Experiment: Sashimi

Not all experiments are successes in the way that we traditionally think about success. Sometimes it takes a couple of failures to realize that there’s a better way to prepare a dish.

A couple of months ago, Michelle and I were visiting our friend Andrew in Bellevue, Washington. We wanted to treat ourselves to a nice dinner and were considering going to Shiro’s, a restaurant previously owned by the apprentice of Jiro in “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”. However, I ultimately decided that no omakase could be worth $75 per person to me. We made a compromise and went to Musashi’s, a cheaper Japanese restaurant in Bellevue (It was delicious by the way).

If you are anything like me, you have definitely paid $15 or more for an assortment of sashimi at a Japanese restaurant under the premise that the chef can prepare and serve the fish better than you can. I’ve always wondered how difficult it actually is to prepare sashimi. After all, it seems simple enough. Buy some sashimi-grade salmon and tuna, sharpen your sushi knife (or in my case, my generic knife), and cut bite-sized pieces of fish.

So I decided to give it a try. We went to Yaoya-San, a small Japanese grocery store  in Albany and sure enough sashimi-grade sushi was being sold at a very reasonable price. I bought some salmon and albacore, along with some ingredients for ramen (more on our ramen experiment to come). And when I got home, I spent 20 minutes watching YouTube videos on how to cut sashimi.

After much review, I realized that I just had to give it a try. I cut a couple of slices of sashimi and took a bite. To my chagrin, the sashimi did not melt in my mouth as I hoped. Instead it was a thicker, jagged, room temperature piece of fish. I can’t say it tasted bad, but I definitely would not pay a restaurant premium for it. But since I had already purchased the fish, I tried cutting the remainder of the fish at different angles and thickness. We attempted to make nigiri and even tried making hand rolls with sheets of nori, sushi rice, avocado, and cucumber. These turned out better as I could hide the poor quality of my cuts with other ingredients. Throughout the night I would say that I improved my technique thanks to Michelle as a taste tester, but I wasn’t quite able to master cutting the sashimi with the same dexterity as a sushi chef (shocker).

Sake Nigiri
Sake Nigiri

This experiment was not a success in the traditional sense: I wasn’t able to produce restaurant quality sashimi by the end of the night. But I had a lot of fun trying and am now able to fully appreciate the skill required for preparing sushi. So I encourage you to be bold and try cooking something different, even if it seems complex or daunting. You may just discover something you like more in the process!

– “Sushi Chefs”

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