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Sushi quirk

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
I've noticed every time I eat sushi they place my plate down like this, roll towards me, sushi away from me. It seems backwards no? This must be the right way because every sushi restaurant I've been to does this (and I eat slot of sushi). I must be backwards

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post #2 of 24

This particular plate isn't very good, but the concept is right.

 

Simply put, the front corners are used for accents: wasabi, gari (pickled ginger), etc. The middle-ground is for the food itself. The rear area is for building up elevation, to present a kind of landscape.

 

This is easier to imagine if you think of sashimi. You've got various little mounds and arranged shapes, gently filling the space. As you get farther back, they're leaning against or climbing up the sides of mountains of hair-fine daikon.

 

Of course, this is only one way of presenting such foods, and it doesn't work all that well with sushi, because that's already got a definite shape.

 

In the plate you show here, the bottom left corner is strange. There's stuff there that is taller than the sushi itself, giving the impression that you have to reach over something to get at your dinner. That's weird. The bottom right looks okay to me. All in all, I'd say that this plate is mediocre-workmanlike; the chef should stick to a simpler mode of presentation and stop fooling around.

post #3 of 24
Interesting. At most sushi places I've been to each item is usually plated separately when I've been seated at a table. I presume that's to mimic the individual item service at the sushi BAR. I've had it served one a single a plate, as pictured, only a few times.
post #4 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Midlife View Post

Interesting. At most sushi places I've been to each item is usually plated separately when I've been seated at a table. I presume that's to mimic the individual item service at the sushi BAR. I've had it served one a single a plate, as pictured, only a few times.

 

Same here.

 

To be honest, I haven't found one single authentic Sushi here. Nothing beats the one I've had in Japan. There really is a huge difference to the sushi we find here in the West. 

post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Midlife View Post

Interesting. At most sushi places I've been to each item is usually plated separately when I've been seated at a table. I presume that's to mimic the individual item service at the sushi BAR. I've had it served one a single a plate, as pictured, only a few times.

 

Must be a regional thing.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by roritaCandy View Post
 

 

Same here.

 

To be honest, I haven't found one single authentic Sushi here. Nothing beats the one I've had in Japan. There really is a huge difference to the sushi we find here in the West. 

 

Where is "here?" and how specifically is it different?  Of course every place is going to be different, that can't keep us from enjoying the food that we have available to us.  Seafood is different in every part of the world.  But do not doubt that there is some seriously good sushi in nyc, it's just not that easy to afford it.  

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #6 of 24

Lots of sushi places here in Vancouver, BC.  I usually see it plated separately even at the table.   As for NYC, yes, we've had really good sushi there but it was really, really expensive compared to what we get in Vancouver.

post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koukouvagia View Post
 

 

Must be a regional thing.

 

 

Where is "here?" and how specifically is it different?  Of course every place is going to be different, that can't keep us from enjoying the food that we have available to us.  Seafood is different in every part of the world.  But do not doubt that there is some seriously good sushi in nyc, it's just not that easy to afford it.  

 

I live in Arizona and as far as I'm concerned we don't have any good Sushi restaurants around here. When I went to Japan last year, I noticed how different Japanese sushi was from American sushi and the sushi I ate there is without a doubt the best sushi I've ever tasted. Love how they put a little bit of Wasabi in their rolls, not too much, just the right amount. When my Japanese friend came to visit me 2 years ago and we went out for sushi she said "oh, this isn't real sushi!" The cultural differences can be so big sometimes.

post #8 of 24
There's little you've said so far (except for the wasabi) to explain what's different but I've had sushi in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto and did find it better there too. Except for maybe the
really high end omakase places in and around Los Angeles, the variety of fish is more limited here and the fancier preparations are more unique there. I was once served raw prawn as nigiri sushi in Kyoto. I've never seen that here.

When I did business with a Japanese trading company their people would tell me that the biggest issue for them with sushi here was that the rice was never done correctly. One of the more subtle things I learned was that, for many Japanese, the rice is more important than the fish.
post #9 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Midlife View Post

There's little you've said so far (except for the wasabi) to explain what's different but I've had sushi in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto and did find it better there too. Except for maybe the
really high end omakase places in and around Los Angeles, the variety of fish is more limited here and the fancier preparations are more unique there. I was once served raw prawn as nigiri sushi in Kyoto. I've never seen that here.

When I did business with a Japanese trading company their people would tell me that the biggest issue for them with sushi here was that the rice was never done correctly. One of the more subtle things I learned was that, for many Japanese, the rice is more important than the fish.

 It's a little hard to explain why it's so different, but everything comes down to how the rice and fish are prepared. They seemed more 'fresh' to me in Japan. As you mentioned, the Japanese mostly complained about how the rice was never done correctly here. American sushi rice simply lacks the vinegary flavor that Japanese sushi rice is known for.

post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by roritaCandy View Post
 

 American sushi rice simply lacks the vinegary flavor that Japanese sushi rice is known for.

 

In my experience from the sushi places I go to, the chefs are all Japanese, most of which don't seem to speak english.  I assume they are from Japan and studied sushi making in Japan or with Japanese chefs. Why would they all collectively choose to make the rice differently here than in Japan? 

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #11 of 24

Many years ago when I was working at the U of Utah there was some reason to send me to some research lab in the Los Angeles area. My younger sister was living in Pasadena at the time. I took her and her kids, who were maybe around 10 - 12 years old at the time out to dinner. She suggested this sushi place. As we pulled up I had my doubts. It was a small place in a strip mall with a beauty salon, a bail bonds place and other such enterprises one would not think conducive to fine dining.

 

Talk about deceiving appearances. We walk in.  The wife is working the door, the place is immaculate, the decor is minimalist Japanese stuff. Hard to describe but I got the feeling this is the real deal. We sit at the counter, the husband is working the sushi bar. He's maybe 60, 70 years old, hard to tell. He knows my sister and the kids. The kids get the krab roll. I do mean the fake crab. He had the real thing, but that came later. I order my usual test piece, a basic tuna roll. It was THE BEST tuna roll I've ever had. The fish was so fresh tasting, the rice was just right in both flavor and density. I was at his mercy for the rest of the evening - you know what you are doing, show me what you got. Luckily my American Express card didn't self destruct when the final bill was paid.

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by teamfat View Post
 

Many years ago when I was working at the U of Utah there was some reason to send me to some research lab in the Los Angeles area. My younger sister was living in Pasadena at the time. I took her and her kids, who were maybe around 10 - 12 years old at the time out to dinner. She suggested this sushi place. As we pulled up I had my doubts. It was a small place in a strip mall with a beauty salon, a bail bonds place and other such enterprises one would not think conducive to fine dining.

 

Talk about deceiving appearances. We walk in.  The wife is working the door, the place is immaculate, the decor is minimalist Japanese stuff. Hard to describe but I got the feeling this is the real deal. We sit at the counter, the husband is working the sushi bar. He's maybe 60, 70 years old, hard to tell. He knows my sister and the kids. The kids get the krab roll. I do mean the fake crab. He had the real thing, but that came later. I order my usual test piece, a basic tuna roll. It was THE BEST tuna roll I've ever had. The fish was so fresh tasting, the rice was just right in both flavor and density. I was at his mercy for the rest of the evening - you know what you are doing, show me what you got. Luckily my American Express card didn't self destruct when the final bill was paid.

What a lovely experience!

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #13 of 24
We can always rotate them can we, perhaps the service guy wants to look it his way up!
post #14 of 24

Contrary to popular opinion, there's no such thing as "correct" sushi, nor "authentic." It's highly regional. What has come to be called "sushi" outside Japan is a variation on Edomae-zushi, a style that arose in Tokyo in the mid-19th century. By contrast, for example, you have:

  • Kyoto-style sabazushi, in which whole fillets of mackerel are lightly pickled by being wrapped around fat rolls of highly-vinegared rice for a considerable time--as in days
  • Old-fashioned funazushi, arguably the first kind made, which is long fermented and stinks; a great many Japanese people won't touch the stuff with the proverbial ten-foot pole

Some common differences between edomae-zushi in Japan and most places in the USA (I haven't eaten enough elsewhere to comment):

  • The rice is usually somewhat less vinegary in the USA. To answer an above question with speculation: I would guess that proprietors have found American palates less receptive to the stronger sweet-sour flavor in the rice
  • The fish is previously-frozen. It has often been said that many jurisdictions require all fish to be frozen for X amount of time per weight/thickness to kill any parasites if it is to be served raw; I couldn't possibly comment on whether that's true, but certainly a lot of pros on this board have nodded sagely when it's been said before, so I suspect it's true. The problem is that freezing like this destroys the cellular structure of the fish, making it have a good deal less firmness, and overall it makes the textures pretty much the same. This is why it doesn't matter much whether the slab of fish on your nigiri is cut just so or not: the cutting is mostly about perfection of texture, which can't be achieved with frozen fish anyway, so you cut it however you think your diners want it.
  • Elaborate makizushi are not at all common in Japan. Some Japanese think the whole concept is disgusting; others argue the contrary. I have heard people insist passionately that the reason non-Japanese do this is because their fish is low-quality and ill-prepared, so you have to put lots of stuff on it to make it taste like anything. I'm undecided as to the full truth of this--certainly what Nobu does is very clever indeed.
  • Plating piece by piece at the bar is much less common outside Japan. My bet is that this is because we are trained to believe that cooks shouldn't be fondling our food with their bare hands, and we're grossed out when we see a guy doing nothing but and expecting us to eat it. I'm also betting that Serv-Safe regulations forbid this kind of service to begin with.
  • Plating many pieces on a tray, for one or more diners, is just as traditional and authentic as piece-by-piece. It's a different style, in a sense, and relies on a different visual aesthetic. To the best of my knowledge, such plating is usually either (a) highly geometrical, using more and less elaborate mirroring and angles with the various colors and shapes of the nigiri, or (b) founded on standard plating styles for sashimi, which is where the mountains and greenery thing comes from.

A few pieces of information to pass on:

  • It is sometimes said that people who mush their wasabi into their soy sauce to make a thickened dip are fools, ignorant, gauche, whatever. There is a small amount of truth in this, but not much. At one point I asked a number of fairly high-end Tokyo sushi guys about it, and the conclusion was this: if you're being served fresh wasabi, and if the chef hasn't pre-seasoned your nigirizushi, you should not mix the wasabi and soy in this manner. If however you're eating what pretty much everyone calls wasabi, but which is in fact powdered dried horseradish with green food coloring (that's true in Japan too, by the way), go ahead and mix it however you like. The point is that fresh wasabi has a distinctive floral character that will be ruined if you mush it up in soy sauce. The powdered stuff doesn't have this, so who cares?
  • You can eat nigirizushi with your fingers. Ladies, you'll be thought a little un-dainty, as it were, but that's up to you.
  • Never dip the rice into the soy sauce, with or without wasabi. It soaks the stuff up like a sponge and you can't taste the fish at all. (If this seems narrow-minded, compare to dipping a donut into coffee. A dip or two is fine, even good. Dunking the thing in and leaving it until it melts, then drinking the sludge--that's something you should not do in public, if at all.)

Last but not least:

  • Someone remarked that you can turn the plate around, and that perhaps the guy presenting the food wanted to look at it. There's truth in that. When you plate a dish, you're supposed to plate it as though you were the diner, looking at it face-on. Then there is a "right way" (yes, there really is on this one) to pick up the dish, rotate it, and present it to your guest. If indeed the cook designed the dish "backwards" from how it was served, then either the server doesn't know what's supposed to happen or the cook is some kind of egomaniac freak. I'm inclined to think that either the cook didn't really design the dish but banged it together based on a rough-and-ready impression of what it's supposed to look like, or the server was clueless, or both. Heck, if people keep buying it and swearing up and down that it's oh-so-fresh--when in fact it's all frozen--and just loving that special wasabi (powdered horseradish) taste, why should they bother to change things? It ain't broke, don't fix it.
post #15 of 24
"Never dip the rice into the soy sauce, with or without wasabi. It soaks the stuff up like a sponge and you can't taste the fish at alL"

In my travels to Japan and when Japanese associates visited the US I was taught that Nigiri sushi should be eaten by hand and that tfe correct practice is to invert it to quickly dip only the fish in soy sauce. What say you?
post #16 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisLehrer View Post
 

 

 

  • You can eat nigirizushi with your fingers. Ladies, you'll be thought a little un-dainty, as it were, but that's up to you.

 

Gone are the days when women have to worry about this.  We are now to be thought of as equals, not as pretty accessories who have to look and act in a way that makes us demure and powerless.  Besides, I can't think of anything more dainty than a little nugget of food.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisLehrer View Post
 

 

  • Never dip the rice into the soy sauce, with or without wasabi. It soaks the stuff up like a sponge and you can't taste the fish at all. (If this seems narrow-minded, compare to dipping a donut into coffee. A dip or two is fine, even good. Dunking the thing in and leaving it until it melts, then drinking the sludge--that's something you should not do in public, if at all.)

 

 

I'm all for respecting other cultures, but I will dip as I see fit, and I like a little soy on my rice. Soak it up baby.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #17 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Midlife View Post

"Never dip the rice into the soy sauce, with or without wasabi. It soaks the stuff up like a sponge and you can't taste the fish at alL"

In my travels to Japan and when Japanese associates visited the US I was taught that Nigiri sushi should be eaten by hand and that tfe correct practice is to invert it to quickly dip only the fish in soy sauce. What say you?

Exactly. The fish in the soy sauce, NOT the rice.

post #18 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koukouvagia View Post
 

 

Gone are the days when women have to worry about this.  We are now to be thought of as equals, not as pretty accessories who have to look and act in a way that makes us demure and powerless.  Besides, I can't think of anything more dainty than a little nugget of food.

You misunderstand slightly--but only slightly.

 

1--Yes, Japan is still an irritatingly chauvinistic society in a number of respects.

 

2--It's not really a matter of being decorative and pretty. Eating nigirizushi with your fingers is acceptable but perhaps not elegant. For an analogy, how about eating lamb chops or chicken drumsticks in a restaurant. You know how you're supposed to cut everything off the bone and eat it that way, but everyone knows it's tastier and more fun to just pick it up with your fingers and munch? Kind of the same deal. On the whole, I think Japanese women would prefer not to be perceived, in a fancy sushi place anyway, as eating coarsely; with men, it's kind of up to the guy and his sense of style.

 

3--With foreigners like you and me, sex is not entirely the issue: we do what we like, and it's a question of whether we give a good XXXX what the locals think. My opinion, based on 2 years living in Kyoto (plus a wife who speaks better Japanese than most Japanese people, is blonde and blue-eyed, and is a frighteningly clever cultural critic), is that if you're eating sushi in a fancy place in Japan (especially the Tokyo area), you need as a woman to decide what you want to say to others. You will be watched: there's no avoiding that. You can say, "I know how it's supposed to be done, so get off my case and put your eyes back in your head, creep" (eat with chopsticks). You can say, "I don't care what you think about anything I do or wear or whatever" (eat with fingers, dipping fish not rice). You can say something in between. But you can't say, "I'm just here to eat, so buzz off." That's not a real possibility. So it's a complicated trade-off. If you speak fluent Japanese, you have other (even more complicated) options, but unless you can get the average Japanese woman laughing (subtly but clearly) at her male accompaniment by out-talking him, it's not worth the fight: you just attract more tedious versions of the same attention, plus now they know they can man-splain at you. (To be clear: I don't like this, I'm just reporting.)

 

4--If you dip the rice, the chef will be sneering at you. It's up to you whether you care. (Me? I hate the feeling that everyone in the place is thinking, "ha ha, dumb gaijin, doesn't know his XXX from his elbow.")

post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 
@ChrisLehrer maybe I'm of a different generation but I've become quite tuned in to today's movement in America of women standing equal to men. I like to think of myself as sensitive to other people's cultures, however falling in line with chauvinist customs only perpetuates them. I have no intention of looking like a pig when I eat under any circumstances. I like to eat like a respectful human but find no tolerance for someone directing me to be "ladylike." Those days are over.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #20 of 24
Thread Starter 
On another note, why do Japanese restaurants not offer brown rice as an alternative to white rice? So many of us would love that.

Also, I usually order sushi or sashimi but unless I order a la carte I must abide by what fish the chef chooses for me. Contrary to most people I know, i don't particularly enjoy tuna. Yet it is always in abundance on my plate. Is it rude to ask them to choose something else other than tuna? I still want it to be chefs choice because I like the surprise.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #21 of 24
Thread Starter 
Today's catch, as it was set in front of me

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #22 of 24
Brown rice: many places around here do offer it. You could ask around--someone is probably offering.

Tuna: of course that's not rude. And since tuna is relatively expensive, I'm sure they'll be delighted to substitute.
post #23 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisLehrer View Post

Brown rice: many places around here do offer it. You could ask around--someone is probably offering.

Tuna: of course that's not rude. And since tuna is relatively expensive, I'm sure they'll be delighted to substitute.

Mostly salmon around here, but this is Vancouver so salmon is plentiful and fresh. Brown rice is also common, even in the suburbs.

post #24 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by summer57 View Post
 

Mostly salmon around here, but this is Vancouver so salmon is plentiful and fresh. Brown rice is also common, even in the suburbs.

Interestingly, salmon is a very unusual fish for sushi in Japan. The reason is that it's a partly freshwater fish (anadromous), and so it can pick up parasites. This isn't an issue in the US, because it's frozen a long time, but it's kind of funny that deep-sea fish that almost never have parasites are challenged by the FDA whereas anadromous fish aren't. Oh well.

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