For my co-host Guy Fieri, pork is a food group.
For me, sushi is a food group. Not only is it yummy in my tummy, it’s low in fat, high in protein and chock full of Omega 3s.
In every city I visit, especially when I am solo, I seek out the local sushi bar. Unlike an airplane, where I often prefer to fly in silence, sushi bars are a bastion of conversation and conviviality.
My first order of business is to bond with the sushi man. It doesn’t matter how many sushi bars I frequent, I always want to please the sushi man. Not impress him, please him, with my thoughtful and authentic order. My general strategy is to order the traditional nigiri first: Hamachi, sake, hirame. Not the silly rolls. Those will have to wait until after I have earned the sushi man’s respect.
Perhaps I should never have read that book on sushi etiquette. Pity my poor pals when I was endlessly admonishing them about “the rules.” Recently I have reversed myself, although there are a few customs I can’t ignore. I never, ever, rub the wooden chopsticks together. I am careful not to make a palette-busting soup composed of wasabi and soy sauce. When sharing from a communal plate, I always turn my chopsticks upside down to take my food. That way I am not touching your pristine sashimi with the chopsticks that just left my lips. It is considered rude to leave rice from your nigiri on your plate. Always a problem for me as I don’t eat many starchy white carbs like rice. Back in the day I made a rice ball in my paper napkin with all the extra rice and disposed of it in the restroom like I used to do with my vegetables when I was a kid. Empowered now, I ask the sushi man for half rice with my nigiri (the better to eat the whole piece in one bite) and no rice with my handrolls (extra veggies instead).
When I am eating at a new sushi bar, I like to sit back, sip sake, and see what the regulars are ordering. At any other restaurant staring at other people’s fare might be considered rude; at a sushi bar it is a compliment. And forget what your mother told you about accepting food from strangers. I happily accept a taste of poki from the couple on my left.
I am getting a hankering for a silly roll now. First I order something off the specials board to ensure my good standing with the sushi man. He nods his approval when I request the Spanish Mackerel. It’s not my favorite but it is fresh. Having taken one for the team, I order a Godzilla roll, a concoction of spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, eel and avocado. For my closer I have my signature scallop roll.
I am rewarded with fresh oranges at the end of my meal. Maybe everyone gets the oranges; I prefer to see it as a sign that our sushi exchange went well.
NOTE: I would be remiss not to mention that Guy owns Tex Wasabi, a Rock n’ Roll Sushi BBQ restaurant, with two locations in Santa Rosa and Sacramento. If you are not a raw food fan, try his gringo sushi. These rolls feature fried food, french fries and the aforementioned food group, pork.
Check it out at texwasabis.com