I like sitting at the sushi bar at a restaurant. Tables are fine, but when I really want to get into things I sit at the bar. Omakase (chef’s choice) is much better when he is right in front of you, and even if you have your preferences, it’s always nice to watch it being made right in front of you and eating your hamachi moments after being cut. It’s also a great way to befriend the itamae.

When I started more regularly to sushi restaurants, there was one in particular that I would go to with my extended family. We went somewhat regularly, and were fortunate to always be seated at the bar. We got to know the itamae, Sato-san, well enough that he would always seem to find something different or unusual for my cousin and me (two kids who would eat pretty much anything) and was a really friendly guy.

He took notice of us because we took notice of him. We were full of questions, and he was full of tricks. Not those silly Benihana circus-like kind of tricks, but to a 16 year old who is one of the only non-Japanese people in a restaurant, origami and unusual seafood items served in a creative manner are always interesting, at least to me.

I may be older now and not quite as fascinated by origami, however when I get the chance, I always sit at the sushi bar, especially when I know I’ll be back. The itamae will get to know you, and he will sometimes suggest other items if he thinks what you ordered might not be the best that day, and is often a really interesting person.

He knows the food he handles and can be your guide as well as your chef. Often, if you show an interest in his skills he will steer you right.

Buy him a beer (as I mentioned before). Talk to him. Ask about the special or unusual items (often reserved for the Japanese clientele who are more familiar with them). But most of all, enjoy your stay at the bar because you may discover things you would otherwise have overlooked.


Warren Ransom

I have always been fascinated by the creation and culture of different foods, particularly sushi and sashimi in the modern era of Japanese cuisine. I am a classically trained chef and sushi connoisseur, also having operated a food service company and enjoy investigating and experimenting with food around the world.

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