Everything you need to know about sushi

Sushi is a delectable dish but it isn’t the easiest delicacy to eat for beginners – particularly those who are less than efficient with their chopsticks. But, fear not, there are a number of basic hints and tips that will help you when you arrive at your favorite sushi restaurant – from seating arrangements to sushi eating etiquette.
I love sushi but I also care about the environment and it’s very important that this is your first consideration as well and that you choose a sushi restaurant that serves sustainably sourced seafood and doesn’t use any species that are considered ‘at risk’. I live in London and I have been very impressed with the policies implemented by my local sushi restaurant, Feng Sushi in the Kensington area.
So – now let’s look at the etiquette best practice when eating at a sushi restaurant in London or throughout the world. The most important elements to remember when visiting a sushi restaurant include:
1) Your Arrival – Depending on the authenticity of the sushi restaurant and the staff that they employ, you are likely to be greeted at the entrance by a hostess who may or may not greet you with the traditional Japanese welcome of ‘irasshaimase’ which simply means ‘come in’. The vast majority of sushi bars today have a seating arrangement whereby you can sit at the bar and actually watch the food being made by the chef – if this is something that you would like, then politely ask the waitress to be seated at the sushi bar.
2) Ordering your Sushi – This is the fun part! Be sure to take the time to properly peruse the sushi menu and see which delicacies are on offer. If you happen to be sitting at the sushi bar, most restaurants encourage their diners to interact with the chef so don’t be afraid to ask him / her questions. Ask questions along the lines of which dishes they would recommend and be sure to compliment the chef on their cooking skills if you’re impressed with their techniques.
3) Eating your Sushi – If you’ve never had sushi before, there are a few eating etiquette tips that should stand you in good stead. For example, when you’ve finished your meal, place your chopsticks together in the dish provided and don’t feel that you need to eat all sushi dishes with your chopsticks – it is perfectly acceptable to eat many of the items with your hands. To slurp or not to slurp, that is the question – the answer is that it is generally fine to slurp your noodles and this is, in fact, unavoidable for many diners so don’t feel self-conscious about doing it yourself. In terms of beverage, try to avoid ordering sake with sushi even if it is tempting to do so if this is your first experience of Japanese cuisine. The reason for this is that sake is derived from rice and won’t be particularly well balanced when eating other rice based dishes.
These are only a few rudimentary tips to help those who are thinking of visiting a sushi restaurant for the first time and by no means a definite list of do’s and don’ts. The most important thing is to enjoy your sushi and the experience of eating in a Japanese atmosphere.
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