If you are fortunate to have the enjoyable experience of eating something new, your life will be lengthened.
– Old Japanese proverb
When your maki or nigiri or sashimi arrives at your table, the presentation is nothing short of beautiful. Sushi chefs not only learn how to make sushi and how to choose the absolutely freshest fish, they also learn how to make food look like art. Don’t be afraid to disturb the lovely design—this is the ultimate in edible art.
You’re also served a pair of chopsticks, but don’t worry if you’re not an expert. Eating the pieces with your hands is also acceptable.
“It’s finger food,” says Chef Damh of the popular Koi Japanese restaurant in downtown Franklin. “You can use chopsticks for the smaller pieces, but for big pieces use your hand. And you don’t need to put the whole thing in your mouth. If it’s too big you can take a little bite out of it. Eat it in two bites. It’s okay.”
You’ll notice a small mound of bright green paste on your plate. This is wasabi, a delicious spicy condiment. There’s also a small serving of sliced pickled ginger. Chef Damh recommends, “You can eat ginger with the sushi, or eat it in between, like a chaser.” Drizzle some soy sauce into the small shallow dish that sits near your plate, and dip in your sushi for extra flavor.
At Koi, Chef Damh gears his menu toward what his customers love most. “People here like a lot of seafood and fruit,” he says, though he is quick to tell me that sushi can be made of almost anything, and chefs often cater to their region and clientele. Chef Damh says with a laugh, “We can even make sushi with catfish, or fried chicken—whatever the customers want!” koisushithai.com
by Paulette Licitra | photography by Anthony Scarlati
Glossary of Sushi terms
Maki are long rolls that are cut up into bite-sized pieces. They’re stuffed with rice and a wide variety of ingredients and rolled within a paper-thin, mild-tasting seaweed called nori. The filling can be as simple as one ingredient: cucumber or tuna. Or quite elaborate and dazzling with combinations like tempura-fried shrimp or crab, avocado, egg, and spicy mayo. “California roll or crunchy shrimp are good rolls for beginners to start with,” suggests Chef Damh.
Nigiri is a small, shaped mound of rice topped with a single piece of fish. Here’s where you’ll find a lot of raw super-fresh fish. Tuna and yellowtail are good starter choices. Chef Damh says, “Even beginners can eat it. It’s a very clean taste. No fishy taste at all.” One order of nigiri usually contains two pieces.
Sashimi is just like nigiri but without the rice—just the beautifully cut bite-sized pieces of fish.
Hand Roll or Temaki
Hand rolls look like pretty little cones of nori filled with many of the same ingredients you’d find in Maki: shrimp, cucumber, avocado, scallions . . . you name it!
Inari is a sweet-flavored, deep-fried tofu pouch stuffed with sushi rice, a good vegetarian alternative.
A particularly adventurous way of ordering is telling the chef to surprise you. O-Makase means “chef’s choice.” Chef Damh: “We have a lot of customers that sit at the sushi bar and say make us whatever you want to make us. Sometimes with a new customer I don’t give them everything at first until I know what they like.”