Trip recap (pt1)
March 5:We spent the day in Omotesando, Harajuku and Shibuya. We first ate lunch at Maisen, a restaurant specializing in tonkatsu (pork cutlet) but with really fatty, tender and juicy Berkshire pork. It was raining off and on so all we did was stroll around, eat some crepes in Harajuku and be shocked/puzzled/amazed at all the bizarre crap they hock at ドンキホーテ (Don Quijote). Then we met up with friends Lana and Sabrina and my brother and ate at a great Korean restaurant in Nihonbashi called Hantenjiya.
We decided this would be the morning we got up as goddamn early as possible to go to Tsukiji Market. Sleepyhead Han decided to skip out on this excursion because she hates raw fish and loves to sleep. We wish we had just slept in as well because it was POURING rain. Noah was building an ark at the back of Tsukiji Market and animals were lined up in pairs. We actually didn't get to Tsukiji early enough for the auction (it had just ended). And there was already a massive line-up for Sushi Dai. There isn't really much to do in Tokyo at 530am so we decided to tough it out in torrential downpour until we had our sushi breakfast. One thing we noticed was that over half of the people in the line-up were foreigners. We waited well over three hrs (close to four) in a freaking monsoon. The reason it takes so long is because Sushi Dai is a tiny restaurant with extremely limited seating (~10-12 seats). When we were somewhat near the front of the queue Bernard peeked through the window periodically and noticed that one super-sized girl and her mini entourage must have been sitting inside for over 90 min! Her friends had essentially stopped eating but Ms Jabba the Hut was ordering more and more ala carte items after already finishing the 11 item omakase menu. Bernard and Keleng kept whining and joking about the girl so I had to take a peek myself. It took me 5 microseconds to pick out who they were talking about. Her face resembled a blowfish on steroids with specks of wasabi, soy and sushi residue splattered all over her ginormous cheeks. When sumo champ et al finally left the building the line moved much faster.
Verdict: Bernard and keleng LOVED the food, both exclaiming "BEST sushi I've had in my entire life." However, part of that sentiment must have been influenced by having to wait close to 4 hours for the meal. Larry and I were more objective. All of us went with the deluxe omakase menu (3800 yen; as opposed to the standard omakase ?2800 yen). This included 10 pieces of the chef's choosing and an 11th piece you could choose on your own. They started off with ootoro and ended with anago which are two of my favorites. We all chose the live botan ebi (spooted prawn) as the bonus selection. The still moving body was served raw as nigirizushi and the heads were seasoned and grilled and served afterwards as an added bonus. The prawn heads were probably the tastiest part of the entire meal. I also ordered another piece of ootoro a la carte. The sushi was undeniably fresh and I imagine my itamae (sushi chef) had been making sushi for 2-3 decades but to be honest the quality was solid but not outstanding. I wouldn't go as far as to call Sushi Dai a tourist trap. It was well worth the price but nowehere near worth the wait and definitely nowhere nears as good as the premium sushi spots in Tokyo (eg Sukiyabashi Jiro, Sawada, Kyubey etc)
We were sooooo lucky Han decided to sleep in instead of joining us. If she had to wait 4hrs in freezing, torrential rain she would have gutted us like the fish below and opened a restaurant of her own called:
Larry had to eat a bowl of awesome ramen a day so in the afternoon I took him to one of my fave spots: Ramen Nagi in Golden Gai.
We were all Tsukiji'd out so we spent most of the day strolling around near our hotel in Shinjuku. After the craziness of Don Quijote, Tokyu Hands was a bit underwhelming but my friends managed to find a few interesting items to buy. Keleng loved the double layer cheesecake they sold there. She didn't buy any since it was damn expensive but ate at least 3 samples.
At night we hung out with my brother Mike, my 3 year old nephew Lucas and my dad who was conincidentally visiting Japan at the time.
My brother lives in Nishi-Kasai which is considered Little India even though I've never noticed a preponderance of East Indian inhabitants or restaurants. In fact, Nishi-Kasai is one of the best places in Tokyo to go for great food at reasonable prices. My favorite Okinawan restaurant is located there. Actually, I don't even know what it's called since they changed owners recently with a substantial upgrade in the quality of the food. They serve a killer, melt-in-your-mouth, died&gonetoheaven rafti (braised pork belly).
Their tsukune (minced chicken balls) are also incredibly succulent and tasty. Way better than at any yakitori restaurant I've ever been to in Tokyo so far (and that's a lot.) During our trip we had great food every day but this Okinawan resto was definitely one of the highlights.