OK. I appreciate all the advice in the thread below. My first experience wasn't as intimidating as I feared it might be, and I'll definitely eat sushi again.
While researching sushi, I came up with some definitions that seemed to be agreed upon, but during my meal the words were not used per the definitions I found on-line. As I understand it, "sushi" is kind of a general term for all these bite-size morsels, or specifically pertains to cooked fish. "Sashimi," per my research, seems to indicate unadorned raw fish. And "nigiri" seems to indicate raw fish and rice.
As it is practiced at the place I went to, and it's one of the more respected places in my town, "sushi" means raw fish with rice, "sashimi" is unadorned raw fish, and "nigiri" was nowhere to be seen.
Are there regional differences, either in the US or Japan, in the use or meaning of these labels? Or is this just an attempt on the restaraunt's part to conform to the typical American understanding of the words?
I tried, using the terms as I understand them, not as the restaurant used them, yellowtail nigiri and striped bass nigiri, and both were quite good. I also had a spicy tuna roll, which was very good although not spicy in my view until I added some wasabi, and an ebi tempura roll, which contained shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocada and tobiko. I had not run across "tobiko" in my research, but it seems to refer to a roe of some sort. Is this correct, does it go by any other names, and is it a specific type? The ebi roll was OK, but nothing special, except for the end pieces which contained fried shrimp tails that were very good. It also wasn't rolled very tightly, and was difficult to manuever intact to my mouth.
Overall, I was pleased, and would feel perfectly comfortable using the "omakase" technique from the NAF board, even if it scored me some uni; hey one mouthful can't kill you, right? If I am correct in my use of the terms above, is telling them I want omakase likely to work at this place? Also, if I tell them that, would they be more likely to put the spice in "spicy," or does spicy not mean the same thing in sushi as it does in other foods? I don't necessarily think of spicy as hot, although it can be, so much as more flavorful with the spices more at the fore.
Last question. Given the size of some of the pieces, two bites would have been more appropriate, but as the only utensil provided were chopsticks, I couldn't discern a way to take a bite of the rolls without the remaining portion falling to pieces; the nigiri were not a problem to eat in two bites. Is it appropriate to cram a huge piece in your mouth and chew with cheeks bulging? Or was I suffering at the hands of amateurs and the pieces should have been smaller? I'm fairly adept at chopsticks, so picking up the individual bits wouldn't be a problem, but it seems I would lose the essence of the combination.
To JMF, thanks for the Sapporo suggestion, a nice, light, refreshing beer.