How to Order at a Sushi Bar

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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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