Is Your Favorite Sushi Restaurant Authentic?
It's totally a surprise to me that only 10% of the California Japanese restaurants is Japanese-owned!
I imagine the % would be similar for Italian, French, and other cuisines for which there is not a large immigrant population from that country.
Instead of coming up with an guide of "authentic" restaurants (which is unfair and impossible), I'd rather see a ranked guide of the Japanese perspective on american restaurants.
I dunno, I'd say the nationality of the owners has basically nothing to do with the level of authenticity. Sounds more like protectionism to me.
That's not the point. If someone wants to complain about Italian food in Japan, fine - different thread. The issue here is just what the heck is happening to sushi and sashimi as it becomes popularized across the US?
There's little doubt that we do not care about either the quality or traditions associated with sushi. By we, I mean Americans as a whole - not necessarily CH'ers or foodie's that really want to take the time and effort to get into various cuisines. Most Americans just want to experience the base aspects of the food - the surface, if you will - without bothering to get into the really interesting aspects. They want to tell their friends what a wonderful California roll they just had at the new sushi place. After all, Asian people made and served it, so it had to be real... I think this is part of our general character and applies to just about any food we bring into our country. It's just that some cuisines are just that much more intricate, and the results of the lack of attention to detail just shows up in much more jarring ways to those that are critical and understand the difference.
As sushi rolls out into the burbs and is made by every asian semi-chef that thinks that cutting a chunk of tuna is no different than slicing meat for stir-fry, it's becoming mega-crap - what Taco Bell is to real Tex-mex, never mind the tremendous variation of Mexican foods.
The issue of nationality is indeed a red herring in the sense that anyone that learns to make sushi traditionally, and serves a critical clientele, can learn to make sushi right, over time. The thing is that truly knowledgeable, critical clientele only exist in Japan and places where there is a large concentration of Japanese (LA, NYC). And the best shops where people can apprentice only exist in those places as well. OTOH, just because one is Japanese doesn't mean that he has the requisite experience to be a great sushi chef.
I think you could come up with a list of authentic restaurants. I agree that it wouldn't necessarily have to do with Japanese ownership or the nationality of the sushi chef. But I would look at the clientele - who is hanging out there? What is served? Lots of mayo and spicy tuna? Cream cheese? Does the chef do a genuine omakase, with sushi and sashimi with unusual ingredients and combinations, self-made dipping sauces? Do they bother to keep those kinds of ingredients that are not on the standard sushi card (this is hard to do if your clientele can't tell the difference between big-eye and blue-fin, and never asks for awabi or kazunoko or...) Does the sushi chef have the skill to turn a chunk of maguro into a rose, where the seams are invisible? Do they bother to keep and serve real wasabi?
I guess that in one sense, it's no different than walking into a Taco Bell vs. a market stand in the middle of Mexico City... an Outback, vs. Peter Luger's. There is room for both, and there will probably always be "burb" sushi, and real sushi. Real sushi will be much more expensive and available in limited places.
But that's the OP's quest - how do we identify the real places? How do we judge comments like, this is a great sushi place? Is the poster speaking about real sushi, or burb sushi? I think it's a differentiation worth making and a list worth creating. For my local area of Boston, the list of real is actually very small, while the list of burb sushi grows daily.
I've eaten at only a hand full of Sushi-ya in the US that I would consider authentic.
I say that because I lived in Japan for 11 years and have very definite ideas of what is right and wrong.
Things that I find repulsive: Cream cheese and about 98% of the "rolls" served in the U.S. Does this mean I can't enjoy a meal in the typical sushi-ya? Not at all. As long as the fish is fresh, I can get something I like. But I'll pass on the California/Philidelphia/or Guadalagoddamnjara rolls and the Sapporo made in Canada.