Welcome to “Kitchen Essentials,” a new series from Chowhound where chefs and bartenders from around the country invite viewers into their kitchens and bars, unveiling the five tools that are simply essential to their work.
Nozomu Abe puts on a show at Sushi Noz every night. The owner and chef at the acclaimed Michelin-starred Upper East Side restaurant finds that making sushi sushi is synonymous with a performance.
“We mix rice and condiments right in front of our customers,” he explains. “That’s part of the entertainment.”
Along with the barrels of steaming white rice that are shepherded out of the kitchen, hunks of pink fish are sliced and grilled by charcoal in sight, to the diner’s delight. Ribbons of fish are molded on top of nubs of rice, then handed over the counter like a wrapped gift.
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It’s decidedly entertainment, but that’s only partially the point. The food, too, is exquisite, replete with an Edomae-style tasting menu of 5 to 6 small plates and a seasonal selection of nigiri, which will cost diners $325 per person. But the experience is worth it, perched at the small sushi bar, to see the sushi wizard work his magic.
For a taste of what the sushi master relies on to make his famed pieces of art, we asked Noz (as he’s known) to reveal his most essential kitchen tools. And while it’s certainly feasible to replicate sushi rolls at home, not everything that he stocks his kitchen with can be purchased so easily by the home cook. But armed with a few of the essentials, making sushi at home is entirely possible.
A meal at Sushi Noz is certainly about the food—but Noz believes that coming to the restaurant is also a bit of a show. That’s where his collection of Japanese ceramics fits in. The restaurant is home to a trove of imported items, ranging from antiques to contemporary plates, which the chefs serve sushi on. “How customers perceive Japanese culture is important,” he says. “That’s why I value using antiques.” For example, Noz uses a matcha bowl to hold tezu, a liquid made from water and rice vinegar. It’s an ingredient employed by every sushi chef. By lining your hands and fingers with tezu, Noz explains that “when we grab the rice, it makes our hands stick to it less.”Buy Now
This specially designed fridge is key to storing fish and keeping it fresh at Sushi Noz. Two slots at the top of the fridge hold large blocks of ice—the gentlest way to preserve fish—which generates mildly cold air to age the fish, thus preserving the freshness and flavor. Plus, the carpenter-made fridge is built out of its namesake hinoki wood, a wood that kills bacteria.
Noz boasts a large collection of Japanese knives, each with an explicit purpose. Some are designed to be extra sharp—so sharp that they won’t kill the nutrients of the fish when slicing into it. Others are used to chop vegetables, or specifically for slicing tuna, or leaf carving art. “We control the thickness, length, and weight [of the fish] with the knives,” he says, which is why using the right knife for the right job is so important.Buy Now
If there’s one thing that stays the same at Sushi Noz, it’s the use of binchotan charcoal to sear fish. Different from a gas torch, bincho charcoal provides a different heat distribution and the distinct aroma from the smoke permeates the fish. The wood is imported directly from Japan and can often be more expensive than the edible ingredients. Buy Now
A traditional Japanese tool, the hagama is a deep, rounded pan, complete with a ridged wooden top, that cooks rice. “The most important element of sushi is rice,” he says, which is why cooking it properly and getting it just right is so essential at Sushi Noz. By using the hagama, the rice is sweet inside but remains chewy on the outside.Buy Now
Header image by Chowhound.