Why are the prices at fancier sushi restaurants and Conveyor belt sushi so different?

In some cases a two-piece sushi dish you can get for JPY 100 at Kaiten-zushi (Conver belt sushi) can cost up to 2,000 for half the volume at a fancy restaurant. Many Kaiten-zushi establishments are part of large chains so costs are kept low by buying in bulk.

Also, unlike the fancy restaurants, which procure the best seasonal catch from fishing grounds all over the country, Kaiten-zushi uses a combination of frozen and farmed fish as well as substituting some fish for certain toppings.

For example, Engawa is often thought to be from Japanese flounder, but Pacific halibut or Greenland halibut is used instead as a substitute.

While different from fancy sushi restaurants that serve various seasonal fish and edomaeshigoto, Kaiten-zushi has its own merits and offers sushi at a much lower price. It’s really up to the customer what they hope to get from their sushi experience.

 


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: July 3, 2017

Why is sushi served with Gari?

Gari is pickled ginger.

This ginger includes Zingerone, a pungent component, and Gingerol, a spice component that changes to Shogaol when heated. Zingerone and Shogaol combine with the components that cause the fishy smell of fish and can eliminate that smell from its source. It makes sense to use ginger as a condiment for fish known for a stronger smell, like horse mackerel and bonito. The Gari served with sushi utilizes the effects of these components effectively for enjoyment of the delicious taste of the sushi.

On the other hand, wasabi works by numbing senses of taste and smell with a stimulating spice so that the consumer doesn’t experience the fishy smell.

Furthermore, when you try to eat a light sushi topping after a strong one, a bit of Gari will cleanse your palette so you can fully enjoy the lighter fish. The pungent component also accelerates saliva production, assists with digestion and enhances absorption.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: June 26, 2017

What are “ikejime” and “nojime”?

How the fish is butchered also changes the taste. If the fish suffers and struggles, the body wears and may be damaged, circulating oxidized blood throughout the body, which makes it lose flavor. For fish of high value such as sea bream, flounder, yellowtail, rudderfish and tuna, a method called “ikejime” is used.

The taste of tuna is said to be determined based on the preparations after being caught. The tuna is caught with as little suffering as possible and the nerves are killed immediately for an instant death. Generally, blood is then drained perfectly, entrails and gills are removed, the tail cut off and then the fish is placed in ice-water to lower the body temperature.

The medulla oblongata and main artery of the fish are cut and a kitchen knife is inserted into the base of the tail to drain the blood. A thin metal rod is inserted into the backbone to paralyze the nerves and at the same time controls the putrefied materials that come out of the spinal cord.

This extends the time until rigor mortis sets in, making it easier to maintain freshness and simultaneously preventing blood from circulating in the body, which also prevents the fishy smell.

Freezing the fish to death in ice water is called “nojime”. This method is generally used for small fish such as sardines, horse mackerel and mackerel that are fished in large volume.

 

 

At fish markets, the term “kill” is not used for living fish, instead the word “shimeru” meaning to close or tighten. The term “dead fish” is also not used. Instead the term “nojime” is used for fish that died naturally en route to the market. This stems from the awe of precious life and turning that life into food.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: March 27, 2018

Drinking tea makes sushi taste better!

Even if you order beer or sake at sushi restaurants, your meal will always end with a cup of tea. But if you’re going to go out for sushi, you should really start drinking that tea earlier instead of saving it until the end. The tea at sushi shops is far more significant than a simple beverage. Especially when eating fatty tuna or bonito, tea plays a role that beer and sake simply cannot fulfill.

The key is in its hot temperature.

Hot tea works to dissolve the fat left on the tongue. Traces of fat is left on your tongue when you eat fatty sushi. It covers the taste buds like a film, subtly inhibiting your sense of taste. It would be a shame to miss your chance to experience the full range of flavors on your visit to a delicious sushi restaurant. No matter how much you drink, beer and sake can’t do anything about this thin film.

But drinking hot tea dissolves the fat and washes it away. Tea can also be considered a type of preparation for enjoying the next piece of sushi.

Another fun fact, sushi teacups are bigger than traditional tea cups because sushi chefs used to man their food stands alone. They just didn’t have enough hands to be constantly refilling tea while also pressing the sushi. The stands used large teacups so they wouldn’t need to be refilled as often.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: June 12, 2017

Best supporting role for wasabi that magnifies the umami in sushi many times over

Back before there were refrigerators, wasabi was indispensable for Nigirizushi, eliminating the fishy smell and also providing bactericidal effects to prevent the fish from spoiling. Wasabi is originally from Japan and it has been used in Edo-style sushi from the very beginning. Even with all the advancements in technology for storing sushi toppings, wasabi is still used today to remove the fishy smell and prevent spoiling. However, nowadays the flavor and aroma of wasabi and the way it brings out the flavor of the sushi topping is the main focus.

When wasabi is grated and exposed to the air, its unique heat is made enhanced by enzymes. Using a coarse grater gives the wasabi a rough, fibrous texture that spreads the spicy flavor through to the back of the throat. On the other hand, if Sharkskin wasabi is grated finely, it foams up with tiny bubbles and makes a creamy taste. The type of wasabi depends on the personality of the shop.

However, the powdered wasabi and wasabi paste you find at kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) is primarily made from horseradish and is colored and scented with additives. It isn’t dried wasabi and it is significantly cheaper.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: June 6, 2017

Judge a chef’s ability and quality of the shop by its Anago (Conger eel)

Sushi restaurants that advertise “Edo style” on the sign somewhat fear customers who order Anago right off the bat. If the customer then eats as if they are really taking the time to taste the sushi, then any chef not fully confident in their skills will want to hide under the sushi counter.

Anago is a topping that really demonstrate a chef’s skills (or lack thereof).

Edo-style sushi chefs work on many toppings. Anago is a perfect example of these toppings. It is actually first steamed to remove the fat. However, it’s a difficult balance to remove the fat while still leaving the umami. The steamed Anago is then boiled and flavored. Since the fish is plain, the flavoring is also a subtle skill and not an easy task.

Depending on the shop, the chef may make the sushi with the boiled fish, use Nitsume (boiling down) to bring out the flavor or lightly roast the fish before combining it with the rice. The chef’s ideas and abilities are apparent in the final dish. If the sushi is made from the freshly boiled fish, it should be soft and melt in your mouth…if the chef knows what they are doing! Lightly roasted Anago will have an aroma that fills your entire mouth.

The work this topping takes to serve is a chance for sushi shops to show off their specialties, but it is also a clear indicator of the quality of the shop. The level of the chef and quality of the sushi shop will be revealed as soon as you place Anago in your mouth.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: May 27, 2017

Gizzard shad (kohada) flavor is refined by exquisite salt seasoning!

According to most sushi masters, salt is the defining factor in the taste of gizzard shad (kohada).

Before seasoning gizzard shad with vinegar, the process starts with salting the spread open shad. It is the length the fish is salted that makes or breaks the fish. The reason for salting the gizzard shad is not just for flavoring, but also to draw out the umami of the fish. Salting for too long results in a briny taste; too short and the umami won’t come to the fore. The timing must be perfect in order to achieve that emotional “umami” moment.

This timing can be compared to boiling eggs: 3 minutes gets you soft-boiled eggs but five minutes gets you hard-boiled eggs. With eggs you can follow this rule of thumb, but no such rule exists for the spotted shad. The conditions for the salting time differ depending on the temperature, humidity, size of the fish and the degree of fat.

For example, a more slender fish in the middle of summer may be salted for 30 minutes, but a fatty fish in the winter needs to be salted for four hours. Just a few minutes longer or shorter than the perfect salting time completely changes the taste of the final dish.

Skilled chefs adjust the time on a daily basis according to the weather and the quality of the fish. Shops that can provide precisely the same spotted shad taste every day of the year are truly the best of the best.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: May 29, 2017

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.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: December 3, 2018

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

In order to bring sushi to life, it is extremely important how shari 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 shari 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


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: May 18, 2017

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”


We hope this information will be helpful.

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.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: April 27, 2017

Why is it that sea urchin can taste bitter?

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.


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.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: April 18, 2017

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


We hope this information will be helpful.

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.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: April 3, 2017

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

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: March 28, 2017