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Sushi for a First Timer

My friend has asked me to take him out for Sushi for the first time. What should I order for the table? He has never enjoyed seafood but is willing to try again. Just please no California Rolls or Krab. I'm trying to think of a gateway sashimi and rolls for an unadventurous eater.

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  1. Most people like Spicy Tuna rolls, spider rolls with soft shell crab tempura, or rainbow rolls.

    1. Eel rolls (unagi) are good for a beginner because the eel is cooked.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Philly Ray

        the eel is cooked and also the sauce tends to be sweet.
        if the friend likes sweet sauces this could work.

      2. How about including some non-fish sushi, such as tamago (egg) or a vegetable maki roll? Or some dishes of pickled vegetables for the table?

        Do you know what his objections to fish are? Is it texture, or taste, or just never having had a good one? If it's the thought of uncooked food that's the problem, how about someithing not raw, like shrimp or eel?

        1. His objections in the past have been "too fishy." I suspect he has been traumatized by less than fresh fish dishes.
          I think he has mostly eaten freshwater fish in the past.
          He has recently embraced oysters and grilled octopus with lemon.
          I was thinking of ordering some spicy tuna, toro, and maybe Japanese cured mackerel.
          Eel is a good idea. I'm not a fan of eel sauce but I imagine I'm in the minority with that opinion.

          4 Replies
          1. re: LAallDay

            beg to disagree about the mackerel.
            although it is my personal favorite, it IS very fishy.

            i'd stick with halibut, tuna, albacore, yellowtail, tamago.

            rolls and nigiri are usually better than sashimi because you have the familiar texture and flavor of rice to ease the way.

            1. re: westsidegal

              Thank you! I was worried my favorites would overshadow what someone should try as a gateway fish. I'll save the mackerel for next time.
              Thanks for the good advice westsidegal

            2. re: LAallDay

              Octopus is always cooked, and is best eaten in sunomono (tako-su), in my opinion. This is a kind of salad.

              1. re: LAallDay

                Agree with the eel suggestion (although I like the sauce)...unagi is cooked, and that usually makes for an easier transition from cooked fish to uncooked fish.
                Also ikura, salmon egg. After all, it's basically caviar.

              2. my problem with sushi has actually been a problem with the nori- the pressed seaweed wrap that I find both texturally and flavorwise unpleasant.

                So rather than rolls, which are predicated on the nori, perhaps a simple sashimi would work best. Oddly, I don't love cooked salmon, but love sake- raw salmon. Start there, and take small steps. And as others have said, bad sushi can turn you off for life, so choose your restaurant well.

                2 Replies
                1. re: cheesemonger

                  Agree completely on the nori. I always substitute rice paper and find I enjoy sushi much more.

                  1. re: cheesemonger

                    Raw salmon and spicy tuna and salmon were my gateway rolls. I find the raw salmon mild. I think it very fresh scallop can be good too. I like spicy scallop with kiwi. Is there any fruit hhe likes? My fiancé likes anything with mango. I agree about some of each type of sushi. Getting a vegetable rolls with something he likes will show whether or not the nori is the offending ingredient or the fish.

                  2. I struggled to enjoy sushi for a long time, mostly because of textural issues, but also because I deferred to friends when ordering and they all wanted the monster rolls that just had too many things going on for me to enjoy. I eventually figured out that I need to have a higher rice to fish ratio, and smaller pieces. If I could do it again, I would stick with simple rolls or pieces that have only one kind of fish, maybe cucumber or avocado, and minimal sauce.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mpjmph

                      Trying simple rolls and fancier rolls will definite allow someone to run the gambit. If you have a big group who want to share he can try more things and even make notes on what he likes. Order a little at a time and talk to you server/chef to get things similar to knes that he tries and enjoys.

                    2. Westsidegal has good suggestions. You should avoid oily fish and preference whitefish and popular rolls since the latter are more likely to have higher turnover and therefore likelihood of freshness. Cooked rolls are also a good idea, especially the ones featuring tempura, since how can anyone hate fried shrimp or soft shell crabs?

                      Spicy tuna, spider, sake, toro, amaebi, hirame are all good roll or nigiri ideas. I like oshinko as a palate cleansing roll and can get behind an avocado vegetarian roll every now and again as well.

                      1. Many people who dislike maki have found that they like nigiri or sashimi because the nori is the element that they dislike. Ebi nigiri is the most tame choice in that realm. I find that striped bass (Suzuki) and red snapper have less fishy o a taste for those trying setting raw. Some of the roe is off putting so ease into it with rolls that use it sparingly, not coating the top. I think eel is a good bet as mentioned above.

                        1. Toro, toro, toro! You could just go all in and order the best tuna, instead of pussyfooting around. If he doesn't like it, he doesn't like sushi. Find out right away.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mwhitmore

                            Toro is not the best introduction to sushi. I know that it is considered a delicacy, but even though I have eaten a great deal of sushi over the years, including tuna (maguro), I've never cared for toro.

                          2. My non sushi/sashimi-phile friend happily ate what was provocatively called a Caterpillar Roll....eel with cucumber roll that was wrapped with avocados.

                            1. I recommend ordering a bowl of chirashi, which will provide a nice variety of flavors to try. Let the chef know that your friend is a first timer, and that you'd like to try milder fish.

                              1. You could get a plate of sampler sushi, so he could try a bit of anything... if they serve vegetarian sushi, that could also be something to help him get used to the general idea of what sushi is without going all raw fish crazy right away. I really think the sampler plate would be good though! most places I go to have this