The balance between Shari (vinegar rice) and the topping is important in sushi. No matter how good the topping, the sushi won’t be good if the Shari isn’t right for it. More restaurants have been using red vinegar lately, but even if you use a Shari with a strong taste like red vinegar, the balance will be destroyed if the topping has a weaker flavor. Seasoning that goes well with various toppings that doesn’t stand out too much is ideal.
It works the other way, too. If the Shari is too weak, the sushi won’t be delicious no matter how good the topping. Even if the topping is not premium quality, if the Shari is matched perfectly, the sushi will be perfect. In other words, a good sushi chef is someone who can make sushi with perfectly matching toppings and Shari.
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.