Dinner at Omakase
This month marked my first Japanese Michelin-starred restaurant experience. Omakase, located in San Francisco’s SoMa’s neighborhood, seats only 18 people who are served by three chefs. It’s an intimate setting, and while quiet at first, things get lively as the meal progresses (and the sake pairings pile up). Guests are greeted warmly as if the staff has been anxiously waiting for your arrival all day, and a personal note acknowledges each guest and the occasion (if any).
At Omakase, you can expect traditional Edomae-style sushi sourced three times a week from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. In the 19th century, the city of 'Edo' was renamed 'Tokyo' at a time when sushi was a long process of fermenting fish in rice within wood boxes and then later serving it with freshly made rice with vinegar. Soon after Edo became Tokyo, a guy by the name of Hanaya Yohei decided to start serving raw fish on pressed rice with vinegar using the rice-squeezing technique 'you will see sushi chefs using today. In other words, Edomae-style is what most people know of as nigiri sushi. With Yohei, the process of making sushi became quick. However, the techniques used to be a great sushi chef take a lifetime to master.
One thing I have learned on my sushi journey is to pay attention to the presentation of nigiri. Soy sauce is not for every piece of nigiri. The way a chef 'dresses' nigiri is art and eating nigiri 'as dressed,' without anything more is the experience of art.
Dinner at Omakase is a celebration of fish and skill, but the rice should not be overlooked as it is made up of three different kinds of grains specifically picked for Omakase. The three chefs invite their guests on a journey for each dish, sharing where it is from, how it is prepared and why. In between dishes, guests begin to talk among themselves, and as the night comes to a close, there are some new friendships formed on both sides of the counter. To my left was a couple visiting from Hong Kong and on my right were two people celebrating their engagement. We exchanged contact information to dine again together next time my husband and I are in San Francisco.