I have never been a big fan of Sushi. In fact, I have never been a big fan of fish either when I was younger. Now, that’s a big confession coming from a Teochew Ah Hia ‘cos, as you well know, we Teochews (are supposed to) love steamed fish. We love fish so much that we prefer to eat it unadulterated. So for us Teochews, the fish must be fresh, and best eaten just steamed with a dash of Tau Cheo (Fermented Bean Sauce). I guess that is why I hated fish when I was younger ‘cos my parents loved to eat the real fishy steamed fish such as Mullet and Peh Dou Her (Rabbit Fish) and that threw me right off.
So you can imagine my excitement when I was first introduced to Sushi many years ago while I was studying in Sydney. It was about the time when the Aussies themselves were being introduced to this form of Japanese cuisine. Fish? Hmmm……ambivalent. Raw fish? You got to be kidding me!
But as the years went by and Sushi became more popular, I had to learn to eat it since sometime, somehow, somewhere….. someone is bound to say “Hey! Let’s go for Sushi today!”. Boh Pien (no choice), peer pressure. Later on, the pressure came from my wife, who just absolutely loves Sushi. What to do? The CEO loves Sushi, so very difficult to say no. Then now, the kids also love Sushi. Aiyah, when the shareholders also say they want Sushi, even more difficult to say no.
The Sushi afficianados would encourage me by telling me that I have yet to taste really good Sushi as most of the stuff you get in Singapore just cannot compare to the Sushi in Japan. So, I waited patiently for the day of my epiphany believing that when I get to eat the “real” Sushi, then I shall know the truth and the truth shall set me free.
So, this trip to Tokyo was to be my time of rebirth. This Sushi Ignoramus shall finally behold the sublime beauty of the raw fish! So I set my goal to eat the best Otoro (tuna belly) in the world since this is what all the Sushi lovers seem to love so much. I always believe that if people can love something a lot, then there must be something to love. So I was determined to find this fantastical fillet of fresh fish which is going to change my life forever.
Where better to find this wonderous wedge of Tuna than at Tsukiji, the World’s biggest Fish Market? And being the Kiasu Singaporean, I had to go for the most famous restaurant with the longest queues. I wanted to make sure that the only other way to get it any fresher is to take a bite off a live fish.
The two most famous shops at Tsukiji are Sushi Dai and Sushi Daiwa. They are both located along the same row of shop at block 6. When you get off at Tsukiji, make your way down the left hand side of the main market and you should find it. The next piece of advise is important so pay attention.
The ladies running the restaurants can be quite the Food Nazis as they run the restaurants in a very regimented fashion. When you are queuing up, make sure that all the people who are going into the restaurant are in the queue because you will not be allowed into the restaurant unless all members of the party are present. Oh yes, this rule is clearly stated at the front of the restaurant…… in Japanese. Not only that, if you get to the front of the queue and your friend is not there, not only won’t you get into the restaurant, you will need to start queuing again from the back of the queue. Guess how I learn about this rule?
Lucky for me the people who got put in front of me happened to be Singaporeans and seeing what happened, they very graciously offered to let us go back in front of them. Ah, it’s good to know that we Singaporeans do look out for each other!
It was a good thing that when it was finally our turn, we managed to be shown into the restaurant together with our newfound Singaporean friends (or else quite Paiseh leh). Now at last, the moment of truth had come! Now I shall be able to capture this precious moment of enlightenment. But alas, when I whipped out my camera, the lady promptly told me that phototaking was not allowed in the restaurant! Doh!! (Then how did all those pictures of the restaurant online get taken I wonder?)
So I managed to only take the one good photo from my momentous occasion which is the first picture you see. (The one above was taken at a less prestigious Sushi place in Ueno.)
Anyway, what can I say about the Sushi?
Wow, it was very fresh indeed and it is certainly the best sushi I have eaten. But I am far from being the newest Sushi fan. I mean, the Otoro was great, but for me, I wouldn’t pay $20 bucks for it in Singapore. The Uni was very very creamy and savoury but again not something I would crave for. The one thing that was quite an eye opener was the Grilled Sea Eel (Anago) of which was the house specialty at the restaurant. Now that one was surprisingly creamy and quite shiok.
Video explaining proper Sushi etiquette – you must watch this!
For those of you who might be preparing for a trip to Japan to have your Sushi moment, may I advise you to brush up on proper Sushi etiquette but having a look at the video above. Japanese society is very regimented and it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the rules or risk getting thrown out of the restaurant! (And the video is quite entertaining too!)
Now, in case you are under the mistaken belief that every Japanese likes Sushi, may I say that I know of some who also can’t understand what the big fuss over raw fish is about. From this experience, I can say however, that the Sushi in Japan is really very fresh, and the difference between what you get there and here is quite apparent even for me. But at the end of the day, if you are planning a surprise birthday treat for me, please don’t think you are doing me a great favour by inviting me to the most expensive Sushi restaurant in town, unless they serve Matsuzaka beef as well.