Counter Intelligence

Tips from a SushiMaster

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on April 7, 2009

sushiThis past Saturday at DC’s first SushiMasters competition, I was one of five judges critiquing several area sushi chefs– and the least experienced judge at that.  It was facinating to watch chefs from Tara Thai, Sticky Rice, Cafe Mozu and Perry’s show off their creativity and knife skills on stage.

Among the judges were Kaz Okochi of Kaz Sushi Bistro (check out Kaz’s super informative blog here) and Toshio Takeishi, a retired restaurateur; he opened New York’s Makoto in 1965– one of the city’s first sushi restaurants. When I lived there, we used to make the pilgrimage uptown for a seat at the bar. Now Takeishi is retired and lives in Bethesda.

Several times a year, he goes to Japan to convey what he sees as essential knowledge for sushi chefs who want to work in the U.S. “When it comes to sushi, history is fundamental. It’s most important,” he says. In his classes, his first few minutes are spent on how to greet customers and interact with them as they’re perusing the menu.

A couple of other things I learned from him I thought were facinating. One, he thought the order of sushi is important. “It should be a journey on the plate,” he said, pointing to one place and looping clockwise. “And it should also be fun.” He suggested mild to strongest fish.

In addition, he suggested starting with egg, “to tell the skill of a sushi chef.” It stimulates the appetite, he said. And the way it’s presented and seasoned demonstrates the chef’s skill.

As much as he enjoyed each chef’s specialty rolls, he noted when a bar is busy, making rolls takes too much time. “They’re for catering or an anniversary in Japan,” he said. And super fresh fish should not be handled for very long. “Five seconds,” he says, cupping his hands. “Rice, fish, plate, serve.”


One Response

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  1. RestaurantZoom said, on October 10, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    I am just finding this entry Melissa. It looks and sounds like you had a great time. We are jealous:-) I love that 5 second thing and also starting with the mildest fish first. Never occurred to me.

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