pool. But at Sushi Dai, it was delicious.
5. Soft Clam: It was served still living. This was the first fish that wasn’t buttery, but it was also far from chewy.
6. Back Tuna: Slightly saltier than Fatty Tuna.
7. Spanish Mackerel: Also a fish that I tend to dislike at sushi restaurants. Here, it was phenomenal.
8. A pair of tuna roll pieces and cod roe pieces.
9. Cuttlefish (or cuttlass fish): Wonderful with scallions and somehow had an almost smoky taste.
10. Sea Eel
11. A Fat Square of Egg: This was stupid. It always has been and it always will be the stupidest piece of sushi. Stupid piece of sushi.
12. Scallop: I was allowed to choose my eleventh piece; the first ten were the chef’s choice.
13. Salmon Roe: I asked the chef if I could pay for one additional roll. I needed something like fireworks to end my meal. And that burst of ikura was the perfect way to go.
End note: Later that night I found a sushi place for dinner and ordered all the rolls that I hadn’t had at Sushi Dai, like ark shell with cucumber, crab guts, sardines, gizzard shad, and horse mackerel. It was like going to watch a little league game after watching game seven of a World Series that went into extra innings. Sushi Dai had ruined sushi for me forever.