As long as I have been eating sushi, I have been under the impression that the quality of the sushi depends on the freshness of the fish and that the best sushi is necessarily more expensive because it utilizes the most expensive cuts of fish. It turns out that I was under a misapprehension. According to Master sushi chef Naomichi Yasuda,
1. Fresh fish has no taste . It is just hard and chewy
2. You don’t need expensive cuts of fish to make exquisite sushi.
3. Rice, not fish, is the most important ingredient in making sushi.
Rice is more important than fish in sushi ?!!This will sound almost heretical to a sushi lover but Chef Yasuda speaks from a wealth of experience. For twenty-seven years he lived in New York City and was the chef and part owner of Sushi Yasuda, one of the best ( if not the best ) sushi restaurants in NYC. Then, in 2011, he suddenly pulled up stakes and relocated to Tokyo where he runs a small 14-seat sushi restaurant with his wife as his sole helper. His friend , Anthony Bourdain, tracked him down in Tokyo and interviewed him for one of the episodes on his TV show, Parts Unknown. Why did Chef Yasuda relocate to Tokyo so suddenly and after such a long successful stint in NYC? According to him, it was simply a desire to work in the city which is the home of sushi.
Like other top chefs, Chef Yasuda also gets his fish at Tokyo’s world famous Tsukiji market but , unlike them, he does not get up in the middle of the night to get there at 4 AM. Unlike them he doesn’t pay top prices for pieces of toro, the fatty belly meat of the tuna.He gets there later in the morning and selects from among the lesser pieces of tuna, often pieces from the head. He then transforms them by dint of his masterful knife skills and by ” curing” the tuna meat, often by freezing it in a blast freezer for a week or more. Chef Bourdain who ate at Chef Yasuda’s Tokyo restaurant says that his sushi is as good as it ever was.
What a difference between Chef Yasuda and Chef Jiro whose highly acclaimed sushi restaurant received three Michelin stars. Jiro is no doubt dedicated to his craft but he comes across as a sourpuss and an elitist. Not so chef Yasuda who laughs readily and seems a much friendlier type. If I were to go to Tokyo again I know whose sushi I would want to sample.
P.S Bourdain’s show Parts Unknown is worth watching but the quality of the episodes is uneven. The show is more about the culture of a place and only incidentally about food. The episode on Tokyo riffs on night life, bondage, the sexual nature of mangas and other topics and” Viewer discretion is advised”.