To enjoy every sushi dish you order at a Japanese restaurant, there are some important do’s and don’ts you should follow. Whether you are eating traditional edo-style sushi or the fusion style sushi prepared in the West, you should comply with these simple rules gleaned from experience and research.
Do ask questions and be friendly
Sushi chefs love it when you ask questions about their knives, headbands, experience, background and cooking style. Relate with them courteously without asking about things like freshness of food ingredients, which is usually regarded as an insult.
Do wipe off and clean your hands with the towel
Servers or chefs place hot moist towels on the table for you to clean your hands. Sushi is meant to be eaten with hands and chopsticks. So take a few moments to clean and refresh your hands before you start eating.
Do look out for cleanliness
Master sushi chefs and their staff clean out their restaurants a couple of times each day. That is why they look very clean and polished. If you walk into a sushi bar and it is dirty or untidy, it is better not to eat there. The appearance gives a clue of how the food will be prepared.
Do trust the chef
Well trained traditional sushi chefs can craft a menu for you in real time. So order for something on the omakase course and the chef will create a menu that you will enjoy. But always state what should not be added to your dish, especially if you dislike certain flavours or fish.
Do eat your sushi immediately
The best time to eat your sushi is immediately after the chef gives it to you. The fat in the fish and the rice taste great when they are warm. Don’t let it sit there for several minutes, you won’t be able to taste all the flavours and appreciate the aroma that the chef has created.
Do try other types of sushi
Endeavour to move out of your comfort zone. If you always eat salmon or tuna, try albacore, yellowtail, eel, uni, ankimo or monkfish liver. You may also like to taste the delicious jellyfish. If you are not sure, research the experiences of those who have eaten it at a top sushi restaurant.
Don’t fill the cup with plenty of soy sauce
You don’t need to add so much sauce to your sushi, a little touch will do. Trust the chef, he would have put in so much effort to ensure that it gives you the taste, texture and flavour that you will enjoy. If think you need a little more, dip the side of the fish, don’t put the rice into the sauce.
Don’t place ginger on the sushi
Use the ginger to cleanse your palate in between bites of sushi. The ginger is meant to help you enjoy the unique flavour and aroma in each piece or roll of sushi. Similarly, you don’t have to use a lot of wasabi because it overpowers the seasoning and taste of the fish.
Don’t eat at a bar that has a fishy smell
If a sushi restaurant smells like fish, it should serve as a red flag. No matter how much fish is processed there, it should smell like the ocean or salt water you enjoy at the beach. If you perceive a strong fishy smell, it means the fish is simply stale or spoilt.
Don’t order a heavy meal first
When you get to a sushi bar, eat a light starter like nigiri or sashimi. Then take some heavier food at the end. You should strive to taste as many flavours as possible so avoid ordering for a large number of rolls or a steak, which will fill you up fast.
Don’t rub your chopsticks
In addition to being a sign of rudeness, rubbing chopsticks together makes it look as if they are poor quality and you are trying to test them. Trust the chef and you won’t get any splinters if you use the chopsticks correctly. If you have any fears, ask the waiters to help you.
Don’t get scared of a rousing welcome
Many sushi restaurants have a tradition of welcoming diner guests with a loud shout. So if you hear the chefs and servers shout “irasshaimase” as you come in, don’t be afraid. It is their way of welcoming you and showing you how much they appreciate your coming to dine in their restaurant.