Thursday, 24 April 2014

It's sushi for a President - Barack Obama at Tokyo's most famous sushi restaurant

It has three Michelin stars, only 10 seats and Barack Obama was the guest there yesterday of Japanese Prime Minister Shinto Abe.
And the presidential verdict on Sukiyabashi Jiro? "That's some good sushi right there," he said. "It was terrific. Thank you so much."

David Gelb, who directed a film about Jiro Ono described for US National Public Radio what it's like to dine at such an iconic place.
For starters, the restaurant is hidden in the basement of an office building and offers only one item on its menu — the omakase course, which can cost between $300 and $400 per person. It consists of 20 pieces of sushi, prepared and served one at a time.
"There are no appetizers, no rolls of any kind," Gelb says. "It's purely his style of sushi, which is kind of the classic Tokyo style, which is basically just fish and rice and seasoning, maybe a soy sauce or a nikiri, which is a kind of sweetened soy sauce."
And if you're fortunate enough to be one of Ono's costumers, don't even think about ordering off the menu — even if you are the president of the United States. "The Jiro that I know would not change his sushi for anyone," Gelb says, adding that "he just gives you what he feels is the best of the day."
There are a few clues on the maestro's website to help us mere mortals improve our own sushi style.
  • Get the temperature right
Sushi rice or vinegared rice (su-meshi or shari) is the first consideration for nigirizushi (literally, hand-formed sushi). And the most important point for shari is to keep its temperature around the human body temperature, otherwise the sushi will never satisfy the customer. Our practice is to cook the rice so that it is done about 30 minutes before we welcome customers, to meet their high expectationsIt takes about 60 minutes from starting to wash the rice until it is done (we only use cast iron gas rice cookers that cook the rice for sushi much better than an electric cooker). The vinegar mixture or dressing prepared for sushi is slowly poured over the cooked rice to blend with it. It is then cooled down to body temperature and placed in a covered wooden rice tub, which is in turn placed in a covered straw container to keep the temperature. The vinegar mixture is absorbed by the rice to make the hardness of each grain of rice perfect for sushi. Now the shari is done.
  •  Choose the rice vinegar carefully
Jiro’s sushi rice or shari is prepared with a slight sourness for a better taste, and we increase the sourness in the height of summer. We use natural salt from salt evaporation pools containing much bittern (or nigari for culinary use in Japanese) to prepare our vinegar mixture for sushi.
Our shari with its mild taste and slight sourness, when topped with neta or sushi toppings, produces an outstanding balance, an exquisite combination of pure flavors between shari and neta, which is very important for sushi.
  • Control the temperature of the toppings 
The flavor and taste of neta or sushi toppings, which are typically raw fish, greatly depend on the temperature at which each topping is kept before use. Some toppings must be kept slightly cool; others must be kept at room temperature or around human body temperature.About 20 different toppings are offered at Sukiyabashi Jiro. We very carefully control the temperature of these toppings until immediately before serving to ensure that each topping is served at the ideal temperature.
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