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What to Look for in Quality Sushi

With so many sushi bars popping up all over the place and our palates sometimes used to the pre-packaged sushi we buy from the supermarket, it’s good to take a quick reminder course on what quality sushi is.  Whether you’re a first-timer or a long-time sushi expert, it’s helpful to keep the following criteria in mind when looking for quality sushi:

Before Sitting Down:

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  • Look for red bloodlines in the yellowtail and snapper, making sure they aren’t brown or cut away
  • The tuna should be top-notch as that’s the most expensive fish in the place
  • Make sure the albacore, escolar, shrimp and salmon are NOT on display as they should be kept in a freezer
  • Ask to make sure that the Tamago, Anago and shrimp rolls are all made in house, not pre-packaged
  • Engage the sushi chef, making sure they are knowledgeable and can steer you in the right direction for the catch of the day and what’s good there
  • Look for an open kitchen so you can see what the chefs are doing.  Make sure the workspaces are clean and in order

Sushi Set by Yuri Samoilov Photo, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by Yuri Samoilov Photo

Inspecting The Sushi: When the sushi arrives, make sure of the following:

  • The rice should be Calrose and properly cooked and seasoned.  It should be sticky and firm as well as a little sweet.  Bad rice equals bad sushi.
  • Start with namesake, Hamachi and tuna.  If they taste good, move onto the Uni and Saba, then try Unagi and tuna rolls.
  • Mackerel should be smooth and buttery
  • Saba should not be rubbery or smell
  • Almost everything you eat should be odorless, missing the fishy smell, or at the very least have a fresh sea smell.  No sour tastes should linger in the mouth (an exception could be Saba which is marinated with vinegar)
  • The colors should be vibrant and pop out; salmon should be orange, not purplish-brown; Maguro should be blood red; Toro should be marbled pink.
  • Shisho leaf should be fresh and minty, not bitter
  • Salmon should be sweet
  • Tamago should be sweet and salty
  • Unagi should always be served hot
  • Ikura should be slightly salty, but not brined
  • Tako and Ika should be crisp when you first bite into it, but then slightly chewy
  • Wasabi should be freshly grated from the root, not the green horseradish.  It should have zing, but not make you cry
  • Stay away from florescent pink Gari
  • The cut should be smooth, with one motion with no jagged edges; it should not be more than one or two finger lengths

Discover the different variety of Sushi in our Sushi section.

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