Sushi is not just FISH on RICE. It is the perfect harmony, of the sweetness and warmth of the vinegared rice in perfect balance with the Neta/Fish that is either completely fresh, or has been aged properly to bring out its maximum flavor. Then, the seasoning (salt, citrus, soy) needs to be applied with absolute PRECISION.
For Sushi in Japan, you would think it would be good everywhere, but it’s simply not true. I booked a last minute trip to Japan for Noodles and Beef to get a few last minute ideas for Arsenal, and along the way stopped into some Michelin starred Sushi spots, by cross-checking TABELOG (www.tabelog.com/en) and the Michelin guide, along with Tripadvisor – which usually isn’t reliable for food and Yelp – less reliable overseas than in the US.
-The Michelin 1 star sushi spots in America are better than the 1 star spots I tried in Japan.
-There is NO SHORTCUT for sushi – young sushi chefs in America and Japan 99% of the time are nowhere near the skill of 50 year old sushi chefs.
-Rice is everything. Bad rice- undercooked or overcooked, not packed correctly, rice too hot or too cold, vinegar and sugar ratios and using rice that is better than the norm of your customer (surprising at some of the sushiyas the rice quality is worse than what I use at home on a daily basis. For Home cooks trying to impress your date/wife/husband or for chefs… I said it before. Don’t underestimate your customer.
-the best sushi I’ve had no questions asked has not been in a Michelin starred sushi restaurant (not even Ichimura NYC which is very good) – it has been hand caught Santa Barbara sea urchin, abalone, female spiny lobster, and Southern California rock scallops. Line caught yellowfin tuna from a 40 pounder, bled and aged in house. You just can’t buy that fresh and can’t beat hand-picked. By the time it arrives at the restaurant it’s at least a few days old. Fine for some species of fish but not for the above(except tuna).
-If there is a sushi meal and not one piece in the entire meal hits the spots or has a WOW factor, I won’t go back.
-Sushi is all about rice quality, fish quality, aging technique; proportion of fish to rice, temperature of fish, temperature of rice, and TIMING+ Pace of the meal. It’s very strange to see some sushiyas here in Japan start with Otoro, it doesn’t have a lot of logic behind it.
After eating here, Los Angeles and NYC have places that stack up (are better than) the 1 michelin places here.
Ichimura (2 stars) NYC
Sushi Zo LOS ANGELES
Sushi Yasuda NYC
Of course, the rice at some of these places is better due to years of experience. Sadly the best rice I had in Japan was not at a sushi restaurant – it was a 280 Yen bowl of raw egg over rice at a Chicken Ramen place (actually Soba noodles).
But, the product…fish… if you want the best, you gotta pursue that food.