Years ago, a high school friend was visiting and offered to take my kids to lunch. “Where do they want to go?” She suggested a few fast food joints. My kids shouted, “Sushi!” My friend had a good laugh and remarked on my children’s taste for months afterwards. But that’s my family. My son learned to read with manga, my daughter sewed a kimono at thirteen, they have a mother who wrote a song called “I Love You Japan,” and even my non-Japan-obsessed husband enjoys a round of Sushi Go!
As teens, my children took a cooking class, and one session was all about making sushi. Despite our family loving the rolled rice and fish dish, we had never attempted to create it ourselves. To get the class in the right frame of mind, they had a homework assignment to watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a beautiful journey with Master Chef Jiro Ono, who owns the most famous sushi restaurant in the world, Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, Japan. My children were inspired by the devotion, care, and creativity this artist brings to his craft. During the class, I peeked my head in the kitchen; it was very quiet as the participants tried their best to make sushi. The end product may not have been up to restaurant standards, but the respect was there, they had a wonderful time, and it was tasty!
Imagine our delight over the new book Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy, a simply designed, pocket-sized guide to the seasonal delights offered at Jiro’s restaurant. The restaurant has an omakase tasting menu. This means the sushi is created each day depending on the best fish found that morning at the market. “There is no better feeling in the world than making sushi with good tuna… But even in Oma, only one out of a hundred tuna meets our standards.” Diners are given about twenty pieces of sushi in a specified course order chosen by Jiro.
With striking photos, the book gives a sample of typical courses, describing the fish and why and how it is used. There is also a section on do’s and don’ts for eating the sushi. Oops. My son and I were surprised to find that dipping sushi in soy sauce is a no-no; the chef is supposed to have coated the sushi with just enough. However, the book does say that if the chef has not done this (typical here in America) you can take the ginger, dip that in soy sauce and “paint” the sushi with it. The reasoning is that the sushi will fall apart if you dip. Totally trying that next time at my favorite local Japanese restaurant.
The book is very accessible to lovers of sushi and those just curious about the famous cuisine. Like a haiku, the descriptions are succinct but poetic, “Roe-bearing mantis shrimp, cooked and then steeped in broth, is an effective palate cleanser. At the same time, its rich flavor blooms in your mouth.” My favorite tip: “Drink Some Tea.”
I wish I could go to Jiro’s restaurant! Alas, Tokyo is not in my travel plans anytime soon. Lucky for me, one of his apprentices, Chef Daisuke Nakazawa, has a sushi place in New York City. Perhaps a trip will happen, but in the meanwhile, I will sample the gem of Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy and be happy with my own dreams of sushi.
GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.