Sushi 101

BY Laura Rectenwald

Not only is sushi one of the most delicious foods you can eat its creation is an art form dating as far back as 300 B.C. First used in Southeast Asia as a preservation method for fish sushi has evolved into a culinary delight that incorporates many different flavors and offers patrons an unsurpassed dining experience. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity or inclination to sit at a sushi bar the area now has several excellent options for you to explore.

If you’re a newcomer who’s ready to take the plunge you need to know that sashimi refers to raw pieces of fish served chilled and sliced; nigiri is an oval-shaped piece of rice topped with one piece of fish (a one-bite wonder); maki is sushi that consists of fish (or crab) and vegetables (or just vegetables) rolled in a sheet of nori (roasted seaweed) and rice (the perfect way to start your sushi adventure as some options have cooked fish or no fish instead of raw fish); temaki are hand rolls that somewhat resemble an ice cream cone-like taco (the ingredients are similar to those in maki).

Your sushi plate large or small arrives with some delectable sides. Ginger is meant both to cleanse the palate and help with digestion and should be eaten in small amounts between bites of sushi. Wasabi a green paste-like condiment is made from the root of the wasabi plant and adds a kick to your meal while offering antimicrobial properties. Mix a small amount with your soy sauce and dip your sushi to see if you like it mild or head-clearing hot.

Now that you’re ready to open the menu and brave a new culinary frontier some well-known local sushi chefs want you to know that the menu is only the beginning of what you can create.

YoSake located downtown in the historic Roudabush building (on the second floor above the new Roudabush Café) is known not only for its distinctive Pan-Asian and sushi designs but also for its modern and swanky decor. “It’s a blend of contemporary Asian food with a New Age twist ” says general manager Mira Khoury. For those first dipping a toe in the water YoSake offers a California roll with smoked salmon shrimp and crab. For experienced sushi eaters you won’t forget the Thai Style Crab Cake or the Tropic Roll which has tuna avocado pineapple cream cheese and cilantro all topped with nuts.

Found on Front Street an easy walk from the Cape Fear River Nikki’s Fresh Gourmet and Sushi Bar is a local favorite where the food does all the talking. The angel hair roll – fried shrimp cream cheese avocado and crab – and the tempura-fried jumbo crunchy white tuna roll – tuna crab avocado and cream cheese all topped with a homemade sweet and spicy sauce — are out-of-this-world delicious. And with Nikki’s casual atmosphere the extensive sushi menu won’t intimidate you. “We love giving suggestions to those who are new to sushi or who aren’t sure what exactly they will like ” says general manager Alden. “We’re low-key here and we want people to have an enjoyable experience.”

The Bento Box has taken sushi to a whole new level. Located in The Forum in Landfall owner and sushi chef Lee Grossman has spent many years mastering his craft and is now sharing his passion. “We’re a locals place ” Grossman says “and I’m here for them.” It’s easy to talk to the personable sushi chef ask him questions or just watch him create one of his signature rolls. For those new to sushi Grossman recommends ordering something simple like a piece of tuna or salmon. “There are so many components in a roll that often people become overwhelmed and can’t identify the flavors that they like or dislike ” he says. “I’ll have them sit here with me and we’ll try a few options to find out what flavors suit them. From there we can create something that they will like.”