Friday, September 25, 2009

Sushi Daizen (大前)

Daizen is a somewhat famous place - it's right under the rail tracks in Yurakucho, meaning you have to push your way through thick clouds of chicken-grilling smoke to get there. It's very small (9 seats?), cheap, and offers great cost performance. This is why you'll need to book well in advance (seriously).

Inside is very normal in a nice way, as in this picture. I felt bad taking too many location shots since the other customers and indeed the master were all about three inches away (as was the door from my back), but you can get some idea from this. The master has mostly-grey hair in a ponytail and looks very much like an aging David Carradine (without the, you know).  I think the happy, industrious assistant is his son - they appear in a picture together on the wall, and I don't think many masters go hiking and pose for smiling portraits with their non-related juniors. As a result of the size, familiarity and other patrons, the atmosphere is very jovial. Another funny thing - they don't serve alcohol. Weird for any restaurant in Japan, double weird for sushi. This means, however, that you can happily stop by Bic Camera (everyone's favorite local liquor store) and pick up a bottle of champagne to go with your fish. Just the thing!

You should more or less omakase here. Since it was a bit later when we got there, supplies were running out. Thus we had more or less one of everything until it was gone. Here's sashimi. Frighteningly, this is a plate for one person. I don't know if this gets to you the way it did to me, but it's a lot of tasty-looking fish. The shrimps were a standout for me; I'm not sure why they were so red, but they were very good. Other things are akagai, torigai, saba and an indeterminate white fish (isaki, maybe?). To illustrate the value, I could imagine a plate like this, not necessarily in this quality, costing enough in a decent izakaya to take up more than half of the fee we eventually paid.

This chu-toro came out the best of the close up shots. And it was yummy. Don't be fooled though; the highlight of the plate was probably the mackerels. I say mackerels because there were actually two types, one from off Tokyo and another from farther north, Miazaki. I liked the extra fat in the Miazaki one better (farther north, colder already, more fat; would be the obvious logic, but with ocean currents I dunno, and Miazaki isn't that far away). The sign outside describes Daizen as "a place with good mackerel", and I concur.

'Silver thing specialist' might be a better description than just mackerel - this katsuo tataki was also very good. A special point was that, for example, the two slices visible at the right were actually one big chunk, partially cut in half and with a slice of garlic tucked in. Eek! Katsuo has to be very fresh or it can get bad; the last time I had a meal in Japan that tasted so bad I couldn't finish it (actually I can't remember more than that time, so that place deserves a special mention), it was katsuo tataki that tasted like garbage. Errrr, and now back to regularly scheduled programming about good food.
Keeping with the silver-things theme, we have here two pieces of silky, fatty, delicious sanma (Pacific Saury, I love writing that), one sardine and one horse mackerel.

Sanma is good in Autumn. As are most fish. I'm glad it's Autumn.

I think there wasn't enough mackerel left at this point to give us nigiri of it, so we got the end pieces in a roll instead.  Also some pickle rolls (kampyo).

I'm actually a little confused about how good the value was, because the master kept giving us stuff and saying it was free. I think those rolls were free. I know this delicious, falling-apart, lightly-grilled salmon nigiri was free.

As was the last piece of eel from the fridge (that's why it's shaped funny).

And finally, a simple piece of egg. So humble, so elegant. What a fitting end to a great meal. No, I kid, I kid. I just love it when people go to kaiseki and that's all they say about the lame-o piece of fruit they get at the end. I like dessert trolleys, boys!

Really, this is a fun and tasty place. It's right next to all the yakitori places, which are also fun, but is generall a cut above in terms of quality. Check it out, but do book in advance. It's so small that it's gotta be a hassle if people poke their heads in and try to get seats unannounced.

1 comment:

  1. hi i would like to know how much you should expect to pay at this place?