What kind of restaurant?
There are several different kinds of sushi restaurants: counter restaurants, where you will sit at a traditional sushi counter facing the sushi chef(s), conveyor belt (kaiten) restaurants, where the sushi is transported on a conveyor belt and you help yourself as you wish, and table service restaurants, where the sushi is brought to you according to what you order. Whichever you choose, a little background knowledge will help you to order what you want, how you want it.
Where to begin?
Whichever type you choose, on arrival you will likely receive a cup of agari, or green tea, which is usually free of charge in Japan, and can be refilled as often as required.
If you’re at a counter or a restaurant, you can ask the chef or waiter what he recommends by asking, ‘kyo no o-susume wa nan desu ka? ’, and then choosing accordingly. Alternatively you could leave the choice up to the chef by saying, ‘o-makase’, although it may be wise to specify a price limit as well!
Try out some Japanese phrases:
kyo no o-susume wa nan desu ka
What is your recommendation today?
Sanjuppondo no omakase de
Chef’s selection up to a value of £30, please
Sabi nuki de onegai shimasu
Without wasabi, please
Kai / tako / unagi wa tabemasen
I don’t eat shellfish / octopus / eel
That was delicious (said at the end of a meal)
Excuse me! (for attention)
How to proceed?
If you do decide to choose your own dishes, or if you are in a kaiten restaurant, remember that there are no rules when it comes to the order in which you eat sushi, but it is generally better to begin with light, white fish and then move on to rich, fatty fish such as tuna. Sweet tamago or egg sushi is often eaten at the end of a meal, rather like a dessert. Take a look at our guide to the different types of sushi, for some handy hints.
Choose fish according to season
The taste of fish varies according to the time of year. Even those which can obtained all year round taste better when they are in season, and they are usually reasonably priced at that time too. Also, if the sushi bar can get their hands upon an especially food fish, it will become the day’s special, so be sure to give it a try.