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Ten Commandments of Sushi (medium.com/gone)
274 points by signor_bosco on Apr 5, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 114 comments

I ate at this sushi-ya two days ago. The chef genuinely cares about his craft and will direct you on how to eat the sushi and when to drink sake. It was a great experience trying to speak to him in my broken Japanese with the help of his wife. I believe this place is quite unique, and not because of the food (which is incredible in itself). Most of the experience comes from the strong characters of the chef and his wife.

If you have the chance to visit Tokyo and happen to be in Shibuya around lunch I highly recommend this place.

Edit: I went there because a friend forwarded me the article and they were very interested in reading the article

What's a sushi course like this cost?

$25 for lunch, $80++ for dinner. (I don't know much about restaraunt pricing in the US, but I think I get the reason that almost every Tokyo place does this. You pay for your own lunch, every day. Dinner, however, is generally paid for by someone else -- coworker/client/company/boyfriend/etc. Accordingly, restaurants plan for a bit of price insensitivity there, where lunch is a bloodbath of every store trying to capture additional custom at ~1,000 yen.)

I have the highest respect for sushi, and good sushi is some of the most delicious food I've ever eaten. At the same time, it's hard for me to justify the cost. Why does it cost $25 to loosely prepare a small amount of raw fish?! There is so much incredible food that I can get for $10 a pop, and it actually involves cooking. And for $25, I can get a full meal at a fancy sit-down restaurant. What accounts for the crazy price differential? Just the price of fish? Why?

Sure, there's people like Jiro, but it just ends up reminding me of the xkcd "photo conoisseur" comic: https://xkcd.com/915/

The cost of decent sushi is:

- The owner going to the market every morning to select what he thinks are the best fish and then haggle for them - Bringing it back, holding it until a customer orders without letting it spoil - When ready, preparing it extremely quickly so that it doesn't lose its flavor at room temperature and so that nobody gets sick - The apprenticeship of the owner's employees (or his past apprenticeship if you'd rather)

You can get perfectly serviceable sushi for $10, even in Tokyo, at a neighborhood joint for lunch. This is not that kind of establishment. Similarly, one can easily pay $1, $10, or $50 for a hamburger, here or in your town. COGS is not the primary driver of the price difference.

There are sushi chains that offer two pieces for ¥108. I would much rather spend the ¥2500 to go to the shop mentioned in the article. It's like saying you can't justify the cost of a gourmet burger when McDonald's has a dollar menu.

Right, but they're universally awful. You only start getting sushi that tastes like it should around the $25 mark. I'm just curious what accounts for the fairly extreme price difference, especially given that most of the actual flavor in sushi comes from the fish itself. Is it the price of the fish? Respect for one's craft? Tradition?

I'd love to eat good sushi more often, but again, it's hard to justify that kind of price for such a quick and small meal, given the other things you can find in that price range. I've mostly relegated it to occasional celebrations at this point. It's a splurge.

(Reading back on it, I realize my initial post came off as too aggressively negative. I'm not venting. I actually really am curious about what goes into the price of sushi, and whether it's priced appropriately based on the skills and ingredients involved, or if it's instead treated and (over)priced as a luxury gourmet food like foie gras.)

I think it simply boils down to labour cost plus cost for the more expensive seafood:

* Sushi chefs need to be highly trained to make good Sushi, ~5 years. => Can't just pay them the basic 800 yen/hour, it's rather going to start at ~3000 yen.

* You need a few helping hands besides the chef. Fish, egg and even the rice is relatively labour intensive. Remember, it's not just plain rice, it's rice cooked with traditional methods to exactly the right point, mixed with vinaigre with an assistant venting by hand to give it a drier surface.

* Good Sushi needs to be prepared right before consumption, so the Sushi chef will spend at least a few minutes for each portion.

Adding all this up propably comes out at around 5-10 bucks labour cost for a decent portion of Sushi. Add to this the fish, the rent and some markup and you're at your $25. Nothing remarkable really, it's the same for most other high quality foods in large cities.

> Sushi chefs need to be highly trained to make good Sushi, ~5 years.

I just remembered an excellent book I read about an American sushi school, called "The Story of Sushi", where each student was made to learn to filet dozens of different kinds of fish with precision. So I can see why training to be the best of the best would take a long time. But how much of this experience is really necessary to make a standard, delicious nigiri platter? Most people don't go for the exotic options; they go for tuna, salmon, eel, etc. Do most sushi chefs even filet their own fish?

> Remember, it's not just plain rice, it's rice cooked with traditional methods to exactly the right point, mixed with vinaigre with an assistant venting by hand to give it a drier surface.

True, but how much of this detail is really necessary for the flavor, as opposed to fussiness and pride in the craft? In other words, in a blind test, would most people be able to tell the difference between quickly-made sushi rice and sushi rice made "exactly right"?

> Nothing remarkable really, it's the same for most other high quality foods in large cities.

I have to disagree! What other gourmet "fast-ish" food, suitable for lunch, costs $25 in a major city? In all the cities I've been to, most of the famous local fare is in the $10-$15 range at most. I've eaten some of the best food in the world for $10 a pop, easy. (Franklin's BBQ is a good example: hours of grueling work, $10 for half a pound of the best brisket in the world.)

GRANTED: I am speaking from a Californian perspective, so none of this may even apply. I am sure you can get some great $10 sushi in Tokyo and that $25 is reasonable for a more gourmet option, but here, you really have to go $25 and higher for sushi to taste good.

> But how much of this experience is really necessary to make a standard, delicious nigiri platter?

That's exactly like ask why you should hire an engineer that has a degree vs someone who's gone though a coding bootcamp. If you're only doing standard things in a standard way then it's fine (this is by the numbers cooking, which most kitchens/restaurants prepare), so not every line cook needs to be a chef. They just need one in charge of the menu. Sushi is very close to the source ingredient, so for great sushi you do need every person that deals with the fish to be a full chef.

From everything I'd read and seen over the years. Yes, the good ones ($25+ a meal) do filet their own fish.

Also, food cost is a much bigger part of sushi because it's raw. Even a few hours fresher or few minutes less at room temperature makes a big difference, whereas cooked foods are much less sensitive to that kind of fluctuation.

> Franklin's BBQ is a good example: hours of grueling work, $10 for half a pound of the best brisket in the world.

The problem is that high quality sushi isn't by the numbers, but brisket is. You need to adapt quality sushi from day to day and fish to fish. Where brisket as long as you have good enough base ingredients you'll get an excellent brisket. It's more like a high end steak. You don't add many ingredients so even if you're the best chef in the world you can't make up for a mediocre steak.

I'm not exactly sure what your argument is. Sushi is local to Japanese culture, and just as you thought, Japan has some pretty decent Sushi for ~10$ (1000 yen), that already beats 99% of Sushi in foreign countries. I wouldn't call it gourmet, but it's prepared by a chef who knows what he's doing. That it costs more in California, where you don't have Tokyo's crazy Tsukiji wholesale fish market that allows them to have the world's best and freshest fish for reasonable prices every morning for 7 days a week, and where the job market for skilled Sushi chefs is much more a seller's market, doesn't surprise me.

You already acknowledge that sushi is a commodity item you can get anywhere, at various price points, but it tastes better when you pay more.

Why is it so confusing to you that quality food costs more? Yes ingredients matter (more so in sushi than most food), yes it requires a lot of skill to prepare. Not only that, the type of sushi restaurant cited in the article, the chef serves the customer directly as he prepares the food. Surely you can see why that'd cost more?

A lot of effort goes into the perfect piece of sushi.

I was staying with friends in Shinjuku and one who was a chef at a hotel regularly got up at 4-5am to get to Tsukiji fish market in time to get a good fish.

Then there's the rice. Cooking it for just the right amount of time, not squishing any grains, etc.

There are a lot of different variables, and you're trusting the person to get them perfect as opposed to "good enough" in exchange for a bit more money.

I can't see where your confusion is going from but hopefully this cleared things up a little.

Interesting. In China there are often "restaurant skirmishes" when the bill comes over who will pay it. That is, the person who pays the bill gets the face. They can get quite intense. Does this happen in Japan as well?

No, in Japan it is more hierarchal e.g. your boss will pay for everyone if you go out for lunch together. Amongst friends it is common to just split the bill.

Lunches tend to be less food than dinner, but that aside, lunches tend to be cheaper than dinner in the US as well--presumably because people tend to be more price sensitive at lunch. I'm not sure I can do a good job of articulating the reasons. It's partly as you say. I think it's also partly because the lunch specials in Chinatown or the sushi lunch are competing against sandwiches and other similar luncheon fare to a degree that they aren't for dinner.

This one specifically had 2 courses for sushi, one for 2,600 yens and the other for 3,100 yens (the difference being more sushi) This was the price for lunch, not sure in the evenings

It's about 10,000 to 15,000 yen. (Source: http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1303/A130301/13014691/ <-- incidentally, this is the site to get information from about Japanese restaurants. Not maximally helpful if you don't read Japanese though.)

Have you got a Google Maps link to the place? I usually put stars on Google Maps on places I want to visit, and I definitely plan on visiting Japan in the next few years.

I highly recommend this movie:


Even if you don't like Sushi the documentary itself, the style, the characters, the subjects are just every well done.

I really liked Jiro and would also recommend Tampopo[1] if you like "foodie" films and/or enjoyed the characters/subject matter of Jiro.

[1]: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092048/

>would also recommend Tampopo[1]

That's the first time I have seen that movie mentioned outside the media class that introduced me to it.

To this day I think about it whenever I eat luke-warm ramen or soba that's overcooked.

It's a pretty fun movie.

If you like Tampopo I recommend everything else by Jūzō Itami. Especially "Minbo no onna", a comedy about the Yakuza (Japanese mafia), one of the most brilliant comedies I know.

Itami was a master. I highly recommend The Funeral (Ososhiki). It is a beautiful dark comedy.

one of the few I'm still missing. Duly noted, thanks.

Have you seen Ramen Girl? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0806165/ Not a fantastic movie, but lots of focus on the craft of cooking.

I recommend this one as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDL8yu34fz0

I thought it was a serious introduction for foreigners for the first few minutes until I settled on it being sarcasm, which is heavily punctuated towards the end.

Made by the inimitable comedy duo "Rahmens" - some of their other work is subtitled and on youtube, all highly recommended! (though I couldn't attest to how well the humor translates..)

Here's their take on green tea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54iG6deEaW0

This was the first thing that popped into my head as well. Fantastic story about dedicating oneself to their chosen profession.

>He placed a slice of ika (squid) on the black marble surface in front of me. “One, two, three,” he counted. “Every second that passes, it declines. That’s why I want you to eat it immediately.”

This urgency to eat it fast in his shop doesn’t make much sense in with regards to the tradition of sushi he supposedly serves, considering he said that they were served from street stalls — which would have to wait for customers and would be out in the open sun with poor refrigeration (probably nothing besides some ice buckets)…

>The first time I was about to eat a piece of raw clam sushi after drinking some sake, Yajima said something to his wife in Japanese, so she could translate. “Chew it a bit but don’t swallow,” she said. I obeyed. “Now sake!” Yajima barked.

Yeah, so they were drinking sake while eating sushi from steet stalls?

The modern form of sushi (edomae nigirizushi) is basically fast food made out of freshly caught fish, so you make it and serve it the same as any other street-vended food based on raw fresh meat. The carts also had a covering on them - nobody left their fish out in the hot sun.

Also, real wasabi acts as an antimicrobial agent, which is a historical precedent for modern sushi chefs pre-applying the proper amount of wasabi to each piece before giving it to you.

The taste does change after it's been prepared. They're being a little bit "soup nazi" with the whole counting of seconds bit, but it is better to taste it freshly made.


It actually makes zero sense to wash the sushi down immediately with sake as it changes the flavor of what you're eating, not to mention the varying flavors and mouthfeels of both sushi and sake. If you have to drink something, make it water - but don't drink a lot before or during the meal or you'll get too full to finish all the sushi.

Sake is considered a rice dish in Japan, and sushi (in this article) is nigiri and not sashimi, so sake would be like an extra rice dish, which is atypical for Japan. I don't see why you couldn't drink sake at a street stall, though, if in America you can drink liquor out of a brown paper bag.

> It actually makes zero sense to wash the sushi down immediately with sake as it changes the flavor of what you're eating [...]

I got the impression that was the intended purpose here, though; you can enjoy the flavours separately, but in the case of the briny sushi that he was served the addition of the sake created a different flavour that was worth trying.

I think it makes perfect sense. The alcohol solves different flavor molecules than water, and having both present can actually activate new flavors. This doesn't work with a whole mouthful of sake, of course...

Sorry for the meta, but three downvotes?

Somehow making some orbservations about what an article says without attacking anyone in this dicussion is controversial?

> Some were rudimentary and fairly common; others were unique to him; still others recalled sushi’s origins as Edo-era street food.

Not that it's productive to complain about a person's (possible) lack of internal consistency in a story like this anyway... This isn't an article, say, giving advice on building secure software where errors would be dangerous.

"presented by renaissance hotels" -- didn't know medium was already experimenting with revenue sources. I wonder how lucrative this type of native ad is for them.

I think that's being done by the collection and not Medium.

If you appreciated this article, then you're probably also going to appreciate the movie "Jiro Dreams of Sushi". It's on iTunes and Netflix, and really awesome if you're into Sushi and craftsmanship.

>"#3 Sushi is not only about the taste, it's also about the smell"

This is true of food in general. There's a very common "kid's science" experiment involving slices of raw apple, onion, and potato. Block off your nose, and they all taste the same. You might be able to pick them from textural components, but for most people, there's little difference between the three with the nose shut off.


Despite all my physical shortcomings, my sense of smell and taste are close to super-human... I can actually tell when something is done by smell alone more often than not.. and can emphatically tell the difference between apple, potato and onion without smell even.

The down side of all of it is there are many smells which aren't so pleasant that are sometimes very hard to block out. I can usually smell when things are "off" well before they are no longer considered "safe" ... will usually dump out milk, meat, etc days before they're actually expired.

Some things I notice far more than others... I can taste the difference between grass fed, and grain fed beef, I can't tell the difference in bone stock, or in the milk. I can tell the difference in what chickens are fed via eggs (prefer corn fed), but not the meat (usually). I actually love trying just about anything and everything. For the most part the only things I don't care fore are more often about the texture than the taste. I don't care for the texture of raw meat, really fatty food, squash or avocados. I don't mind sushi that's cooked (americanized) or at least torched/seared slightly. But don't care for the really raw/fresh stuff (texture just doesn't appeal to me).

I started getting into cooking a few years ago, and it's amazing how different I feel when I can stick to the stuff I make (not all of it so great for me) vs. even a couple days of fast food or pizza. I wish I could impart what I know/understand now on my 18yo self.

> I can taste the difference between grass fed, and grain fed beef

Would it be possible to describe the difference in taste?

> But don't care for the really raw/fresh stuff (texture just doesn't appeal to me).

Isn't freshness also about taste, not texture? (I could never tell when something is "really fresh", when other people could.)

Grass fed beef is noticeably drier (doesn't cook down as much) and stronger-flavored than corn fed beef. I really notice the difference in chicken - try a fancy organic chicken breast and compare it to a normal store bought one and it's like night and day.

This reminds me of a funny Asimov's story that describes you perfectly! http://www.asimovreviews.net/Stories/Story309.html

I like this guy. An old lady I know ran her little trattoria this way - you went in, paid 15 thousand lire ($8 or so), she gave you whatever she made that day, that was it.

She stopped working at age 98.

Many trattorias (not 'ristoranti') operate like that: they have one or, at most, a few things, that are almost always delicious.

Like everything else, the more you get into something, the more serious and deep you think it is. But for most people it isn't deep. I'm a bit negative but sushi is something I enjoy standing, seating, at home, in a restaurant, with a fork, with chopsticks, with salty soy sauce, with sweet soy sauce, etc... Don't be a snob, just enjoy the food you like the way you like it.

> Don't be a snob, just enjoy the food you like the way you like it.

Or be a snob, if that's the way you like it.

This short subtitled ethnological documentary helps illustrate traditional Japanese sushi etiquette in a manner accessible to Westerners. While complex and at times daunting, proper study of these details (hand positions, head angles, intonation) will be repaid many-fold over a lifetime of increased sushi enjoyment.

Highly recommended, even for sushi "experts": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfMqN2vu2Hg

So most of this is actually actionable advice. Things like use your hands, savor but don't get distracted, don't use sauce/wasabi all are easy. But what I want to know is how do I find good places that serve sushi quickly in the states. Every restaurants that I have been to takes forever and serves it on a huge platter all at once. Don't get me wrong, some of these places seem excellent to my unrefined pallet, but where should I look for a more authentic experience?

The easiest way to get sushi quick is to order it a la carte, at the bar, when they're not busy.

Ever go to a place and see a little card and pencil with a column each for Nigiri and Maki, with individual fish listed and a quantity line next to it? There you mark down what you want and how many pieces each. Fill out like three of them and submit them to your server after you've got your drinks settled, and you should get them pretty quick. If they don't have these cards, you may not get your order quickly.

Sometimes it's hit or miss; check the reviews online first. Back where I grew up in Florida there was a place where you'd get your order in less than two minutes, but the quality wasn't very good.

For an 'authentic experience', you want a simple place with an old japanese guy or two behind a bar watching a baseball game on a tiny tube TV, possibly with some shouting going on. This is super rare in the US from my perspective, but I have found a few places like this in south florida, so you may have luck elsewhere too.

For just a 'good sushi' experience, you want either a japanese convenience store that makes sushi to order, a super pretentious expensive place pretending to be a high end sushi/sake bar, or a place that randomly has a really well trained chef that imports really quality ingredients [which is typically only pretentious expensive places]. Food blogs are a good resource, though they can often be more pretentious than the restaurants.

I like to try out new places and order either chirashi or whatever the chef's nigiri special is, maybe with tuna or beef tataki beforehand to see their prep skills. Most places that don't have japanese chefs fuck up the tataki, and you can usually predict the rest of the quality from there. If you don't get paper thin slices or they come back over-seared, your sushi is gonna be sub-par.

Note: the best sushi i've ever eaten in my life was last year at the now-closed Barracuda in the Castro, so don't overthink it, just order some nigiri and see what happens.

The next time you're looking for sushi in the Castro, I suggest going a dozen steps past the old Barracuda spot and down the stairs next to the fitness shop. Down in the lower level is my favorite neighborhood sushi joint - Sushi Time. Alternatively, try Eiji (next to Kitchen Story at 16th/Sanchez), or Amasia Hide's Sushi Bar at 14th/Noe. All reasonably priced (think like $20-30/person and be stuffed) and far better than Barracuda IMO.

All those places pale in comparison to some of the best sushi (IMO) in town though, if you're willing to spend quite a bit more. Check out Kusakabe in the Financial District :)

silencio gave some great suggestions, but I just wanted to say that, in general, pretty much any sushi place you can find in the city is probably better than Barracuda. That place served sushi that would have been appropriate if it was one of those really cheap sushi places, but they charged quite a bit more than the sushi was worth. I even tried getting Omakase there once and was served sushi that was worse than a normal sushi combo order from any other place I've been to.

To be fair, I haven't been to every sushi place in the city (or even every sushi place in the Castro), so maybe you can find worse places, but overall I was just very disappointed with Barracuda.

I've heard people say this. But did they get the chef's choice of nigiri? Every piece I tasted was like a totally different animal and the pieces were gorgeous, grade 1- to 1+, properly prepped. It was stupefying considering how corny the place was.

Yes, that's what Omakase is. The phrase literally means "I'll leave it to you" but it's used in sushi restaurants in the US to mean chef's choice. Everywhere else that I've gotten Omakase it was fantastic, but at Barracuda I was served a meal that is easily bested by Sushi Combination A from Sushi Time (and that would have been much cheaper too).

> Every piece I tasted was like a totally different animal

Assuming that you were getting different types of fish with each piece, then I certainly hope they tasted different! If the sushi restaurant you're eating at serves up different fish and they all taste the same (or, god forbid, they all "taste like fish") then that's not a very good sushi restaurant.

Which city? In NYC, it should be easy to find some excellent places. The meal I had at Sushi Yasuda was one of the best I remember.

If the place has it, try sitting at the bar instead of a table.

I think you shouldn't take these specific rules as a general advise. Don't use your hands directly untill you are sure your hands clean. Even most Japanese don't do that. And a rules imposed by a restaurant may be acceptable but a rules imposed by you to your acompanies are often uncomfortable. Japanese calls such kind of people "x-bugyo(奉行)" (e.g. nabe-bugyo, sushi-bugyo) as irony. bugyo means a person in a high position in Japan's feudal period.

paid advert. when did medium start doing this? As soon as I know the article is placed, the value in reading it changes.

  'Of the stories you read in traditional media that 
  aren't about politics, crimes, or disasters, more 
  than half probably come from PR firms.'
The suit is back, indeed: ~ http://paulgraham.com/submarine.html

I'm a bit confused about what you're objecting to. Isn't this just a standard sponsored article, the sponsoring having no relation to the content?

"confused about what you're objecting to"

Clicking a link, the first thing I read is the whole article is sponsored. What is a standard sponsored article?

Was the article written and the advert tacked onto the start? Did the advertiser commission the article? Did a PR agency plant it on their behalf? I dislike advertising, a personal preference.

My question was, "how long has medium had sponsored posts?"

I often get strange looks when using my fingers to eat sushi, but it works so much better than chopsticks! I can usually convince whoever is eating with me to follow suit after their sushi crumbles into their soy sauce dish and creates the sad looking rice/soy soup.

Its really not that hard to use chopsticks and i have never seen anyone eat sushi with their hands in japan and i eat sushi often.

The "nicer" sushi places I've been to in Japan (I.e sushi chef behind a desk giving you piece by piece) have been "eating with your hands is suggested, you have to specifically ask for chopsticks".

But the common more affordable places like revolving sushi or where it's part of a larger set meal, everyone just uses chopsticks.

It's funny that I could never use chopsticks, until one day I could. And since then they just feel like a natural extension to the hand.

This is going to sound incredibly hipster coming from a European, but something feels intensely satisfying about using chopsticks. As tools they're inferior to fork and knife in many ways, but something about leaving food items whole as prepared instead of penetrating them, or cutting them up, makes for a nice experience. It's a relaxing way to eat. Perhaps as a nod to Western cutlery I personally like Korea's flat metal chopsticks the best: http://i.imgur.com/Z1Lt2HPl.jpg or http://i.imgur.com/FUzNuoB.jpg

Similarily I like to eat sandwiches by cutting them up into pieces with a fork/knife. I don't think it's so much hipster though, seeing as "finger food" is quite common.

On those metal chopsticks though, I couldn't disagree more. Ever used them for noodles? It just doesn't grab stuff as well as the wooden ones.

Lots of people do both in Japan, but like you, I'd say the majority seem to use chopsticks (based on my personal experience obviously!).

I don't like eating sushi with my hands because I don't like the feeling of dirty hands, even if it's simple to wipe them.

Supposedly (internet fact, knock wood) the "traditional" way is with your fingers, but of course, things change.

I enjoy eating sushi with my hands, because it adds another sensual dimension to the eating experience.

maybe because we often assume our hands are dirty? that could be part of the reason for the hot warm/moist towels?

This article touts Sake as the beverage of choice for Sushi.

While I was visiting Sweden I was treated to a local Birch Wine "Grythyttan Bjorkvin" that was amazing with sushi. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to have a crossover between Scandinavian and Asian cuisine.


I don't know where to get it here in California but I'm sure you guys can disrupt the market and bring it over.

I prefer dipping my sushi in wasabi mixed with soy sauce and I don't care how anybody else things I should eat it.

There's a difference between sushi you get at whole foods and sushi prepared by a chef directly in front of you.

Not a downvoter, but: the problem with that is that these two tastes are so strong. It tends to make all the rolls taste the same. I don't know why doing this is so popular.

Because with low quality fish there isn't much taste there to begin with.

I would suspect that, as the article hints, the art of enjoying sushi varies to some extent depending on the chef. For example, I was once taught that you should dip your fish slice (and not the rice underneath) in the soy sauce, put it back, and then be careful about making the fish side landing on your tongue first when you put it to your mouth. A - litteraly- twisted exercise.

But maybe the chef was just having quite a bit of fun watching customers handle three dimensional rotations with chopsticks :)

Use your fingers instead of sticks and use quick movements to prevent disaster. You can get good at it with sticks but it is totally okay to use fingers.

Other tips: never ever stick your sticks standing up in a bowl. Slurp your broth/noodles. And finish every grain of rice or noodle you order. (If you're in japan, anyway)

This article finally convinced my wife to let me order in Sushi - she hates fish or anything like it. I've being trying to tell her she has fish trauma from having to eat nasty old white fish, but this article was convincing enough :)

This is really interesting. Here in Brazil we have a strong "japanese food" industry, obviously inclined to our western way; it's always amusing to see how important it is for the people who created it in the first place.

Best tip I ever got was to not mix wasabi into your soy sauce.

Instead, dab a small amount of wasabi directly on the nigiri, then dip into clean soy sauce. You then enjoy the intense wasabi, and the flavor is separated from the soy.

Depending on the place, wasabi is already applied on the rice below the fish buy the time you are served.

This was a fun read for a sushi fan; thanks to the OP!

Great story. Perfecting a craft for a living is one of the greatest things in life.

Fabulous article!

This is exactly right. We must eat Sushi as it was originally eaten. Any other method is blasphemy. Just like Hamburgers should only be eaten if passed through a drive-thru window and Croissants eaten under a waning crescent moon.

I don't think he was talking about a prescriptivist's "correct" way to eat the food. I believe it was intended to be a review of the interesting dining experience at this place.

Less "this is how it should be eaten" and more "I tried eating at this place where the chef insists I follow his rules and I kinda liked it".

This is exactly how I read it. More about the experience and atmosphere the chef is working hard to provide than some hard rules about how to eat sushi. You aren't going to see anything close what the chef provides in a sushi chain store, for example.

I once read an article extensively discussing the distinction between eating spaghetti with a spoon to assist vs without. Apparently those who use spoons are treacherous heathens, utterly uncivilized.

I eat a pizza once at a place where the owner was really into the Right Way of eating pizza; he got irritated when I asked for some ketchup and explained to me that it's blasphemy, and I should use olive oil instead. I did, and I really liked it (now I use both).

The first time I ever saw someone eat pizza with ketchup was in Poland. It seemed really strange to me.

I grew up in the US.

I'm from Poland, that's how we usually eat pizza here - with ketchup and garlic sauce.

What happened to the no negativity rule?

Also, you don't have to. You can eat it however you like. But he'll pretend the restaurant is full when you call in for a reservation next time.

Guidelines and rules are not the same thing, and I believe the exact text was to avoid gratuitous negativity. I don't think that comment was gratuitous.

What negativity? I'm extremely serious with my positivity.

I not just break deliberately each of those rules - I do it proudly. I take time, love high-ceiling rooms, I chit chat, I prefer it for dinner ... I even use Xylitol to sweeten the sushi rice!

> I even use Xylitol to sweeten the sushi rice!

I'm amazed sushi restaurants let you in after they notice that. That's a level of disrespect for the chef I can hardly imagine.

Except your hamburger doesn't have a rich history and tradition associated with it.

You can go ahead and not follow the rules, but that would only lessen your enjoyment of the meal.

Why would you do that to yourself?

> You can go ahead and not follow the rules, but that would only lessen your enjoyment of the meal.

Maybe, maybe not. I see no reason sushi would be unique in human experiences by being only enjoyable in one manner by everyone.

Hell, people get pissed off over whether firewood should be stored bark-down or bark-up. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/world/europe/in-norway-tv-...

Working at Caviar means I might have a chance of visiting this place one day.

One day...I hope ( `-')-b


Your comment was downvoted for what I hope are obvious reasons. The parent comment was probably downvoted because it didn't contribute anything to the conversation. (I did not downvote the parent comment. I did downvote your comment.)


Lots of people don't like the HN downmodding, but to avoid rehashing, there's plenty of discussion on the issue in this related post here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9317916

Thanks vacri. Your 'about' section perfectly distills my frustration. I really enjoyed this article about sushi. I came back here for the interesting discussion, but had to leave with a fishy taste in my mouth.

"“In the larger sushi shops, the smell of the fish escapes because the ceilings are too high to contain them,” says Yajima-san. “Smaller places are where they serve the best food. Their size captures the flavor.”"

Oh, Christ...

Yeah, this is silly. There have been similar pieces about how you're supposed to do things a certain way in Japanese culture, and Westerners eat it up. But it's bull. There are a lot of ways that different people in different locales do things in Japan, just like any other culture. Sub-cultures develop their own rituals.

The article doesn't suggest it's Japanese tradition, quite the opposite in fact. He runs his restaurant his own idiosyncratic way--that's the whole point of the article. It doesn't sound like you read it.

The title is poorly chosen though. It makes it sound universal.

... and of course it will end up being spread around blag sites as if were universal... ><

I lived and worked in Japan for 6 years, and according to my observations, you speak the truth.

This chef has his own particular style of running his sushi-ya, which I personally wouldn't enjoy participating in, as someone who doesn't like to be ordered around by anyone - especially someone I'm paying my money to in order to receive food (I eat to live, not live to eat) - and I'd have probably exited the establishment soon after being barked at :)

Not that I'm a particular fan of raw fish anyway - something that caused no end of comedy and drama during my 6 years in Japan, but that's a tale for some other date and place ;)

There are many interesting things with Japan, but i don't count sushi as one of them.

This reads just as fascist as "gays should not marry" or "women should stay at home and take care of children".

I appreciante that local culture - as long as it's reasonable and civilized - should be preserved and given respect.

I just don't believe the "old way" or the "traditional way" is, or should be, the only way to do stuff.

I'm very sure Mr. Yajima's sushi must be a unique, enriching experience, but I enjoy the "western" versions of sushi, with all the cream cheese, free choice of sauces and weird combinations just as much.

Let people eat whatever they like, however they like (restrictions may apply). Giving authoritarian commandments to anything only benefits - at most - half the equation.

Did we even read the same article? It's a well written story about eating at a traditional sushi shop in modern times, not a specific guide about how you are supposed to eat sushi or a commentary on modern sushi variations.

People keep saying this, but I haven't heard a Japanese chef voice opinions that don't agree with these "commandments."

It does kind of come off as not "eat this way because I am idiosyncratic chef," but "eat this way because it is the right way."

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