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Sushi Omakase

omakase and sushi in general

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omakase and sushi in general

Stan | Oct 11, 2003 05:41 PM

These are beginner type questions but you have to start somewhere. I have been going to sushi bars occasionally for years, but I will admit that I am still unclear on the concept. I don't want to be an embarrassing clueless non-Japanese sushi eater any more, so I am hoping that you can explain some things to me.

The main thing I want to understand is "omakase". This means, basically, the sushi chef gives you one serving after another of sushi, his choice? How do you pronounce "omakase"? Which syllables do you stress? How do you ask for it? Do you say to the chef, "I want omakase", or do you order it from the waitress? I've heard of chefs refusing to serve omakase to people who, I assume, looked like they were incapable of appreciating it. Does this happen? What are the top mistakes to avoid? Does it make a big difference to say a few words of impossibly mispronounced Japanese when you walk in, or is it better not to bother?

I also want to understand about "rolls". If I understand correctly, there are two completely different sorts of things that are called rolls: California-type rolls that are cut-up cylinders with rice and fish and stuff inside, and so-called hand rolls, which are conical and not cut. I understand that California rolls are a Japanese-American invention and regarded as inauthentic by purists. That's fine. Hand rolls, though -- are they authentic? Is it ever a faux pas to order them?

Now, there is the matter of dipping your sushi into soy sauce. If I understand correctly, Americans prove their cluelessness by using too much soy sauce and too much wasabi, and by soaking their sushi rice in the mixture, when in fact one is supposed to use wasabi sparingly and only dip the tip of your fish in the soy sauce and wasabi bowl. Is that right? If not then what is?

Okay, I imagine that these questions make me sound clueless. But they are honest questions and I would appreciate whatever anyone can do to help answer them.

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