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How To Ease Into Sushi?

aching Jun 14, 2007 07:44 PM

I love great food but I just haven't had much exposure to sushi, despite living in Los Angeles, where the average person eats about 12 pounds of sushi a week. I literally live minutes from Little Tokyo, but I have been totally overwhelmed and confused by my ventures into sushism so far. I love a good spicy tuna roll, but I know there's so much more. Does anyone have any tips? Perhaps suggestions about what the next level of sushi might hold for me (without getting into the REALLY adventurous stuff)?

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  1. Quine RE: aching Jun 14, 2007 07:50 PM

    Since you live so close to so many great places, with such great range of fresh items, what I would suggest is this: pick a place you have the recommndation, of friends, trusted associates, or even chow here, try to go on a *non-prime* time, so attention can be on you and slow, and ask the sushi chef to guide you. Tell him what you liked about what you have tried so far, what you hope to gain as experience and what you "fear". A good chef, will be delighted to help you explore the world he lives in, and move forward as he sees what you enjoy.

    1. sweetie RE: aching Jun 17, 2007 04:55 PM

      If you can afford it try finding a restaurant that offers omakase. Usually there is a set price or price ranges. The sushi chef will guide your meal, not only the sushi and sashimi parts but cooked items interspersed through out. A good chef will ask about preferences or things you want to try.

      4 Replies
      1. re: sweetie
        hrhboo RE: sweetie Jun 17, 2007 06:49 PM

        I second this. Omakase is a great way to try lots of different things that you otherwise might not order. I owe my love for uni, ankimo and ikura to omakase!

        1. re: hrhboo
          l
          LARaven RE: hrhboo Jun 17, 2007 09:06 PM

          I am also new to sushi and rolls. A new place opened up nearby and so far all I tried was the spicy crunch roll and shrimp rolls. I would like to venture out in other places and try new things. Thanks for the tips so far

          1. re: hrhboo
            ccbweb RE: hrhboo Jun 19, 2007 12:18 PM

            Omakase seems it'd be the second step for the OP. Since they want to ease in and not get to the really adventurous stuff right away, seems like it would make more sense to go to things like yellowtail, salmon and perhaps scallop. The textures are fairly familiar and the flavors pretty straightforward. Once you find something you like, ask for something else similar. Personally, I wouldn't want to lay out the bucks for a good omakase only to end up not liking many of the dishes.

            1. re: hrhboo
              lianas RE: hrhboo Jul 12, 2007 11:36 PM

              As much as an omakase can be an amazing experience, I don't think being served uni sashimi is the best way to begin one's venture into the world of sushi. I don't want him to be turned off by having something many would consider great, but perhaps may be an acquired taste. Go slow, somewhere with very fresh fish (i.e.- usually busy) and ask for some popular dishes. Most Japanese/ sushi places have small portions, so it's easy to try many, small things. Always ask for recommendations, from the chef or the server.

          2. Adrienne RE: aching Jun 17, 2007 09:13 PM

            I agree with the other posters.

            One other thing I love to order at sushi restaurants is Chirashi, which is where they just pile different types of raw fish on top of rice or daikon. The slices of fish are big and although that might be a little bit intimidating, if you are open to it, it's a great way to really taste the fish by itself so that you can decide which types you really like.

            If you're looking for just what types of fish you might venture to next I would recommend trying salmon, yellowtail (which I think technically is tuna), crab stick, tamago (egg) and eel -- although with eel be careful, some places leave the little bones in.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Adrienne
              lianas RE: Adrienne Jul 12, 2007 11:38 PM

              Yellowtail is not tuna... it is snapper. You are probably thinking of Yellowfin tuna.

              1. re: lianas
                ccbweb RE: lianas Jul 13, 2007 10:51 AM

                There are specimens of snapper, flounder and many other fish that have yellowtail as a part of their name. Hamachi (which is what we're all referring to, I think) is most often yellowtail amberjack which is very similar to tuna as its a migratory fish but is not directly related to tunas or snappers.

            2. ipsedixit RE: aching Jun 17, 2007 09:29 PM

              If you are near Little Tokyo, I would suggest heading to Sushi Komasa or R23 or Takumi.

              Sit at the bar. Don't have to necessarily go omakase, but just sit and ask the chef what's good that day and take it one order at a time, each time asking about the dish, how it's prepared, and what makes it special.

              Be as adventurous as you want, or play it safe. Just remember, to enjoy your time and eat only what you like. Life is too short for anything else.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit
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                FoodDude2 RE: ipsedixit Jun 17, 2007 11:07 PM

                California rolls, tuna, salmon, yellow tail are all very easy fish for beginners to handle. Not fishy tasting and not chewy at all. One of my all time favorites is white tuna which is just like tuna but much much richer. ymmmm. Eel could be a bit of a gamble, its cooked and has a sauce on it but its usually hit or miss. Either you love it or you hate it. I'm not a big fan but my brother can't get enough of it (even though I did enjoy a piece of eel this weekend down in Miami). Also, you can try spicy tuna/salmon or shrimp/softshell crab tempura rolls which are cooked but delicious.

                1. re: FoodDude2
                  John Manzo RE: FoodDude2 Jul 12, 2007 11:14 PM

                  Salmon is very "fishy tasting" and I know Japanese people who will not touch it. It's a fresh water fish and shouldn't be eaten raw- I know people do and love it, but I won't.

              2. K K RE: aching Jun 17, 2007 11:14 PM

                I would recommend that you try regular raw tuna nigiri, or a tekka maki, and compare the two (ie raw tuna vs with spicy sauce/spicy tuna) and see how you like it to start.
                Then perhaps chu toro or otoro.

                Then hamachi, salmon, perhaps a white fish, albacore (specify albacore, because white tuna at Korean run sushi places places might yield the escolar = instant diarrhea for some) unagi, ebi (cooked shrimp) as some have already suggested. Try the basics see if you like it. One increment at a time :-)

                1. Richard 16 RE: aching Jun 17, 2007 11:36 PM

                  As others have said, find a chef you trust and let him (or her) know.

                  Keep in mind that sushi is based on the rice, not the fish. (One of the reasons why Califormia rolls are so popular is that the crab is cooked.) So starting with vegetables, or cooked fish/seafood, or even chicken (if they offer it) is an easy way for many to get into the rhythm.

                  You've already tried spicy tuna rolls, so for raw fish plain tuna itself is a good next step -- a lot of people start with tuna with its mild & refreshing taste and clean texture. Salmon, yellowtail (a type of amberjack, I believe -- yellowfin is the most common type of tuna, and is also called ahi) shrimp (usually cooked) are common and easy to handle. Salmon is often smoked, so find out so you're not surprised. (It should be stated as such.)

                  Eel, cooked and coated with a teriyaki-type sauce, is also a good way for many people to start or a good next step -- the stronger meaty taste accompanied by the familiar taste of the sauce. Be ready for a very soft texture.

                  Have fun!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Richard 16
                    Adrienne RE: Richard 16 Jun 18, 2007 08:30 AM

                    Yellowfin! My bad. Thanks for that clarification -- but I did mean to be recommending *yellowtail*.

                    1. re: Adrienne
                      Richard 16 RE: Adrienne Jun 18, 2007 07:55 PM

                      I had a mental block on that for years -- caught myself many times! Yellowtail is one of the standards I use evaluating a place; it's probably my favorite.

                  2. Emme RE: aching Jun 18, 2007 11:01 PM

                    Just a side note, I love sushi, but hate seaweed. If I have cut or hand rolls (which I usually order without rice because I prefer the unadulterated fishness), I get them wrapped in soy paper instead of nori.

                    You might try albacore sashimi with or without ponzu. One of my favorite rolls is just red tuna maguro with cucumber, no rice, wrapped in soy paper. Also, love love love the combo of shrimp, crab, and spicy scallop (no mayo), no rice, in soy paper with ponzu sauce--tastes very desserty to me. Halibut and snapper are also good milder nigiri or sashimi options. Personally, as the token oddball, I don't like yellowtail because it tastes oily, fatty, and bland to me.

                    1. misohungrychewlow RE: aching Jun 18, 2007 11:46 PM

                      Good recs here -- you are fortunate to have access to sushi in all its forms. After doing your research, go to a nice neighborhood-type place, not glitzy, and sit at the bar. I thnk omakase it more advanced, and besides I've had more than a thousand sushi bouts over more than 20 years and prefer to order my own -- why risk, at this stage, that the chef may give you something you don't like?

                      Given your background, I agree with the idea of starting simple. Tekka maki (maguro, or tuna roll) is something you will probably like, or the yellowtail scallion roll -- both are just a bit of fresh fish with a little garnish surrounded by sushi rice and nori (seaweed), cut into sections. Go ahead, dabble in the soy, ginger and wasabi -- that's why it's there! Have some beer and/or sake, if you're inclined, or perhaps some green tea -- relax ... don't be shy about using your hands, or the sticks -- it's all good. Nigiri -- a small slab of fish on sushi rice, usually server in sets of two, sometimes wrapped in a strip of seaweed (it depends) is a good option. Maguro (tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), and perhaps salmon (sake) are logical to start with. Some compromises include albacore -- usually slightly seared, and the eels are good for "dessert,", since they are usually smoked/seared and served with a sweet sauce. Anago is sea eel, unagi is river eel. I prefer unagi, but I encourage you to sample both along the way. Another savory treat is the soft-shell crab, or "spider," roll. Nothing raw, bit tasty and often a nice presentation.

                      If you like any of these you are well on your way -- you'll be quizzing the chef to try some other species, like (shiver, quake, sigh, drool) mirugai, or he will be encouraging you to try his specialties.

                      1. KaimukiMan RE: aching Jun 19, 2007 01:50 AM

                        take a friend along, even if they are not experienced. it is easier to be brave with someone else along to join in the milestones and mistakes. Also, sit at the sushi bar so you can talk to the Chef, and he can see your reactions to different things he is making for you and for others. Try to go during non-peak hours, better chance for discussion. And if you try a bite of something, and it really isn't your thing, there is nothing wrong in telling the chef that it is a bit too advanced for your pallate.

                        1. j
                          jujuthomas RE: aching Jun 19, 2007 09:55 AM

                          I too am "learning" to eat sushi. Fortunately I go out with my husband, who has lots more experience with it than I do. He lets me try what he's eating, so that next time I know if I'd like to order it. I've really enjoyed reading everyone's recommendations here, gives me some other ideas!
                          One thing I did was looked up the website of a local sushi buffet, and printed their list of what they offer, just to give me a better idea of what is available.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: jujuthomas
                            l
                            Linda VH RE: jujuthomas Jun 20, 2007 07:02 AM

                            Second the way jujuthomas did it!!! My first experience was with a friend at the sushi bar during non-peak dining times. He said he would order two pieces of each thing and I could taste one. If I didn't like it he'd eat it. The sushi master got very involved and, since we were there when it was slow, he had a good time too! I don't eat cooked fish, just shellfish, but I love my raw fish lol!!! Well, I will eat very lightly seared tuna.

                            1. re: Linda VH
                              ccbweb RE: Linda VH Jun 20, 2007 10:17 AM

                              You're on the right side of the raw/cooked divide in my mind! And that's a good way to learn about sushi.

                          2. mollyomormon RE: aching Jun 20, 2007 10:22 AM

                            Another thing to think about is going somewhere where the cuts of fish aren't enormous. It can be really overwhelming to have a huge mouthful of raw fish before you're used to it. Here in LA, I think that Sushi Zo has perfectly-sized cuts of fish.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mollyomormon
                              PlatypusJ RE: mollyomormon Jun 20, 2007 02:49 PM

                              I second the Sushi Zo recommendation. They pre-add the wasabi in (in the perfect amounts) when it's needed so you don't have to. They also let you know, for each dish, whether or not you should be using soy sauce. This removes the guess-work and confusion for a sushi novice.

                              And get eel!!!!!

                            2. t
                              theanonymousafro RE: aching Jun 20, 2007 12:01 PM

                              Get a small pack from a market with tuna or salmon. Since you are near Little Tokyo you should be able to find Marukai or Mitsuwa or some other little market where it's not much. Then gradually get bigger servings with more interesting stuff like octopus. But really you shouldn't force yourself to try stuff only if you will enjoy it.

                              1. Sam Fujisaka RE: aching Jun 20, 2007 01:20 PM

                                Why not try what I think is old, traditional Japanese: Try different types of sashimi with hot rice; and try sushi that doesn't include sashimi? That's what I make at home.

                                16 Replies
                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                  j
                                  jujuthomas RE: Sam Fujisaka Jul 13, 2007 06:38 AM

                                  Sam,
                                  please explain sushi that does not include sashimi? things such as unagi and ebi, or something that I may not have seen? I am intrigued - I've been trying new things (thanks in part to this post) but still have a LOT to learn. The other night I ordered my first yellowtail and it was delicious! :)
                                  I know John Manzo posted above that salmon should not be eaten raw, but I think I'm addicted to it now, I really never enjoyed it cooked anyway!
                                  thanks.

                                  1. re: jujuthomas
                                    Sam Fujisaka RE: jujuthomas Jul 13, 2007 07:02 AM

                                    juju, Most Americans equate sushi with a bar of vinagared rice topped with different kinds of sashimi.

                                    We (who haven't kept up with modern food times), however, traditionally eat nori maki--vinagared rice rolled in nori and filled with combinations of Japanese omelette, cucumber, blanched carrot, cured eel, different vegetble pickles, different fish cakes(e.g., kamaboko), shitake mushroom, and more.

                                    We normally eat sashimi of different kinds (dipped in shoyu and wasabe) with very hot plain steamed rice. The contrasts of the cold fish and hot rice, and of the textures and flavors are key.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                      E Eto RE: Sam Fujisaka Jul 13, 2007 08:41 AM

                                      Sam is right. The term sushi refers to the rice, not the fish. As a kid, sushi was always picnic food, usually without any raw fish, or any fish at all. Sushi meant inari sushi (sushi rice stuffed into seasoned fried tofu), futomaki (big rolls with things like spinach, kampyo, egg, cucumber, etc.), chirashi (sushi rice topped with egg, sliced green beans, carrots, bamboo shoots, lotus root, cooked shrimp, etc.) or modest makisushi, like those filled with kampyo, cucumber, or takuan pickles. This is real homestyle sushi that I think most Japanese grew up with. What we all associate with the term sushi is EDO-MAE sushi, which is the refined sushi that takes years of training to create. But here in the states, mostly it's a bastardized version of this that most people consider sushi.

                                      1. re: E Eto
                                        MMRuth RE: E Eto Jul 13, 2007 08:44 AM

                                        What does "nigiri sushi" mean? I've always thought it to mean "the rice with the raw fish/other items" on top. And does sashimi always mean just the pieces of fish? I was wondering about Sam's reference to rice topped with sashimi.

                                        1. re: MMRuth
                                          E Eto RE: MMRuth Jul 13, 2007 10:44 AM

                                          Nigiri sushi comes from the verb nigiru, which means to grasp or in this case, to form, as in formed sushi. The rice is formed into a proper shape to fit a piece of fish or other topping. This is the basis for Edo-mae sushi, and what we all have come to know as sushi. Sashimi just means something raw. So, besides fish, you'll find things like horse sashimi, liver sashimi, chicken sashimi, even yuba (tofu skin) sashimi on menus in Japan.

                                          1. re: E Eto
                                            MMRuth RE: E Eto Jul 13, 2007 12:09 PM

                                            Thank you! Much as I love "sushi", I'm quite ignorant about a lot terminology etc. Is it true that one typically eats sashimi prior to eating nigiri sushi (which is my preference)?

                                            1. re: E Eto
                                              t
                                              TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis RE: E Eto Jul 14, 2007 04:20 PM

                                              "The rice is formed into a proper shape to fit a piece of fish or other topping" ...
                                              You raise an interesting point regarding "shari" (rice used for nigirizushi; as opposed to "gohan") that is seldom mentioned.
                                              On occasion I've seen reference to "knife skills" - which, beyond having its own lexicon, serves as a basis for expression.
                                              But "jigami", "tawara", and "kushi" - in crafting nigiri - is an aspect often unnoticed and underappreciated.

                                            2. re: MMRuth
                                              l
                                              Louise RE: MMRuth Jul 15, 2007 09:49 PM

                                              Nigiri are the bullets of rice with a slice of fish on top. Ideally a bite and a half. It is from Tokyo, the city once named Edo. By far it is the most common type that we see here in the states, what most people think of when you say sushi.

                                              There are other varieties. Chirashi (tr: scattered), which has been mentioned, is a bowl of sushi rice with a selection of fish slices arranged on top. I believe it's from Kyoto. There is another variety, name escapes me, it is made in a narrow rectangular mold, fish slices laid in, rice packed on top, turned over and unmolded and sliced into bites. Think this one's from Osaka, but am not sure. Hounds?

                                              Side note: for sushi, connisseurs in Japan may use a specialized vocabulary dating from the old pleasure quarter days. Food and eating were considered vulgar topics, not to be discussed directly, so poetic names rather than proper names were used. For example, soy sauce was called murasaki (tr: purple) and salt was called (in translation) flower of the waves. Have never seen a complete dictionary of this vocabulary though I'd love to find one.

                                              1. re: Louise
                                                Adrienne RE: Louise Jul 16, 2007 03:14 AM

                                                I have seen the sushi you have described listed as "sushi box."

                                                1. re: Adrienne
                                                  Sam Fujisaka RE: Adrienne Jul 16, 2007 06:46 AM

                                                  Chirashi can be served in a "jewel-box". Oshi-zushi is compressed in a wooden box mold.

                                            3. re: E Eto
                                              j
                                              jujuthomas RE: E Eto Jul 13, 2007 11:02 AM

                                              Thanks SO much Sam and E Eto! This is so interesting to learn about, besides being fun to eat! :-)
                                              someday perhaps I'll get to go to Japan and eat real sushi/sashimi. In the meantime I'll have to look at my local menus more closely to determine if they have these more traditional items.
                                              You mention egg and omlettes - and I've seen it listed on menus, but it seems like they offer several kinds of eggs - the different types of roe, for example. are the omlettes made with chicken eggs?
                                              I must admit that the idea of the hot rice and the cold fish is intriguing. I've seen it on a couple menus around here - will have to try it sometime! Mr. Juju doesn't like the idea of it, but I'm so open to new things lately. I will give it a try.

                                              When my friends and I ordered sushi together, we got a veggie sushi sampler, but we couldn't figure out what the different veggies were. Then we all turned into 5-year-olds... "I'M not gonna try it! YOU try it!!!" silly us. I still wonder what they were - we had done take out (I know, I know, bad idea) so we had no one to ask. :)

                                              thanks!

                                              1. re: jujuthomas
                                                Sam Fujisaka RE: jujuthomas Jul 13, 2007 12:14 PM

                                                The omlette is just chicken egg mixed with a bit of sake or mirin. We also eat nori maki (rolls) with different types of fish roes. You could just buy a piece of fish intended for sashimi, slice it thinly, cook some Japanese rice, mix a bit of soy sauce and wasabi--and try the sashimi-hot rice combo at home. One of my favorite food combos. Just had some using salmon from Chile.

                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                  Silverjay RE: Sam Fujisaka Jul 13, 2007 01:52 PM

                                                  Sam, I'm just going to share with you my take, as I've spent the majority of my adult life living in Japan.

                                                  Sushi these days in Japan, although certainly used as a broad term, more or less refers to raw fish on rice. Basically people are inferring nigiri-zushi.

                                                  Chirashi, inari, tamago-yaki, kappa maki, futo maki, oshizushi, natto, etc. is all, for sure, under the umbrella term for sushi. But people really don't get jazzed up for that stuff. Lavish restaurant openings, exciting dinner plans, celebration events, magazine cover stories, tv features, and the true culinary zeitgeist in modern Japan is about the craft/art of sourcing, preparing, and consuming fresh seafood on a bed of vinegared rice. If you want to eat sushi as they do in Japan, order fresh seafood items that are prepared raw or lightly cooked and usually, gently dressed in some seasoning. Appreciate the flavor, the texture, the mouth feel, and the freshness. People can eat avocados, crunchy softshell crab, and all sorts of mayonnaise spicy-thingamabobs, but that is a completely divergent path from the "real deal". Sushi in Japan, is about the ocean. (Note: Sound gong now.)

                                                  1. re: Silverjay
                                                    Sam Fujisaka RE: Silverjay Jul 13, 2007 02:35 PM

                                                    Silverjay, so true. Our food preferences and habits (and language and manners) got ossified in the late 1800s when our families left Japan. I feel like a luddite when in Japan. Although I certainly like and appreciate nigiri zushi, I make myself nori maki, inari (and musubi); and make nigiri for my hakujin friends. My family in rural Japan still eats the way we do, however, in terms of both sushi and sashimi with hot gohan.

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                      Silverjay RE: Sam Fujisaka Jul 14, 2007 10:51 AM

                                                      Don't fret Sam. I'm half luddite on my mother's side...

                                                      Maybe you've mentioned this before, but I can't recall- which part of Japan is your family from? What type of fish do they eat for the sashimi on rice? And how were you brought up on sushi? From just observing families at sushi places in Japan (kids were only brought to kaiten places) parents would feed them tamago-yaki and standard tuna rolls without wasabi.

                                                      1. re: Silverjay
                                                        Sam Fujisaka RE: Silverjay Jul 14, 2007 04:26 PM

                                                        Osaka and Hiroshima. My family is spread from Japan to the US to Peru and Brazil. Everyone eats just about whatever fish/seafood we can get for sashimi and hot gohan. Sushi--we grew up with inari, nori maki/futomaki, but not nigiri. We also ate a lot of hot rice with ume, quick pickles, canned Fukujinzuke, and the like.

                                      2. u
                                        uberathlete RE: aching Jun 21, 2007 10:36 PM

                                        That's easy. Start with the california roll or a tempura maki. Then, to ease you into eating raw fish, try a roll with raw fish such as a tuna roll. If you've eaten ceviche or some type of fish tartare, then eating raw sushi won't be a problem. After that, move into nigiri territory. If you want, you can start with something that doesn't have raw fish such as tamago (egg) nigiri. Then go for something with raw fish like a tuna nigiri. You can also try a handroll after.

                                        Those are absolute basics with an adventuresome rating of near zero. So they should be perfect for a sushi beginner. If you're at a sushi bar and are not sure what to order, tell the sushi chef to make something he recommends for the day. That should at least ensure that you get what is the freshest and in season.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: uberathlete
                                          brekkie_fan RE: uberathlete Jul 5, 2007 09:02 PM

                                          i was one of those "california roll" types at first. then i went to pretty much anything that wasn't raw in a roll. from there, i went to seafood i was comfortable with, but raw (salmon was a recurring theme). ultimately, i ended up trying some unagi - exotic, but cooked! don't be afraid to start slow. you're paying good $$ for this stuff. being with folks who are willing to eat most items helps.

                                        2. j
                                          jujuthomas RE: aching Jun 26, 2007 06:21 AM

                                          Another thing to try - which is what we did this weekend - I ordered carry out sushi with friends who are much more experienced than I am. I ordered a couple things I know I enjoy, they ordered things they know they like, and we shared it all around. I tried several new things and really enjoyed them! Going for sushi again tomorrow (I think I'm addicted now) and may just order a shushi sampler and see what I get. :)

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: jujuthomas
                                            PlatypusJ RE: jujuthomas Jul 5, 2007 05:30 PM

                                            A problem with the carry-out idea is that sushi quickly loses its fresh flavor. I don't know if it's the oils rotting or what, but I wouldn't want a beginner to be put off sushi forever due to a first experience that was less than fresh.

                                            1. re: PlatypusJ
                                              j
                                              jujuthomas RE: PlatypusJ Jul 6, 2007 09:45 AM

                                              that would be a risk - fortunately it's only 5 minutes from home. I'm not necessarily suggestiong take out - just that you go with folks who know what they are eating and are willing to help you expand you palate. Since then I've tried sushi sampler plates, and am really enjoying tasting new things! I haven't gotten to Uni yet, but I'm working my way in that direction. :)

                                              1. re: jujuthomas
                                                ccbweb RE: jujuthomas Jul 6, 2007 09:55 AM

                                                Oh, the uni. My favorite stuff going....but at this point, wait until the fall and cooler months. Uni seems to do better in colder waters. For a couple of years I wasn't fond of uni mostly, as it turns out, because I'd only had it in the middle of summer. When a sushi chef who knew me well finally told me I had to try uni again one winter....well, I was floored.

                                                This is a good general tip, actually, for getting into sushi or anything else I guess. Ask the chef about the times of year to try things at their best, sometimes that can make a real difference.

                                              2. re: PlatypusJ
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                                                ESquared RE: PlatypusJ Jul 6, 2007 10:23 AM

                                                Carryout is a terrible idea. The rice loses moisture almost immediately. The fish should be cut fresh, preferably in front of you. And eating out of plastic boxes really kills the experience.

                                                1. re: ESquared
                                                  Sam Fujisaka RE: ESquared Jul 12, 2007 09:10 PM

                                                  Most of our traditional sushi does not have sashimi on top. Most of our traditional sushi has always been good picnic and road trip food. Road trip food in plastic boxes is perfeftly OK.

                                            2. e
                                              ESquared RE: aching Jul 6, 2007 10:20 AM

                                              First you have to open your mind. The best way to do that is to get only maki (rolls) with cooked ingredients. That way there will be no squeamishness regarding raw fish. Once you get used to the general form and tastes, you can explore more adventurous choices.

                                              Start with these: Cucumber roll, Smoked salmon roll, Shrimp roll.
                                              Octopus is cooked, try an octopus salad or nigiri.

                                              Move up to spicy tuna roll, eel roll. Then tuna, yellow tail, salmon, etc.

                                              Then go to nigiri, the fish on top of the rice.

                                              Finally, sashimi, the greatest of all.

                                              The essence of sushi is simplicity, not complexity.

                                              Don't be one of those silly Americans that think that sushi is about spending $15 on some goofy concoction of maki. And go easy on the soy sauce. You only need a tiny bit. Please do not sit your sushi in the sauce dish. Just touch the edge of the fish, not rice, into the soy sauce. The flavor is in the fish. Even though I recommend starting with rolls, the real joy in sushi is the sashimi: the fresh artfully prepared fish.

                                              Someone once saw me eating sashimi and said, "Wow, you're brave". Meaning that I was eating raw fish not smothered in rice, soy sauce, and wasabi. I replied, "No, you're brave. I know exactly how fresh my fish is and you cannot tell because of all that seasoning and rice."

                                              The pickled ginger (gari) is meant as something to cleanse your palate between items. I've seen people pile it onto a maki with wasabi and soy sauce like they were building a sandwich.

                                              Choose your sushi restaurant based upon the sashimi, not the fancy rolls. Sushi chefs love customers who order the omakase, or chef's choice sashimi. That's where they can really show their skill.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: ESquared
                                                aching RE: ESquared Jul 12, 2007 05:26 PM

                                                Wow, thank you for this post! This was the kind of step-by-step intro I was looking for. And I'll try not to be a silly American. =)

                                              2. ajs228 RE: aching Jul 6, 2007 10:28 AM

                                                My first experience with sushi was going with my friends in college. They'd order huge platters of different rolls and I'd get a bowl of Tepanyaki because there was no way I was eating raw fish. They convinced me to try a Las Vegas roll that had been fried a little bit as a way to work my way into it. Then I started trying other things, and before you knew it, I was a sushi nut.

                                                1. auburnselkie RE: aching Jul 6, 2007 08:45 PM

                                                  I'm also new to sushi. I am lucky enough to have an (as far as I know) good sushi place open near my house so I am taking it one step at a time. My only concern is that I am allergic to shellfish, and while (thank goodness!) this restaurant has pictures of the different rolls, another local restaurant does not so on one occasion I was happily eating crab rolls that I thought were just fish (and please don't fuss at me for that - I didn't have the slightest idea what crab rolls would look/taste like) - I did ORDER fish, and I suppose I ought to have known, but that's another thread. There are a lot of good recommendations on this thread, so I'll take notes and try again! I'll have to find out if the chef is willing to accommodate a non-shellfish omakase (at a non-prime time, of course).

                                                  1. Phood RE: aching Jul 12, 2007 09:04 PM

                                                    FWIW... I started as a non-fish eater. Fish in the midwest in the '60s was usually old, and I had an aversion to fish, much less raw fish!
                                                    I started with a friend at a good all-you-can-eat place trying tuna (maguro) that looked and felt like meat, trying one new thing each time. I'm now somewhat comfortable with it, and in fact, am usually heard to say "if it's fresh, why cook it? If it isn't why eat it?" I do make exceptions for southern fried catfish and good fish 'n chips.
                                                    What a novice needs to understand is just how subtle the flavors are (if you don't overdo the soy and wasabi) and how much of the experience is the TEXTURES!
                                                    Then there's the hot and cold sakes...

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Phood
                                                      Sam Fujisaka RE: Phood Jul 12, 2007 09:14 PM

                                                      Again, to the several up-thread posts: we Japanese usually prefer our sashimi with hot rice (gohan); and our sushi of more traditional styles that do not include sashimi. Why is it that you hakujins solely want to try what others outside of Japan or outside of traditional Japanese culture think is fashionable?

                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                        r
                                                        ricepad RE: Sam Fujisaka Jul 13, 2007 02:21 PM

                                                        I'm going to hazard a guess that it's because Edomaezushi is what is sold in the US as 'sushi'. Consider for a moment if you substituted 'beef' for 'sushi'. If an American wanted to go out for a meal of 'beef', it might be steak, but prepared at home it'd more likely be hamburger. At least that's the way I've always thought of nigiri vs. futo/inari/chirashi. F/I/C was what Mom/Bachan made for family...they would (try to) make nigiri for special guests.

                                                        1. re: ricepad
                                                          h
                                                          Hapafish RE: ricepad Jul 17, 2007 08:48 PM

                                                          This is very interesting and true! I lived in Japan for about 3 1/2 years. During this time I was surprised to learn that sushi ( as we think of it here in America--raw fish and vinegared rice) was rarely consumed on a regular basis. It was strictly a special occasion dish. And on the occasions when I would attend a party where they had sushi served (ordered in, of course) not many of the sushi had raw fish involved. It was more vegetables, egg and shrimp.

                                                    2. b
                                                      Bunson RE: aching Jul 13, 2007 12:08 AM

                                                      I was skeptical of raw fish for a long time but was eased into it by my brother and now I could probably eat it for every meal. I'd avoid what could be some of the "stronger" flavors like uni and some of the roe's. Even eel could be too strong because of the oil content. Cooked items like tempura, california rolls, shrimp, etc are nice to mix in at first because it's familiar.

                                                      For first time raw items yellowfin(ahi) is a must...close your eyes and it'll taste like the freshest cleanest rare steak you've ever had. Spicy tuna is also good because you have the other flavors mixed in to temper the "raw factor". Salmon is my personal favorite but it can have a strong flavor at first...focus on the buttery/creaminess of the fish.

                                                      Definitely take a friend who can order for both of you and also give a little info on what you're about to eat (you can also share orders to get more variety). Avoid the crazy rolls that a lot of places have on the menu that mix a lot of flavors, and don't forget the ginger to clean your palate in between pieces.

                                                      1. h
                                                        Hapafish RE: aching Jul 13, 2007 12:29 AM

                                                        Well a lot of this has already been said but seeing as you're already on the spicy tuna level which IMO is past the CA roll and tempura roll level. I think you're ready to try just tuna sushi (maguro) pure without the spices. Also I second the votes for albacore, yellowtail, and salmon (yes this does run the risk of having a more "fishy" flavor) You should be fine with unagi (fresh water eel) as it is cooked and they slather the sweet bbq unagi sauce on it. Some places have rolls with cooked scallops which you could try first then later ease into the raw scallop territory. Also if the place has a rainbow roll, how about ordering that? I know pure sushi-ists scoff at rolls such as these but the "rainbow" is made up of different types of fish, there's usually shrimp on there too.so you can try a little sampling of various fish and rice and see what you like. You'll most likely have to ask the chef what each fish is.
                                                        Go to a place that is Japanese run for a more authentic experience and Do sit at the sushi bar. and Do go at a non busy time. Find a place that is known for having fresh fish but is not too snooty to help you learn. ( the only reason I say this part is that I've heard some bad stories of some really great sushi houses that don't harbor the warmest attitude toward their guests.) It would probably be best to go with a sushi lovin friend.
                                                        And last but not least--please do not douse your sushi in a wasabi soy sauce swamp or pile the sushi with a ginger Mt. Fuji!
                                                        oh yah, did I mention go with an open mind (which it already seems you have), have fun, and of course report back to us chowhound sushi taskmasters!

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