I don’t know if it’s just coincidence, but there seems to be a proliferation of sushi restaurants lately. Just within a couple of weeks, I visited the newly relocated Rangetsu, Oviedo’s Sushi Pop, Kyoto and Rikka Thai and Sushi in Lake Mary. (Don’t bother looking up the latter; it has closed already.) And there are several new ones on my list of places to check out. There’s even a sushi food truck in the works, which will either delight or horrify you. (I suppose it could do both.)
Add to that the tried and true sushi bars, such as Nagoya and Ichiban, which always offer reliably good product (and by the way, when you find a reliable sushi restaurant, one you really like, you should stick with it). And more recent newcomers, such as Dragonfly, Izziban, Wazzabi, and Bonsai Sushi, not to mention the wave of lobby sushi bars that have opened in many of the local hotels, including Rosen Shingle Creek, Rosen Centre, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress and Royal Pacific. Click here to go to the SJO sushi listings.
Sushi is the topic of today’s dining segment on 90.7 WMFE. (Listen at 5:45 Friday afternoon or hear the replay Saturday morning at 9:35. You can also listen online.)
Here are some other thoughts about sushi and what to look for in a sushi bar.
Sushi used to be confined to Japanese businesses, but over the last couple of decades we’ve seen it being offered at all types of restaurants, especially other Asian cuisines, such as Thai and Chinese. Restaurants offer it as a way to introduce fresh fish onto the menu. It’s also very popular, and it fits into the current culture of more casual dining — it’s not always a quick meal — the preparation can take a while — but it doesn’t take long to eat it.
What should you look for in a sushi bar? Obviously, freshness. Go to the sushi bar — even if you don’t want to eat there — and get a look at the fish in the case. If the fish and other ingredients look dry, that’s a sign that it may not be fresh. Also, if there isn’t much on display, that could be a sign that the chef wants to keep it out of sight. Ask the chef what is fresh and what he or she recommends. (Until recently — the last 20 years or so — sushi chefs were almost exclusively male, a tradition that dates back to the Samurai days. Women sushi chefs are becoming more common.)
For those who may not be familiar or might be intimidated, what are some of the types of sushi.
- A sushi menu can be very intimidating because of all the strange names and words. Even the names of the fish can sound foreign. You may not have heard of maguro but you’ve probably heard of blue fin tuna — they’re the same thing. If there’s a name you’re not familiar, ask if it’s known by another name in the west.
- Sushi actually refers to the rice and doesn’t necessarily mean raw fish, although that’s the most common way it’s prepared.
- Sashimi is raw fish, presented in bite-sized pieces.
- Nigirizushi is the sliced fish placed on top of a pad of rice.
- Makizushi is the rolled kind, usually with a sheet of roasted seaweed called nori. Maki is best for people who are new to sushi bars, and you’ll find the list of rolls in many of our sushi restaurants to be exhaustive and entertaining. It’s fun trying to figure out why they’ve selected the ingredients for their rolls.
- Chirashi is raw fish layered over a bowl of rice.
Sushi should be eaten with chopsticks but it’s perfectly OK to use your fingers.
If you’re sitting at the sushi bar, order your sushi items directly from the chef; kitchen foods and drinks should be ordered from the dining room server. And the chef should get a tip if you’re paying in cash — there’s usually a tip jar on the counter. Otherwise, just leave one tip on your credit card slip.