Where to Find the Best Sushi in Tsukiji Fish Market
If you must eat all the sushi, all the time, a trip to Japan inordinately turns into a search for the most perfect fish possible. And there’s no better place to find the best sushi than in Tsukiji Fish Market – the source from which all that aquatic goodness originates in the country.
After all, it’s the biggest, busiest fish market in the world, with over 2,000 tons of marine products passing through its aisles every single day. That can only mean one thing, right? A whole lotta flawless sushi to devour.
Eating a Tsukiji fish market sushi breakfast at one of the restaurants in the outer market is a rite of passage for any serious sushi lover. So, despite the weirdness of eating raw fish before noon (don’t blame me, I grew up in Canada!), we set out at the ungodly hour of *7AM to find the absolute best sushi in all of Tsukiji Fish Market.
*Read on to find out why 7AM is WAY too late to have the best sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market.
WHERE TO FIND THE BEST SUSHI IN TSUKIJI FISH MARKET
If you ask me, the best sushi in Tsukiji is at humble little Sushi Dai. And I’m not the only one that thinks so.
When we visited way back in 2010, the lines for one of the 12 coveted counter seats at Sushi Dai were already stretching around the corner. Back then, it was mostly Asian tourists in the know, so we were able to show up around 7:30AM, and still get a seat… albeit 3 hours later.
However, in 2014, travellers on Tripadvisor picked Sushi Dai as the number 3 restaurant in ALL of Japan, and the place they most hoped to eat at when visiting Japan. Which I’d dare say, would’ve made it the best sushi, not just in Tsukiji, but IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.
It’s fallen slightly from grace since then, and now only tops Tripadvisor’s current list of Tsukiji sushi restaurants. Only. That doesn’t mean the lines have gotten shorter though. If anything, they’ve gotten worse, and stories abound of super early mornings and 4-5 hour waits.
Now, I’m no arbiter of sushi greatness, but I’d have to agree with all those people. I’ve never had better fish than at Sushi Dai. It’s definitely the best sushi in Tsukiji, and I’d gladly wait another 3 hours to eat it again.
TSUKIJI SUSHI BREAKFAST AT SUSHI DAI: WHAT TO EXPECT
With just 12 counter places available, waits can be long. When hungry and dreaming of sushi, it can feel like an eternity.
We slowly inched from the tail end of the line – to the middle – to the front – to the holding pen in front of Sushi Dai. After 3 torturous hours, we finally made it inside, our stomachs grumbling progressively louder with every passing minute.
At most Tsukiji sushi restaurants, you can order a la carte off the menu or “Trust the Chef” with an Omakase set course. The thing to do at Sushi Dai, is order the Omakase. Because frankly, if you can’t trust the chef at a place like Sushi Dai, you have no business being there in the first place.
Once you’re seated, the sushi chef will carefully select piece after piece of the freshest fish of the day. There are no plates here. Each piece will be placed directly on the counter in front of you by hand. After you’ve consumed one, the next will follow, and so on. It’s really the most personal and incredible way to eat a sushi breakfast, and part of what makes a meal at Sushi Dai so special.
But onto the sushi.
Once inside, that 3 hour torturous wait was all but forgotten, as the exquisite flavours of fatty tuna, mackerel and surf clam washed over my tastebuds. The sushi was so mouthwatering, that it scarcely touched the counter in front of us, before it was swept up and devoured. Best sushi in Tsukiji? Without a doubt.
When the Omakase course is completed, you’re allowed to choose one final piece of sushi off the a la carte menu. Choose wisely and then roll yourself out of the best Tsukiji sushi restaurant there is, and past the people still waiting in line. Reassure them that it’s all worth it, and carry the memory of that meal with you always. I sure do.
TIPS FOR GETTING A SEAT AT SUSHI DAI
Why you may ask, does it take so damn long to eat a bunch of raw fish on rice? Well, the first reason is obvious. There’s only TWELVE seats available in the whole, tiny place, and a lot of people wanting them. They’ve crammed as many in there as they possibly can, and seating is tight, to say the least.
It’s also because the chefs at Sushi Dai place each piece of sushi in front of you one by one. You’ll never get a plateful of fish to devour all at once. You’ll be forced to wait and savour each incredible morsel. And this is precisely what makes this, the best sushi in Tsukiji Market. It’s as much about the experience, as it is about the fish.
When we visited way back in 2010, we wound up at Sushi Dai totally by accident. I’m slightly ashamed to admit we did zero research and simply joined the longest line we could find, after walking blindly around Tsukiji’s Outer Market. We got there around 7:30AM, and waited 3 full hours before we finally scored a seat.
Show up really, really, really, really early.
These days, if you show up at 7:30AM like we did, there’s a good possibility that you won’t make it into Sushi Dai at all, since it closes around noon. My first piece of advice is obvious. Show up as early as possible and get in line for their 5AM opening. The earlier the better. Maybe even the night before. (kidding, not kidding)
My second tip is less obvious. If you go alone, or even pretend to go alone, there’s a small chance you might get to skip to the front of the line when a solo seat appears.
For sure part of the fun is indulging in the best sushi in Tsukiji with a friend, documenting it all the way – but if it could save you 2 or 3 hours in line, why not? Like I said, the place is really, really small anyways.
HOW TO GET TO THE BEST SUSHI IN TSUKIJI
Sushi Dai is located in the Tsujiki Outer Market. The closest subway stations are Tsukiji Station and Tsukiji-Shijo Station. You can wander around the narrow alleyways looking for an incredibly long line of people moving at a snail’s pace (like we did), or you can just keep this map handy. 😉
Good luck. And bring snacks.
VISITING TSUJIKI FISH MARKET
When we visited back in 2010, we were able to wander freely through all of Tsujiki Fish Market at any time of the day. Since then, strict regulations have been put in place for tourists, in order to prevent accidents and interference with business.
Visitors are no longer allowed to enter the wholesale market area before 11:00AM, and some areas of the Market are completely off limits to tourists.
The exciting tuna auction that’s on most traveller’s must-do lists (not ours, too early!), is now limited to 120 viewers per day, on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning at 5:00AM.
Detailed information about visiting both the tuna auction, the Tsukiji Fish Market, and its impending move can be found on the Japan Guide.
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