Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Here Fishy Fishy Fishy

For a huge sushi fan like I am, this article makes me feel a little guilty/stupid, but also hopeful. Apparently American sushi restaurants aren't exactly authentic. I know, surprise, surprise, but still, it makes me feel a little sad to know that the thing I love isn't all that great. But the good news is that American chefs are looking to bring sushi back to its roots.

"Instead of teaching us about the full range of sushi fish and shellfish, as well as the varied tastes and textures of the cuisine, most sushi chefs in the U.S. have neglected the Japanese style of eating and force-fed us simplistic menus that feature the least environmentally friendly—and least healthful—items: at the high end, bluefin tuna; at the low end, fatty belly cuts from lesser tuna; along with fatty industrial salmon, and factory-farmed shrimp and eel saturated in sugar. Until the latter half of the 20th century, none of these was considered suitable fare by connoisseurs of traditional sushi; none adheres to the Japanese practice of highlighting local, seasonal ingredients.

So imagine my delight when I walked into a sushi bar one evening and found not only a welcoming neighborhood atmosphere, but a chef who explained that he doesn’t serve bluefin tuna, because he doesn’t want it to go extinct."

Since over-fishing is such a problem, this practice of highlighting the local and seasonal is a really good thing. Also, it sounds like these more traditional sushi restaurants encourage discussion with the chef and other diners, so you can get to know a little more about the cuisine and maybe find new favorites.

Also cool--these chefs aren't just Japanese or Japanese. A lot of them are normal American chefs who want to encourage these traditional Japanese dining techniques. Hopefully this signals a trend.

This doesn't mean I'll be giving up on sushi in the meantime. (In fact, just writing this has made me hungry.) But I'm definitely looking forward to the reinvention of the sushi business.