Sushi is the subject of many an article this month, from Bon Appetit to Food and Wine, to a mention in GQ. The September issue of Los Angeles magazine has been on the newsstands for several weeks aready now, but it's still only the middle of the month so I don't feel bad about mentioning In the Raw, an article highlighting LA's 15 best sushi restaurants (according to Patrick Kuh).
It isn't the elite group of 15 that Mr. Kuh has chosen to single out from hundred upon hundreds of restaurants in LA that interests me. I don't even care to know what makes Asanebo, The Hump, Kantaro Sushi, Katsu-Ya, Matsuhisa (the only one on this list I have tried), Nishimura, Sakura, Shibucho, Sushi Gen, Sushi Ike, Sushi Tenn, Tama Sushi, Urasawa and Wa Sushi & Bistro better than any of the others. If the author were someone else, the list would be different. When the highest quality fish levels the playing field, it's all just a game of personal taste.
Nor is it the so much the full page photos of triple X sushi porn. Ginger sliced so Victoria's lingerie-thin that there's no way it's hiding any secret. An orgy of curved tentacles tightly tangled together in an tantric embrace. Pristine white arching backward, opening up a soft curve. Slippery smooth, voluptuous, deep pink piece of fishy flesh, almost undulating right off the page.
*whew* Can I get a shot of ice cold sake, please?!?!
No, what inspires me this month are the tiny boxes on each page of text called Sushi 101, four little sushi basics that I have heard before and tried (but failed) to impress upon *ahem* friends. Here it is, in black and white! Written proof, pages that I can whip out of my purse during our next dinner and wave under their watering eyes from wasabi burn.
"Sushi is traditionally meant to be eaten in one bite; if it's too big, take a bite, but never put the remainder down. It's fine to eat sushi with chopsticks, though purists prefer using their fingers. Always eat sashimi with chopsticks."
"Wasabi is traditionally not mixed into the soy sauce - in Japan, at least. Better to apply it sparingly to the top of the fish. Ginger is intended to be a palate cleanser, nibbled between bites, rather than a sushi topping."
"Sushi is meant to be eaten as soon as possible after it has been made - one reason to sit at the counter. Keep your order small - maybe two fish at a time - and signal the chef when you are ready for more. Many people like to progress from white fish, like halibut, to more oily fish, such as mackerel.
It is considered rude to fill the shoyu sara - the dish used to hold soy sauce - so high that is splashes or overflows when the sushi is dipped in it. Sushi shouldn't be bathed in soy. Only dip a small corner of the fish; too much soy will overwhelm the other flavors. Try to avoid dipping the rice, which is eepecially absorbent and tends to fall apart when laden with sauce. Ideally, there shouldn't be any rice in your shoyu sara when you're done.
Of course, who's to say what's right and wrong? This is where I struggle with drawing the line between maintaining traditions and eating what you like, how you like. It pains me to see wayward pieces of rice floating in a deep murky greenish brown puddle in the soysauce dish, and I'm not even a sushi chef. But then again, I eat ginger like it's kimchee and order saba at the beginning, middle and end. :)