How To Be a IKI or Good Customer at Sushi Bar in Japan

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Sushi Chefs in Japan

 

When you go to Sushi bars in Japan, you may feel little different, rather confused, because there seems to be many rules and manners you should keep at Sushi bars in Japan.

Overall, in Japanese culture, people live within may unspoken agreements and rules.  So naturally, there are some unspoken agreement between customers and sushi chef s when you visit sushi bar in Japan.

 

For example, at sushi bar in Metropolitan Tokyo area, where Edomae  (meaning Tokyo style) Sushi or what we call “sushi” in America (Maki and Nigiri) originated from,  it is important for the people to keep their “cool,” or so called IKI.  Tokyo natives need to be IKI all the times, and that rule applies to the chefs and customers in sushi bars, as well.

 

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Kyo-Zushi from Kyoto

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“Kaisen” or sea food Chirashi Sushi of Kishi Sushi, Kyoto

In IKI spirit, people have to be generous and trustworthy.  Therefore, if you go to an established sushi bar, they do not have menu.  The chef provides the best he has for the day and the customer enjoy the best of all, and if customer is satisfied, they will pay.

Sometimes the bill is higher than you thought. But you need to pay up without asking, The logic of this is that you went to eat at the restaurant because you trust the quality and service of the restaurant.  And the chef is not supposed to rip you off.

SCARED?

Do not worry, many sushi restaurants in Japan welcomes foreign customers, and if you have some tips, you can be a IKI customer in sushi bar in Japan.

 

 

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President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at legend sushi restaurant  Sukiyabashi-Jiro (April 2014)

 

Here are some tips you may wanna know TO BE A IKI CUSTOMER:

 

1. Portions?

If you go to sushi bar during the lunch time, it may be easier for you to order lunch menu. For dinner, I would recommend you to order 10 PAIRS OF SUSHI.  (Remember, in Japan, sushi always comes with a pair, not a piece!)  You can also ask sushi chef to give you a small portion of rice balls.

Say “Shari Chisame De!”  It means I’d like my sushi rice portion smaller.

10 pairs should look something like this.

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2. What toppings of sushi should I start with and end with?

In IKI culture of Tokyo, it is recommended to order sushi by “Omakase.”  Omakae means menu of the day or a course assorted by chef.  People say, if you are IKI customer always  starts with EGG CAKE.  I sort of agree with them  because, taste of egg determines the skill of the chef.  I you feel funny with the taste, you can always leave the restaurant, and if you are IKI customer, you should do so to let the chef know that he/she is doing something wrong.

egg cake

Sushi with Egg Cake

Then, you wanna go on with WHITE MEAT, RED MEAT, RICH, and lastly, MAKI, to be a IKI customer.

For example, you can stat with Egg. Then go to Flatfish, Fatty Tuna, Eel, then lastly, dried gourd strips.

 

 

3. Ask the price of toppings

Even as an IKI customer, you can still ask chef approximate prices of the toppings, especially if the toppings are seasonable and you do not have any idea how much they are.

It is ok to ask!   Especially if you are not familiar with the toppings, you can always ask the chef for an idea. Communication with chef is a key to be a IKI customer.

 

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Communicatioin between chef and customers is a key at sushi bar in Japan. At one of the most well know sushi restaurant in Tokyo, Ginza Kyubey .

4.  Eat quickly!

IKI customers eat sushi as soon as it is served.  Freshness is important for sushi.  Also IKI customers do not stay at the restaurant for a long time.  IKI sushi customers usually spend 20-3o minutes at sushi restaurant and go.  Staying at sushi bar too long for nothing is totally against the law of IKI culture.

 

5. Eat with hand or with chop sticks?

Both of them are ok.

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Dipping sushi with fingers

 

 

6. Dip the topping side of sushi in soy sauce!

It may sound silly but there is a recommended ways for IKI customer to pursue when eating sushi.

Dip only the toppings in soy sauce, and put the topping side of sushi on your tongue.

Also, SO NOT EVER PUT TOO MUCH SOY SAUCE ON SUSHI!  This is a no-no for sushi master, and it really damages the sensitive taste of the sushi.

if you keep this rule, not only you are a IKI customerm but also you can enjoy the best out of your sushi order.

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How to dip sushi in soy sauce. Look at the amount of the sauce. Only little bit is always appropriate in eating Japanese food.

 

7. Refrain from smoking!

IKI sushi customer does not smoke in the restaurant because it bothers other IKI customers and it actually damages the taste of sushi.

 

8. Do not drink too much!

IKI customer go to sushi bar to enjoy the taste of sushi and communication with sushi chef.  Getting drunk is another no-no for IKI customer of sushi restaurant.  IKI customer will never get drunk and mess up other customers time and money at sushi restaurant.

 

9.  Do not wear too much perfume!

Again, combination of sensitive taste, smell of the food and the looks of the food is the three major elements of Japanese food on whole.  Wearing too much perfumes damages all those three elements.  IKI sushi customers will not dare to do so.

 

Got it?  Try these rules on your next trip to Japan, and I guarantee that you will be the coolest IKI sushi Customer in Japan!

Until next time, Bon Voyage!

 

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