Sushi has become more than fashionable in most of the western world. Sushi consists of fresh pieces of fresh sea food combined with a myriad of other ingredients and usually served on rice and presented in exceptional and delicious ways. For those who have come to appreciate sushi, omakase offers an entirely unique sushi experience above and beyond the standard sushi on a plate. |
The Japanese term "omakase" means to entrust your self to the chef, called an "itamae." You are literally placing the choice of ingredients and presentations in the hand of the sushi cook, itamae. In some of the lower class sushi restaurants, this results in a combined plate of recognizable items or items the itamae is simply trying to get out of his kitchen (which is hopefully not the case for you, but the lower quality restaurants may attempt this). However, in the more desirable sushi restaurants, one will be presented with the freshest seasonal items that might have never been perceived as well as traditional favorites presented in brand new and interesting manners.
The sushi chef should be aware of your preferences and items you may already know that you don't like when selecting the items and preparations. For example, you may order a serving of omakase while specifying that no mackerel be used. You should still get a high quality blend of different types of fish and different displays, but no mackerel should be on the plate. If he or she (rarely a she as in Japan, women were traditionally not allowed to be sushi chefs as it was thought their hands were too warm for the delicate fish) is particularly creative, you may find variations of the same fish alongside a plethora of seafood you may or may not recognize.
Some individuals think that it is best to go to a sushi establishment where they are recognized by the itamae. When this is the case, they feel that they will only be presented with items the chef knows they will enjoy. However, to honestly enjoy the experience, it does not matter if the individual is known to the chef or not as he will still be using fresh, distinct items that one might not have ever considered trying or might not have encountered at any time previously.
It is very feasible that your plate will contain items you have never considered trying or possibly presentations which you do not find appealing. While it is considered poor manners to leave food on the plate, you are not being forced to eat something unappealing without question. However, if you have requested this as a means to try something new and diverse, you might consider at least trying each different variety of sushi available. You could very well find some new favorites hiding there, as many times seasonable items are offered that are rarely seen otherwise.
Restaurants like it when customers order omakase often. They are able to charge a higher price for the meal because it highlights not only the very best of ingredients available at that time, but the capabilities of the itamae too. This also makes it a lot simpler for them to plan food costs into their purchasing.
Itamaes enjoy preparing this because it gives them a chance to express their creativity. Creating an omakase meal is the same as creating a masterpiece in the art world to the chef. He will work harder to ensure the diner gets an experience that will be unforgettable with his choices of ingredients and presentations. In fact, many diners have been stimulated to take photographs of their meal before eating because the presentation was so beautiful.
It is a well recognized fact that the Japanese are a people who place high status on honor. When one puts his trust in the itamae to choose the meal and how it will be presented, one extends to him a great honor. Most will put only their best efforts into preparing a meal for customers who have respected them in this fashion. Even familiar items will be handled with more care and a focus to detail.
Every chef has a different perspective of the food that he or she serves. But omakase is the ultimate expression of confidence to a sushi chef. It is also the opportunity for one who relishes sushi to expand horizons and try new tastes. This may not be the meal choice for one who is set in his ways or doesn't like trying new things. However, it can heighten the experience for the ones who already enjoy sushi or attract some who have never tried sushi to contemplate it. Sushi diners are assured they will be served the very best and most ideal of ingredients available, including seasonal choices they might have never considered trying in the past. The presentation is certain to take the dining experience to a completely new level, with most itamaes putting extra time and effort into creating a meal that is as visually appealing as it is tasty. For these reasons, omakase is a treat that many people often overlook as they are not sure what it is, but if you like to try new things, this is the perfect option for your next visit to your favorite sushi restaurant.
If you are interested in omakase, sushi and sashimi, please check out The Sushi FAQ at http://www.sushifaq.com.
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