Interview by KRISTY TOTTEN
BY NOW, you have your routine down pat. Extra wasabi, sparing ginger, a bottle — or two — of sake. Although you know what you like, these simple rules will enhance your sushi experience and give you an air of expertise. Here are a few tips we derived from Bryan Shinohara, general manager of Nobu Restaurant and Lounge at Caesars Palace. They don’t teach this stuff during all-you-can-eat.
It’s a common misconception that all wooden chopsticks need to be rubbed together to remove splinters. It’s only the very, very cheap chopsticks that need that treatment. If you go to a nice sushi restaurant, you’ll notice that the chopsticks are already partially separated; they’re only connected at the very top, and they’re already sanded down. There’s no need to rub those. Save it for the cheaper chopsticks made from one piece, with a perforated line. Other than that, it’s not necessary. It’s not disrespectful if you do rub them, it just marks you as a rookie.
CLEANSE, DON’T BLEND
Although some believe otherwise, it’s OK to add wasabi to soy sauce. But one thing that everyone gets wrong is the ginger: It’s a palette-cleanser. Some people put the ginger on each piece of sushi. It’s actually meant to be eaten after every piece of sushi to cleanse your palette so that the next fish you enjoy doesn’t taste like the last one or the next one.
YOU CAN LOOK, AND TOUCH
Sushi is traditionally a finger food. It’s OK to pick it up and eat it. That’s why at sushi restaurants you’ll get what’s called an oshibori, a hand towel usually served hot, sometimes chilled. After every piece of sushi you pick up, you can wipe your hands off. Chopsticks are optional.
SHARE WITH CARE
A lot of chopsticks have a slant at one end. That slanted end is for sharing. If you’re going to a restaurant where it’s family-style and you’re sharing everything, you don’t know everybody, it’s kind of like double-dipping. Instead of grabbing food with the part of your chopsticks that you put in your mouth, you’re supposed to use the slanted end to grab food from the center plate, put it on your plate and then flip around and use the other end to eat.
NEVER, EVER DO THIS
Don’t ever stick your chopsticks straight up in rice. That’s a sign of death. You only do that when you put rice on graves of family members, and you put the chopsticks standing straight up. Usually there’s a thing called a hashioki, and it’s a chopstick rest. Whether it’s a little porcelain oval shape or a stone, they’ll have something to rest your chopsticks on. Other than that, you can lay it flat across the top of the bowl or on a plate.
It’s tradition not to pour your own shot of sake. It’s considered to be bad luck. Pour for your company, and have them pour for you.