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One of the questions most asked about visiting a sushi bar is "What are some of the customs and etiquette of sitting and eating at a sushi bar?" The main thing is... HAVE FUN!!
The sushi bar is a great place to eat, drink and meet some new people. Here are some guidelines that we have found out over the years.
I have found a passage on Sushi Bar Etiquette in the great book entitled SUSHI. Written by Mia Detrick, Illustrated by Kathryn Kleinman, it is a fantastic handbook for anyone who loves sushi. I will try to get permission to reproduce the exact text of the chapter on Etiquette here, but for now I will give you some of the points covered.
A point that is important, the Japanese will not snub you or comment on any breach of manners that you make because it would be rude to embarrass a guest by making a fuss about a slight lapse.
The hot towel given to you by the waitress is used to wipe your hands at the beginning of your visit to the sushi bar. You can use it during the meal to wipe your hands but a napkin will also be provided for your lap.
Your place at the sushi bar will have a small saucer, and a pair of chopsticks. The chopsticks will be wrapped in paper and connected at the top. They have not been used before. When you are not holding the chopsticks place them parallel to the edge of the counter, either on the small ceramic holder or against the side of the saucer. When you unwrap the chopsticks you will NOT need to rub them together to clean off the splinters. Good sushi bars use high quality hashi (chopsticks), they will not provide you with anything that will hurt you, and it is a bit rude to think the sushi bar would provide inferior materials.
You may order drinks from the waiter/waitress and you can order a bowl of soup from them. If you want other foods from the restaurant menu, you should order this from the waiter or waitress. The sushi chef is there to take only sushi or sashimi orders. It is not his job to take drink orders or other food orders.
Soup is hot. It is the best way to serve the Misoshiru (Miso Soup) or Suimono (Clear Broth). You may use your chopsticks to pick out the solid pieces, and you can drink the soup as you would a cup of tea. Slurping (a slight sipping sound) is OK.
Pick up sashimi with your chopsticks, not your fingers.
Shredded white radish (Daikon) is to nibble on between sushi orders, use chopsticks to eat this daikon. Thinly sliced ginger (Gari) is to nibble on between sushi. Wasabi is pale green, very spicy horseradish. Wasabi is mixed with soy sauce in the little saucer. Do not make wasabi soup and do not drown the sushi and sashimi in the soy sauce. The sushi chef provides great tastes for you to enjoy and it is horrifying to see the flavors lost in a sea of soy sauce.
Sushi is finger food. You can use your chopsticks to pickup sushi, but you might drop your sushi. Pick up the sushi, turn and dip the fish part, not the rice, into the soy sauce-wasabi mixture, and put the whole portion in your mouth, flipping the sushi so that the fish is on your tongue. Less is more when it comes to dipping sushi into soy sauce, you, do not want to obliterate the subtle sushi flavors. One other thing, try not to bite the sushi in half and place the remainder back on the plate.
You may offer a beer or sake to your sushi chef, but he doesn't expect it. If you have a drink with him, he will toast with Kampai! (To your health).
If you use your chopsticks to pick at a communal dish, use the back end of your chopsticks.
No smoking at the sushi bar.
Try to eat all the food that is ordered, it is considered bad form to waste food.
When you are finished, place your chopsticks on your small soy saucer, (not just the tips leaning on the saucer), parallel to the sushi bar. This will let the chef know you are done. You may also tell him that you are finished ordering sushi.
You can tell the sushi chef when you are done, but ask the waitress for the check. In Japan the people who handle food do not handle the money. In Japan the gratuity is included in the bill and you are not supposed to leave a tip in that country. But, in the United States a large tip is OK, consider the personal service and that the chefs share tips with the rest of the restaurant.
All of these points are taken more in depth in the book "SUSHI". Written by Mia Detrick, Illustrated by Kathryn Kleinman The Headlands Press, Inc., Chronicle Books San Francisco
So, Enjoy your visit to the sushi bar. Please let us know if this page helps. Send a note if you have discovered other customs that you would like to pass along.
Cheers. Mr.hamachi and Mr.uni.
From About.com Japanese information.
From Hang On sushi
Three independent webpages with etiquette information.
Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided "as is" and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information with the relevant parties before dining.
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