How do you order at a sushi restaurant?

The sushi restaurant is unusual in that the customer sitting at the counter can see the seafood (neta) from which individual servings will be made, and can watch the chef deftly perform his art while enjoying lively conversation. Sushi restaurants also differ from other restaurants when it comes to menus.

Typically there aren’t any.

If the customer is inclined to worry about what the bill will come to, he orders Okimari (combination set)*. This consists of 7 to 10 pieces of nigiri-sushi and nori-maki selected by the proprietor in such a way as to allow them to offer an affordable price. It is cheaper because, like ready-made clothes, Okimari is not necessarily made piece by piece to fill individual orders. Of course, it will not be of inferior quality. Okimari is prepared by the chef and his assistants in the same way that everything else the shop is prepared. If the diner still wants more, they are always free to order sushi of their choice (Okonomi). Generally Japanese customers eat no more than 10 pieces of nigiri-sushi.

People at the counter most often order Okonomi (a la carte)**, which may be likened to having suits tailor-made from the finest fabrics. The customer who orders only the best will find that the check at the end can get a little expensive. But this is worth remembering (sushi worth eating is never inexpensive).

Long ago people used to say that first ordering Okimari and then ordering Okonomi after was the best deal for eating sushi, but that is a thing of the past. Actually, there are more and more shops that don’t allow Okonomi orders. The only choice is Omakase***. In some cases, all customers sitting at the counter take their seats at the same time and eat the same dishes and the same sushi in the same order. Even if you know nothing about sushi toppings, if you leave it to a master sushi chef, they will provide you with a combination boasting a good balance of early, peak and late season sushi. Omakase is great as it allows you to concentrate on genuinely enjoying the sushi and, especially if you’re visiting a shop for the first time, there will be no confusion regarding the best dishes.

*Okimari-The price and menu content are easily understood when ordering “Okimari”. The rank of “Tokujou”, “Jou”, “Nami” are often used. Order additional sushi as you like for a more fulfilling experience.

**Okonomi-A way customers choose and order sushi they want to eat. If you clearly know what you like and want to enjoy eating at your own pace, ordering “Okonomi” your choice of sushi, would be best.

***Omakase-If you don’t have any preferences, and you are happy to have a professional choose the most delicious toppings from that day’s catch, then ask for Omakase.


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Revision date: December 3, 2018

How to make sushi rice (vinegared rice) by a sushi master?

The real way of making sushi rice (vinegared rice or shari) by a sushi master. There are 4 tips!

In order to bring sushi to life, it is extremely important how sushi rice (shari or vinegared rice) is made. Let me introduce a cooking method, a top grade sushi master uses.

First, wash the rice gently. Leave it to soak for about half an hour and let it fully absorb water. The first tip is to keep the water level of the rice even in this way.

The rice should be cooked with water with a ratio of 10 to 9. A little less water than the regular rice, so that it is cooked slightly hard. This is the second tip.

While you wait for the rice to cook, make awasezu* by adding salt and sugar in vinegar. Also, set up hangiri (rice-cooling tub) for mixing the rice. Don’t forget to wipe the inside with a wet kitchen towel to prevent the rice from sticking to it.

Once the rice has finished cooking, leave it to steam for about 15 minutes and dump it out into hangiri. Pour awasezu immediately and let it sit for 30 seconds or so. Because the rice absorbs vinegar only while it is hot, managing this process quickly is the third tip.

After letting it sit for 30 seconds, spread the rice out with shamoji (rice spatula) as if cutting it down. Make sure that vinegar goes around using a cutting motion vertically. Additionally, fan the rice using a uchiwa (fan) to remove the moisture of vinegar and mix the rice with a cutting motion horizontally this time. Fanning with uchiwa is not to cool down the rice (Do not put the rice in the fridge to cool it down.), but to dry up the excess moisture of vinegar. Moving both hands as you consider it is the fourth tip.

After the rice is vinegared evenly, assemble it in one place and cover it with a damp kitchen towel. In about an hour, it is ready when sushi rice is settled. (Body temperature) Even in a hurry, if you don’t give at least 30 minutes, it won’t help the taste of course, and also won’t make it easy to form the rice for sushi. If you rush at the end, all the delicate attention up to this will be in vain.

*A professional recipe for awasezu is as follows. This is a recipe for short grain rice species such as Koshihikari and Sasanishiki. Slightly sticky rice like calrose is not suitable for sushi rice.

9 cups rice

8 cups plus 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp water

8 tbsp plus 1 tsp vinegar ~ 12 tbsp vinegar

2 tbsp plus 1 tsp salt

1 tbsp plus 1 tsp sugar ~ 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar


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Revision date: April 29, 2020

Salmon is not used as a topping in Edo-style sushi!

 

The Japanese were not in the habit of eating salmon raw. Salmon was not a traditional topping in Edo-style sushi. The reason for this is that the existence of parasites has been well-known since long ago and there was no way to prepare the salmon raw.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, salmon must be frozen at -20℃ for at least 24 hours in order to completely kill all parasites. Salmon served at sushi restaurants must be stored frozen and then thawed before serving.

The type of salmon (sake) you find in Japan is Chum salmon. However, most of the salmon served raw at sushi restaurants is Atlantic salmon. This is a popular topping throughout the world due to the high fat content and smooth texture achieved by sea farming in places like Norway and Chile. The fish are strictly managed from water quality to the effects on the environment, so there are very few issues with parasites and the salmon can be eaten raw. However the fact remains that the fish are administered a number of chemicals due to concern of spread of disease-causing germs in the farms.

Even when salmon roe and sea urchin first started to be used as toppings, most sushi chefs said that these didn’t count as Nigirizushi and refused to use them. However the favorable reputation of sea urchin sushi in Ginza won out, it started to be used by more chefs and eventually became one of the major dishes.

The fifth generation sushi chef at one long-standing shop says, “If it’s what the customers want, then salmon may also be rolled as Nigirizushi in the near future.” It may even become part of the standard menu.

At a pre-Edo sushi shop that features Hokkaido toppings, they are actually serving ultra-high grade salmon such as Keiji* and Tokishirazu**.

*Keiji are young salmon with immature ovaries or testes. Only 1-2 Keiji are found in a normal catch of 10,000 salmon. Normal salmon fat content is 2-15% but the Keiji have a very high body fat percentage at 20-30%.

**Tokishirazu are salmon swimming upstream at the beginning of summer. They are the same chum salmon found in the fall, but since they aren’t caught during the spawning season, the fish don’t have eggs or milt, and instead have a high fat content. The name “Tokishirazu” stems from the fact that these fish are caught out of season, in summer and the name means ”ignorant of time”


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Revision date: May 9, 2017

What type of vinegar do sushi restaurants use?

Instead of looking at the topping, take a moment to focus on the vinegared rice (shari). This shari is made of a blend of red and white vinegar.

When the Edo style sushi first appeared, red vinegar (made from fermented sake lees) was used for the sushi rice. Approximately 200 years ago Matazaemon Nakano, founder of Mizkan (a condiment manufacturer) invented red vinegar, which circulated and was used throughout Edo. At the time, red vinegar was used because it was more inexpensive than vinegar made from rice (white vinegar).


Instead of looking at the topping, take a moment to focus on the vinegared rice (shari). This shari is made using only white vinegar.

Nowadays the more fragrant rice vinegar (white vinegar) is used nearly exclusively but increasingly more shops have rediscovered the full-bodied but mild red vinegar and are using it in their dishes. Various restaurants have even come up with new ideas such as blending multiple vinegars or using different vinegar depending on the fish. Ultimately the sushi chef can exercise their own ingenuity in matching topping flavors with white or red vinegar.


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Revision date: April 27, 2017

Why is it that sea urchin sushi can taste bitter?

What does sea urchin sushi taste like?! 

Some people say that “Sea urchin in a wooden box (called ‘hako-uni’ or ‘ori-uni’ or ‘boxed sea urchin’) has a bitter medicine taste”. When a sea urchin loses its freshness, its starts to disintegrate so an additive called alum is used to maintain its shape. If you’ve ever tried a sea urchin that tasted bitter*, this may be the reason.


What is saltwater sea urchin?

Sea urchin soaked in brine without using alum (called ‘ensui-uni’ or ‘saltwater sea urchin’) is also commonly found. There is also a new technology that doesn’t use alum. In this method nitrogen water (water from which oxygen has been removed and then nitrogen dissolved) is used when sealing. The effect of replacing oxygen with nitrogen is inhibited oxidation, maintaining freshness of the sea urchin.

*An “off flavor” that takes away from the primary good tastes.


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Revision date: April 30, 2020

Surprisingly, there are sushi restaurants established from over 100 years ago in Tokyo.

 

About 200 years ago (around 1810-1830), Yohei Hanaya opened up the oldest nigiri sushi restaurant in Japan. It is said that this was the beginning of edomaesushi. As expected, none of the restaurants remain to this day, no matter how popular they were in those days. However, if relating to those lasting more than a century, as many as 10 still exist in Tokyo. It is such a surprise and many respect that they’ve managed to survive, still keeping their business running now. We will introduce those old restaurants in the order of its establishment.


KUDANSHITA SUSHIMASA

First started as a stall in 1861 at Nihonbashi area, relocated to Kudanbashi and then opened the restaurant in 1923. The beauty of wooden architect managed to survive the war and it has a 100-year history. They carefully prepare sushi ingredients with appropriate amount of vinegar and salt. Take Kohada for instance, they adjust the amount of salt depending on the thickness of fish fillet, fat content, temperature and humidity of the air. Check the glossiness of the vinegared kohada fish, and decide the best timing to serve. Enjoy superb sushi prepared with the traditional recipe passed on for generations.


JANOMEZUSHI HONTEN Established in 1865


BENTENMIYAKOZUSHI Established in 1866


YAHATAZUSHI Established in 1868

During the end of Edo period, many of samurai lords who had served for Tokugawa government lost their jobs. Many of them disguised themselves as dango rice dumpling seller. The first owner of Yahata-zushi was one of them, started the business as dango rice dumpling stall and then the second generation owner began serving sushi. The fourth and fifth chef now run the kitchen behind the counter. The fourth chef has a 62-year experience and he is the respected patriarch chef in Tokyo and serves traditional Edomae-style sushi with careful preparation. The fifth chef adheres to basic principle of sushi making while embarking on new-style. He uses sun-dried salt produced in the French Basque Country for well-matured akami red fish such as tuna, and sea urchin from Hokkaido. Other must-eat ingredients are, the highest quality tuna from long-time partner vendor at Tsukiji market and rare tuna caught at the sea near Miyakejima island and matured for good five days.


OTUNASUSHI Established in 1875


YOSHINOSUSHI HONTEN

Opened in 1879, Yoshino sushi has served excellent Edomae-style sushi. Now the fifth-generation owner runs the restaurant. The second-generation owner first started using Toro, fatty tuna meat while most of the chef discarded it. That was because food freezing was not in widespread use at that time and fatty content of fish went bad quickly. Soon Toro was quickly raved by their regular customers as delicious treat. First it was called “abu” as it came from “abura” meaning fat in Japanese, but it didn’t sound as good as it tastes, so they changed it to “toro” meaning mild and tasty. They will feed you interesting stories to go along with sushi dish. One of them is that they had never considered Gunkan roll of ikura and uni sea urchin as sushi since Gunkan never requires hand rolling techniques as other hand roll sushi does. They use only salt and vinegar to make sushi rice not a slight use of sugar and mirin. And then they carefully prepare fish ingredients to go with vinegared rice. Enjoy delicious sushi dish however you like in a casual atmosphere.


JANOICHI HONTEN Established in 1889


ASAKUSA SUSHISEI Established in 1891


KIBUNZUSHI Established in 1903


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Revision date: April 11, 2017

Why is it important to avoid wearing too much perfume?

It is often said that the taste, texture and fragrance of sushi should be enjoyed. For example, the striking scent with traces of acidity that gives you a sense of the iron content in tuna. Abalone has a salty fragrance with an abundant seaweed smell. Don’t let perfume get in the way of your enjoyment of the joy of smoked straw scent that penetrates your nose the moment when you put dried bonito in your mouth.

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Revision date: April 3, 2017

Notes for visitors to the observation area at the Tsukiji wholesale fish market? (2017-2018)

We really don’t understand but there is a regulation, that taking photos is prohibited at a seafood wholesale market. And its visiting hours have recently changed from 10am11am) started from 15 June, 2018.

Even though cameras are forbidden as a rule, if you ask intermediate wholesalers for permission, they will gladly let you take pictures. It doesn’t seem quite right to me to have such a rule, as if it were an art museum.

We would like to thank all the intermediate wholesalers who willingly accepted me for shootings at their shops. We are praying you will carry on more thriving business.

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Revision date: May 23, 2018

Relax and Enjoy under Cherry Blossoms off the Beaten Path!

More and more visitors from overseas are making a point of timing trips to Tokyo during the cherry blossom season. Guidebook in their hands, they head to Meguro River, Ueno Park, Sumida River, Chidorigafuchi Park, or another popular spot. It goes without saying that the blossoms are beautiful in all of these locations.

However, to be frank, there are so many people sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re there to see blossoms or to see crowds. If you’re visiting Japan and you’d like to really experience cherry blossoms, we recommend Shakujii River.

Around 1000 trees bloom on both sides of the river and there are very few people, making it perfect for enjoying cherry blossoms on a stroll. There are actually more cherry blossoms here than on Meguro River or at Ueno Park.

After enjoying the scenery, stop by Makitazushi, established in 1972. Entering this flagship shop of Nakaitabashi is like stepping back in time to the Showa era (1926-1989). Make sure to splurge and order the special sushi selection for JPY 3024.

Location : A few minutes walk from Nakaitabashi Station on the Tobu Tojo Line

Cherry Blossom Season : April 3-April 9

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Revision date: March 28, 2017

Seaweed roll

You don’t want to find yourself in a Sushi restaurant not knowing enough about the fish on offer. Here we will introduce all the different types of Edo-style Sushi (Edomaesushi) Ingredients. *Japanese terms will be italicized on sushi ingredients page.

<Norimaki-Seaweed roll>

Anakyu maki-Gizzard shad and Cucumber roll

Himokyu maki-Mantle of ark shell and Cucumber roll

Kanpyou maki-Sweet-simmered kanpyo (dried gourd strip) roll

Kappa maki-Cucumber roll

Kohada maki-Gizzard shad roll

Namida maki-Vinegared rice and thin strips of Wasabi rolled in seaweed

Negitoro maki-Green onion and toro roll

Shinko maki-Pickled radish and shiso plant roll

Takuwan maki-Pickled radish roll

Tekka maki-Norimaki sushi roll with red tuna and grated wasabi at the core

Torotaku maki-Toro and Pickled radish roll

Umeshiso maki-Pickled ume and shiso plant roll

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Revision date: May 12, 2017

Sushi Ingredients : Others

You don’t want to find yourself in a Sushi restaurant not knowing enough about the fish on offer. Here we will introduce all the different types of Edo-style Sushi (Edomaesushi) Ingredients. *Japanese terms will be italicized on sushi ingredients page.

<Others>

Akauni-Red sea urchin

Anago-Japanese conger

Bafununi-Short-spined sea uruchin (Green sea urchin)

Ezobafununi-Short-spined sea urchin

Hoya-Sea squirt

Ikura-Salmon roe

Kazunoko-Herring roe

Kitamurasakiuni-Northern sea urchin

Komochikonbu-Herring spawn on kelp

Murasakiuni-Purple sea urchin

Namako-Sea cucumber

Noresore-Young Japanese conger

Shirako-Globefish testis

Shirohige-White spin sea urchin

Sirauo-Icefish

Tamago-Egg omelet

Unagi-Japanese eel

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Revision date: March 27, 2018

Prawn and Crab

You don’t want to find yourself in a Sushi restaurant not knowing enough about the fish on offer. Here we will introduce all the different types of Edo-style Sushi (Edomaesushi) Ingredients. *Japanese terms will be italicized on sushi ingredients page.

<Ebi/Kani-Prawn/Crab>

Aka ebi-Argentine Red Shrimp

Ama ebi-Deepwater prawn (Deepwater shrimp, Pink prawn)

Black tiger (Ushi ebi)-Black tiger

Botan ebi-Botan shrimp (Pink prawn, Pink shrimp)

Gasa ebi-Argis lar

Ise ebi-Japanese spiny lobster

Kegani-Horsehair crab (Korean crab, Kegani crab)

Kuruma ebi-Kuruma prawn

Sakura ebi-Sakura shrimp

Shako-Squilla (Mantis shrimp, Edible mantis shrimp)

Shima ebi-Morotoge shrimp

Shiro ebi (Shira ebi)-Japanese glass shrimp

Tarabagani-King crab (Alaska king crab, Red king crab)

Zuwaigani-Snow crab (Queen crab, Zuwai-crab)

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Revision date: December 2, 2016

Shell

You don’t want to find yourself in a Sushi restaurant not knowing enough about the fish on offer. Here we will introduce all the different types of Edo-style Sushi (Edomaesushi) Ingredients. *Japanese terms will be italicized on sushi ingredients page.

<Kai-Shell>

Akagai-Ark shell

Aoyagi (Bakagai)-Rediated trough-shell (Surf-clam)

Awabi (Kuroawabi)-Japanese abalone

Baigai-Japanese ivory-shell

Ezoawabi-Ezo-abalone

Hokkigai-Hen-clam

Hotate-Common scallop (Giant ezo-scallop, Frill, Fan-shell)

Ishigakigai-Bering Sea cockle

Iwagaki-Rock-oyster

Kaki (Magaki)-Oyster

Kobashira-The adductor of bakagai shellfish (Rediated trough-shell)

Madakaawabi-Giant abalone

Megaiawabi-Disk abalone

Mirugai (Honmirugai)-Otter-shell (Keen’s gaper)

Namigai (shiromiru)-Japanese geoduck

Nihama-Common orient clam (Japanese hard clam, White clam)

Sazae-Spiny top-shell

Shirogai (Manjugai, Saragai)-Northern great tellin

Tairagi (Tairagai)-Pen-shell (Fan-shell)

Tokobushi-Tokobushi abalone

Torigai-Egg-cockle (Heart-shell)

Tubugai (Matsubu)-Ezo-neptune (Whelk, Winckle)

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Revision date: December 2, 2016

Squid and Octopus

You don’t want to find yourself in a Sushi restaurant not knowing enough about the fish on offer. Here we will introduce all the different types of Edo-style Sushi (Edomaesushi) Ingredients. *Japanese terms will be italicized on sushi ingredients page.

<Ika/Tako-Squid/ Octopus>

Aori ika-Bigfin reef squid

Hotaru ika-Firefly squid

Iidako-Ocellated octopus

Kensaki ika (Shiroika)-Swordtip squid

Mizudako-North-pacific giant octpus

Shin ika-Baby cuttlefish

Sumi ika (Kouika)-Cuttlefish

Surume ika-Japanese common squid

Tako (Madako)-Octopus

Yari ika-Spear squid

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Revision date: December 2, 2016

Silver-skinned fish

You don’t want to find yourself in a Sushi restaurant not knowing enough about the fish on offer. Here we will introduce all the different types of Edo-style Sushi (Edomaesushi) Ingredients. *Japanese terms will be italicized on sushi ingredients page.

<Hikarimono - Silver-skinned fish>

Aji (Maaji) - Japanese horse-mackerel

Ayu - Ayu

Gomasaba- Spotted mackerel

Hamo -Daggertooth pike conger

Hatahata - Japanese sandfish

Iwashi - Sardine

Kisu - Japanese whiting

Kohada - Gizzard shad

Mamakari - Big-eye sardine

Saba - Pacific mackerel

Sanma - Pacific saury

Sayori - Halfbeak

Shinko - Baby Gizzard shad

Tobiuo - Japanese flyingfish

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Revision date: March 27, 2018