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Sashimi knife recommendations?

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After fooling around with some sushi/sashimi making with my Western knives, I'd like to try it with a more traditional tool. I've looked at the Shun Pro Yanagiba, and also at the Masamoto KK series knives, but I'd really appreciate some advice on what to look for. Maintenance of carbon steel isn't really of much concern to me, as I am fastidious about taking care of all my knives, so those made of carbon steel would certainly be considered. Price point would need to be at or under $300. Thoughts?

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  1. You might want to shoot Jon at JKI(Japanese knife Imports) an email.The man knows his stuff and carries some beautiful steel...

    1. a good knife is a revelation but also consider the process, a light and brief par-freeze makes anything easy to slice paper thin or whatever thickness is desired..

      1. A good value would be this: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/shproya...

        But ... not a traditional japanese handle. But certainly a good value.

        1. Jack,

          A yanagiba is the so called sushi/sashimi knife. That being said, it is a knife which requires considerable skill to use and to sharpen. It is not just any other kitchen knives. To go for a great sushi knife, most would consider shirogami (white paper steel) and aogami (blue paper steel) as the basic steels of choice. In other words, high grade Japanese carbon steel.

          Masamoto KK is definitely a real choice, so are various Mizuno on JapaneseChefsKnife:

          http://japanesechefsknife.com/HonKasu...

          There are many other good yanagiba, but Masamoto and Mizuno are certainly two big names in traditional Japanese knives.

          May I ask what is wrong with your Western knives?

          It is very important to find out what is causing the trouble. If the trouble is due to the subpar quality of your Western knives, then you are on the right track. If the problem is due to the knives not being sharpened properly or that the wrong techniques was used to slice the fish, then getting a better knife will not help. Please do not take this as a criticism or insult. I just want to make sure that your new knife can help you as much as possible.

          Some people use sujihikis as a substitutes for yanagiab. Sujihikis are easier to use, to sharpener and cheaper too

          http://www.chefknivestogo.com/sujihik...

          6 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I understand that a yanagiba is a sashimi knife.

            There is nothing wrong with my Western knives. They are from a well-known German manufacturer, and I keep them extremely sharp. Nothing wrong with my technique, either. As I stated in my original post, I'd just like to try a more traditional tool. I'm also thinking about spending the $8 on a bamboo or melamine rolling mat instead of using my Silpat for making rolls. It's just about learning to use the traditional equipment.

            1. re: JackpineSavage

              If you are confident with your techniques in cutting and in sharpening, and that you are interested in a more traditional yanagiba knife, then go for the Masamoto or Mizuno yanagiba. They have well established and good reputation brands.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                dang it CK when it comes time for me to stock my cutlery drawers I am contacting you directly. I think I've said that before, but it bears repeating.

                1. re: hill food

                  I've said it too, but he refused to send me his new knife, I even promise to take good care of it and everything and report back with how its working

                  1. re: TeRReT

                    :) I think it is because I discriminate foreigners living in Japan (for others, this is an inside joke).

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      hmm, fair enough, makes sense, I accept that as an every day occurrence, such is life.

          2. Hi,
            I started making sushi several years ago and went through a similar process. As mentioned, a sujihiki is cheaper, easier to use and maintain, more versatile, and will do an ok job with sushi. Conversely, although a yanagiba is more expensive, requires some practice to use and maintain, it does a much better job with sushi. The cuts are substantially cleaner, straighter and doing those paper-thin slices and other more complicated sushi cutting strokes are more effortless.

            I suggest not going with the Shun for a couple of reasons. 1st, the vg-10 blade steel is not the best choice for a yanagibi. Also, Shun often does things to their designs to make them more appealing to people accustomed to western knives, but at the same time those modification makes their knives perform differently than a typical J-knife. Iirc, their yanagiba doesn’t have the thick, heavy spine or concave backside of traditional yanagiba, and is also has a double-bevel edge. It may look like a yanagiba, but won't perform like a traditional one.

            The Masamoto are very nice and supposedly the go-to standard for pros. Mine is much more modest, just a typical OEM branded white #2 from Japan, good, but not great no frills knife similar to the Yoshihiro brand that’s available in the US. Definitely look for one made of (Aogami “blue” or Shirogami “white”) steel; you really want their ability to get crazy sharp. White is easier to sharpen, Blue can hold an edge longer, but differences are subtle and irrelevant for home users. Also get one that is at least 270mm (300mm or 330mm is better) in length; a longer blade let’s you do those (side stoke) sushi cuts, with one stroke – no sawing.

            12 Replies
            1. re: JavaBean

              "Conversely, although a yanagiba is more expensive, requires some practice to use and maintain, it does a much better job with sushi."

              Agree.

              "Mine is much more modest, just a typical OEM branded white #2 from Japan"

              White #2 is good, but that is OEM?

              "White is easier to sharpen, Blue can hold an edge longer, but differences are subtle and irrelevant for home users. Also get one that is at least 270mm (300mm or 330mm is better) in length; a longer blade let’s you do those (side stoke) sushi cuts, with one stroke – no sawing.
              "

              Excellent advise. It is useless to get a really great yanagiba made of an excellent steel, but only to find out it is too short. If money is the concern (which it should be), then it is important to balance everything. The brand name, the steel, the length...etc.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                My niece (her friends’ father) got it for me while in Japan. At the time, I wasn’t familiar enough to make an informed decision, and just asked for something decent. According to my niece, he got it at shop that makes knives for other brands. Supposedly, it’s not uncommon for smaller shops to make knives for bigger brands and sell surplus ones out the backdoor. It’s not fancy or special, but the blade is straight, has no major flaws and gets crazy sharp.

              2. re: JavaBean

                Any thoughts on this one?

                http://japanwoodworker.com/product.as...

                1. re: JackpineSavage

                  Leaning a "no".

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Reason(s)?

                    1. re: JackpineSavage

                      Tanaka offers some good rustic, everyday, all purpose kitchen knives. It is famous for making farm tools. I had a Tanaka nakiri and I adored it. Although the blade grind was not perfect, I loved it because it taught me much about knife sharpening. I retired it and gave it to my friend.

                      I am not so sure about Tanaka's reputation in the professional kitchen knives arena like a yanagiba

                      You said that you want a traditional yanagiba. Well, this is not. It is cladded in stainless steel with a Dasmascus pattern.

                      I cannot definitely say it is a good or bad knife, but my gut feeling leads me leaning a "no".

                      1. re: JackpineSavage

                        I have a Tanaka petty. At the time, his knives were often described as having a great blade, mediocre handle, and inconsistent fit and finish. The f&f on mine was poor --no major flaws, just a lot of minor stuff that needed to be fixed. Although I’m satisfied with mine, I have read later comments from others receiving a knife with WTF-type flaws. It’s been awhile, so I don’t know if the quality control issues have been addressed. In either case, quality control and consistency can be a wildcard with the smaller / less established brands. Ask the vendor to inspect the knife, before buying and make sure you can return a defective one.

                        BTW, if you want to save a few bucks…the Damascus is just for show and the longer edge retention of blue over white steel won’t come into play until many hours of prolonged usage.

                        1. re: JavaBean

                          "mediocre handle"

                          Don't they use Japanese Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia obovata), which is the standard for Japanese kitchen knives? I like it better than more exotic, tropical wood. Or do you mean the shape of the handle isn't good?

                          1. re: naoki

                            Yes, handle is made from Magnolia wood, but it wasn’t sanded or seated very well. I could feel the blade tang moving around b/c the handle’ tang hole cavity was too big. I simply removed the handle, sanded and sealed the handle, filled the tang hole with epoxy and then reattached the blade. I was aware of the inconsistent fit and finish history going in, so fixing it and the other stuff wasn’t a big deal at all. I don’t regret getting it, just not his best or worse work.

                  2. re: JavaBean

                    "I suggest not going with the Shun for a couple of reasons. . . . and is also has a double-bevel edge."

                    I would recommend against Shun myself--I am no fan of their knives and I think there are many better options out there, but I believe this is incorrect information. The Shun Pro line suggested by the OP is a single bevel design in the traditional Japanese style: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/shunpro...

                    1. re: jljohn

                      They must have changed the design.  The one I saw, was like this one http://www.knifeforums.com/forums/sho...

                      On the third picture down, you can clearly see the back has not been hollowed out and the big double ground edge.

                      Although i haven't seen a newer one up close,  I'm skeptical about  it having all of things & proportions of a traditional yanagiba. 

                      1. re: JavaBean

                        Yeah, the back bevel is too large for a real yanagiba. In fact, like you said, the back bevel is flat-flat, not flat-hollowed out -- not a real yanagiba.

                  3. Whichever knife you pick, read into 'opening' a new yanagiba. The first sharpening of a new yanagiba is especially important to flatten and set the bevels, remove high and low spots, and ensure that the back of the knife is sufficiently flat (while also being concave). It's not 100% necessary, and some knives (a minority, I've heard) are finished so well by the maker that they don't need to be 'opened' at all, but it's usually a good idea whenever you buy a real (and thus at least moderately expensive) yanagiba to have someone who knows what they're doing set the bevels correctly so the knife sharpens and cuts correctly for the rest of its working life.

                    'Opening' a yanagiba is not something that just any pro sharpener knows how to do; you'd want a specialist. It can be pricier than a regular sharpening, by a good margin. If you are good at hand sharpening and you have a very solid grasp of exactly what the geometry of a yanagiba is supposed to be, then you can do it yourself, maybe after a little reading up on the process. Some vendors even offer to 'open' the blade for you upon purchase.

                    Jbroida probably knows a little more than I do about exactly how to best do this process, so maybe this thread will eventually catch his eye.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      "'Opening' a yanagiba is not something that just any pro sharpener knows how to do"

                      Yeah, I think it is either called "opening" or "creating" a real edge. Anyway, it is a completely different skill than sharpening on a regular double bevel knife.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        its called honbadzuke... final sharpening. This can be done by the vendor/maker or end user, but is usually a necessary part of starting to use knives from Japan (both double and single bevel, but more so with single bevel knives). Really, its pretty much just sharpening the knife properly before use... thats about it. I guess the tricky part is sharpening the knife properly.

                        1. re: JBroida

                          Thanks. :)

                    2. After fooling around with some sushi/sashimi making with my Western knives, I'd like to try it with a more traditional tool. I've looked at the Shun Pro Yanagiba, and also at the Masamoto KK series

                      ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                      I'd avoid the Shuns for a plethora of reasons. The Masamoto KK series knives look like a great bargain at first blush and they are **IF** your a very accomplished sharpener and familiar with single bevel knives. If not then I'd suggest stepping up to the Masamoto KS line which is hand sharpened and after Uroshi is pretty much ready to roll. The KK series need quite a lot of attention as they lack the hand finishing of the KS series.

                      If you purchase from a dealer that can not open the knife for you it's very easy to end up sinking a lot of unplanned cash with the cost of freight and sharpening sending the knife out to be properly opened. This cost can often exceed the price difference between the KK and KS series.

                      So if you go down the path of single bevel knives either buy a series that has an excellent reputation like Suisin or the Masamoto KS or purchase from a vendor that can perform the Uroshi and open the knife for you. The two dealers that come to mind in the US are Korin (wait for the bi-annual 15% off sale) or Jon at JKI.

                      Adding to what JavaBean said don't go shorter than 270mm. Even 270 is quite short for a Yangiba when you start slicing.