If temaki is still as foreign to you as Tokyo, read on. We tell you all about raw fish and rolls, seaweed and sashimi — everything you need to know to become a sushi sophisticate
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Sushi Bar Etiquette
So you’ve just seated yourself at a sushi bar and are all ready to dig in. If you’re confused about what to do next, then read on:
If you’re handed a hot towel, use it to wipe your hands and fold it again neatly, leaving it next to you in case your fingers get sticky. Pour a bit of soy sauce into the small dish found at your place, and — if you’re into a little spice — mix in a bit of wasabi with your chopsticks. “We do not usually mix wasabi in with the soy sauce in Japan,” says Idesako. “But this is America — here you can do whatever you like.”
The itamae (sushi chef) behind the bar only handles sushi, so if you’d like soup or salad with your meal, ask the waitress.
The soy sauce in your dish is great for dipping, but diners often soak up a little too much and are left with an overly salty surprise. To avoid this, dip your sushi fish-side down; the rice soaks up sauce like a sponge. The pale pink or white pickled ginger slices on your plate are perfect for cleansing your palate: eat just a small piece after sampling different types of sushi so your next bite will be just as flavorful as the last.
Chopsticks or your good old fingers? Eat maki, temaki, and nigiri with your fingers; use chopsticks for sashimi, inari, and chirashi. Rolled sushi and nigiri easily fall to pieces otherwise, and you don’t want a mess on your hands. Although sushi is typically eaten in one bite, it’s perfectly acceptable to take two bites if you think the piece is too large.
Always tip the itamae separately from the waitress, but never hand over the money directly. An itamae is trained to only touch the knife, towel, rice, and fish. Leave the tip on the table in front of you.
Next: Our favorite Valley sushi bar (it's closer to you than you think!) »
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