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Japanese Restaurants: Is There an Order to the Courses?

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Typically, in an Italian restaurant, you would have courses like an appetizer, then pasta, then a meat and/or fish course. Is there a similar progression in a Japanese restaurant? In particular, the sushi course. If you have sushi or maki, is it your appetizer or do you have it before or after a main course? Or if you have sushi/maki, should that be the only thing you have?

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  1. At a sushi restaurants in Japan, the progression is the following:
    1- small amuse bouche with drink (like a small pickled or simmered piece of seafood or seaweed)
    2- sashimi (appetizer)
    3- nigiri sushi (main)
    4- maki sushi (main tummy topper)
    5- miso soup (conclusion)

    Japanese restaurants in the U.S. seem to adapt more to local habits though and will serve soup and salad before fish. And of course, for some reason, people have gotten suckered into maki rolls as a sort of main.

    At other types of Japanese restaurants, it will just depend on the category. Generally, there is an amuse bouche type item and sashimi is a universal type appetizer. In formal settings, food moves through a kaiseki progression based on method of cooking and usually ramping into heavier proteins. But portion sizes and expectations are different than Western style, so it's not really analogous. In fact, methods of cooking are a major factor in the ordering of dishes. And many meals, regardless of category, will end on a rice or noodle dish.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Silverjay

      when i have sushi it is usually just sushi. and sashimi, just plain raw fish. though octopus, tako, a favorite, is usually parboiled, i think.
      other japanese food does come in courses, usually in a more formal setting, i dont know the order but often with many, many courses.
      there is a word for family style i cant remember that i prefer. then you get food and rice all together at the same time.

      1. re: divadmas

        Teishoku (定食) means "set meal", usually at lunch, which is a bunch of things all at once. Maybe that's what you're thinking of. There is no conventional word or concept of "family style" dining in Japanese except for shippoku ryouri (卓袱料理), which is a regional style of dining in Nagasaki with strong Chinese influences. Most family meals in Japan, by nature, are communal.