Omakase is music to the ears of the indecisive, as it means the chef’s choice based on the day’s best ingredients. In Hong Kong, one of the most hyped new openings offering this experience is The Araki in Tsim Sha Tsui – the latest outpost of Chef Mitsuhiro Araki, the only sushi master to date to have won three Michelin stars for his eponymous establishments in both Tokyo and London.
If you’re thinking of splashing the cash on such a treat, here are the etiquette rules for enjoying omakase sushi the correct way.
Do: Eat Quickly
The best sushi is served with warm rice at exactly the right temperature. Forget about the ‘camera eats first’ rule: focus on the delicacy in front of you. Eat it as quickly as possible so that you can enjoy it as it was meant to taste.
Don’t: Wear Perfume
Refrain from wearing perfume or cologne to a sushi restaurant, as it will spoil the delicate smell of the sushi.
Don’t: Add Soy
Contrary to popular practice, Araki provides only napkins and chopsticks on the table. You won’t find saucers of soy sauce or wasabi – because every piece of sushi is already seasoned.
Do: Use Your Hands
Perfectly formed individual pieces of sushi are passed directly to your hand, or placed on the counter. For the latter, it is fine to pick them up either with your hand or chopsticks. But make sure you turn the piece upside down and place the fish on your tongue, as recommended by Araki.
Always eat sushi in a single bite to fully appreciate the perfectly seasoned flavours.
A Brief History of Edomae Sushi
Edomae refers to a style of ‘fast-food’ sushi rustled up in Tokyo towards the end of the Edo period (1603-1868) to tackle the problem of how to stop fish from spoiling. At that time, itamae made nigiri sushi with the fresh catch of the day from Tokyo Bay and served it at nearby street stalls.
‘The original Edomae sushi wasn’t eaten raw’, explains Araki. ‘It was made with fermented and salted ingredients, such as vinegar and kombu (seaweed), as a way of preserving food before refrigeration.’
The style became so ubiquitous, it had a dominating influence on modern sushi, though today there are a bigger variety of neta (the ingredient on top of the sushi rice), ranging from natto (fermented soy beans) to avocado – although the jury’s out on if the latter counts as ‘real’ sushi.