How to Order at a Sushi Bar


For the uninitiated, sushi might be the most intimidating meal ever. Raw fish? Seaweed? To eat? Even for diehard fans, it can be tough remembering the various types. Bring along a knowledgeable friend, or just jump in and try your luck. Either way, you're in for a delicious meal and will be dazzled by the sushi chef's deft, lightning-fast food preparation.

  • Ask the sushi chef to recommend the catch of the day, since sushi-grade fish is especially sensitive to seasonal changes.

  • Swim with the big guys by getting the basics down. Nigiri is fish pressed onto rice mounds. Maki are sushi rolls wrapped in nori seaweed, and sliced; temaki are hand-rolled seaweed cones containing rice and fish. Sashimi is raw fish.

  • Keep in mind that an average person eats 10 to 12 pieces in one sitting. Nigiri usually comes two pieces to the order; maki is sliced into six pieces. Begin with a few dishes and order more if people are still hungry.

  • Start with edamame (steamed and salted soybeans served in the shell), marinated seaweed salad, or miso soup if you'd like.

  • Order one or two types of nigiri. Hamachi (yellowtail), maguro (tuna), unagi (broiled eel) and sake (salmon) are popular choices. Sushi is served with wasabi (a green, sinus-clearing horseradish paste) and soy sauce. Experiment to see which condiments you prefer.

  • Ask the sushi chef to make you a surprise if you're ready for further adventures in sushi.

  • Follow up with some maki favorites: spicy tuna rolls, cucumber rolls or California rolls (cooked crab and avocado). Tobiko (crunchy fish roe) is a typical accompaniment.

  • Try uni (sea urchin) topped with a raw quail egg, if you're feeling bold.

  • Cleanse your palate between bites with a sip of green tea and some pickled ginger (traditionally served with sushi).

  • End the meal with tamago, a slightly sweet egg omelette atop rice, or a refreshing bowl of green tea ice cream.

Tips & Warnings

  • It's fine to use your fingers when eating sushi. Place the fish (not the rice) on your tongue to fully savor the flavor.
  • Sashimi (sliced raw fish) is technically not sushi. It's best to savor sashimi as an appetizer before you fill up on rice.
  • Tempura rolls, unagi, salmon skin rolls, California rolls and veggie rolls are good choices for those wary of raw fish.
  • Some folks enjoy sipping sake (hot or cold) or Japanese beer with their sushi.
  • If a sushi bar smells funny or it appears less than spotless, depart immediately.
  • Pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems should not eat raw fish.

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