The Zagat Sushi Primer

| May 1, 2014

SushiEDITORIAL – It happens every time we go out to eat at home. “Where do you want to go?” I ask. Cannon, my youngest son, always answers “Japanese!” We never go though. It’s not that we don’t like Japanese food, we do. However it just never hits the right tone at the right time. But it is popular, and not due to the cheesy hibachi show.

My husband will many times run from his office over to Publix nearby and pick up sushi for lunch. It’s become so common place that it’s available fresh at the super market. Which brings us to this week’s blog subject: With all of this popularity, exactly what is the correct way to eat sushi? My source for this provocative question, the wise folks at Zagat, the international foodie experts. Here’s what they had to say.

Sushi has been around in Japan for centuries, and it’s been in America for at least 30 years. You’d think at this point we’d all be experts in the long-established rules and rituals that surround raw fish and rice – but we’re anything but. Luckily, learning the protocol is easy, and following it not only shows respect to the chef (and the fish), it can also help you enjoy your sushi more.

Soy and Wasabi Don’t Mix

You’ve settled into the sushi bar and placed your order. In anticipation of your meal, you decant a pool of soy sauce into its little saucer and commence swirling in a nugget of wasabi. “I see this everywhere, even in the most expensive restaurants,” says David Geld, director of the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, “Sushi chefs hate it.”

It’s a pet peeve for a few reasons. First of all, if you have real freshly grated wasabi – a rare treat – it’s criminal to drown it in soy sauce. Another objection to the practice is the slurry’s appearance. “It just looks gross,” says Geld. Most importantly though, dunking your sushi pieces in that unholy mixture invites brash flavors to run roughshod over the chef’s carefully calibrated bite.

Chopsticks or Fingers?

Chopsticks are always part of the place setting in a sushi restaurant, but do you have to use them? “Often you’ll get a damp napkin as well, which tells me it’s ok to use your fingers,” says Geld, who himself likes eating sushi by hand. He says if you aren’t deft with chopsticks, it’s the way to go. Iron Chef Morimoto also says it’s fine to eat sushi with your fingers. “Just make sure you wash your hands first.”

The One Bite Rule

Another way to ruin an otherwise solid sushi specimen is to eat it in more than one bite. Chef and restaurateur Masaharu Morimoto says that the dreaded two-bite approach just isn’t right. Again, it’s all about balance. “Each piece has the right amount of fish, wasabi and soy. If you divide a piece into two, you get more wasabi on your first bite, etc,” says Morimoto.

Avoid Supersized Rolls

If you confront a sushi roll that has you even considering breaking the one-bite rule, you are probably in the wrong place. “An authentic, traditional sushi restaurant wouldn’t even serve the kind of oversized rolls that we often see here in America,” says Geld. Loaded down with ingredients (think spicy mayo) that overwhelm the pure, delicate flavors of raw fish, such rolls were probably invented to camouflage less-than-stellar seafood.

Zagat “You’re Eating It Wrong: Sushi”

Okay, so now you know. You’ll look like a regular Iron Chef yourself the next time you saddle up to the Sushi Bar with the invaluable knowledge you received from Zagat and Plat du Jour in your head!

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