Book Review – Sushi by Kazuo Nagayama

Sushi Book

Sushi Book

Our tours of Tsukiji Market are very popular at the moment. Especially as it has been officially announced that the jōnai, wholesale seafood market, will move to Toyosu in November of 2016. Many of our customers are sushi aficionados and are intimately familiar with seasonal sushi. They not only know the names of Japanese seafood, but also can recognize it in the market as we walk through. There is a bookstore at Tsukiji Market that sells food magazines and a variety of cookbooks and books on sushi. A handful of them are in English, including my book, Food Sake Tokyo, published by The Little Bookroom.

A popular sushi book with our clients is the bilingual edition of Sushi, by chef Kazuo Nagayama of Daisan Harumi Sushi 第三春美鮨 in Shinbashi. The book is a reference tool for seasonal sushi.

Seasonal Sushi

Seasonal Sushi

The book is divided into the four seasons and seasonal seafood is shown as nigiri-zushi on the left page. The right page has a sketch of the seafood as well as a well-written description in English on everything from the flavor, how it is prepared, aging, and much more. As it is also written in Japanese, it is a great guide to bring to the sushi counter when dining out as the sushi chef or staff at the restaurant can also read from the same guide.

Even for readers who will not make it to Japan, this is a fun armchair reading as the descriptions are very detailed and informative. Particular bays of water are mentioned, something any sushi chef would be impressed by. The book also talks about the liver, ovaries, and other parts of the seafood that can be consumed at the sushi counter.

Here is an excerpt from hirame (olive flounder):

“A light sprinkling of salt and kombu curing allows sushi fans to savor the delectable taste and texture sensation of nigir made from hirame prepared using this technique long integral to the Edo-mae sushi chef’s job.”

Summer Sushi

Summer Sushi

The photography and design of the book is lovely. This photo shows the filets of summer seafood. On the upper right corner you have iwashi (sardine), noted for its row of dots. To the left of it is aji (Japanese jack mackerel per the book).

Summer Nigiri Zushi

Summer Nigiri Zushi

On this page you have the nigiri-zushi of the filets from above. The iwashi and aji are the two fish on the bottom right.

Seasonal Sushi

Seasonal Sushi

Each chapter begins with an essay on the season and what to look for when visiting the sushi counter that time of year.

From the winter fish section:

“Many winter species are prized for their fatty quality, in contrast to summer fish characterized by subtle flavor.”

The last section in the book is dedicated to maki-mono (rolls). Sushi will be a welcome addition to any bookshelf. At 2,000 JPY, the 207-page book is a good value.


Published by PIE International

ISBN 978-4-7562-41344-4 C0072

2,000 JPY

207 pages

Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Jiro Ono, master chef and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro recently celebrated his 89th birthday. Yesterday it was announced that the Japanese government is awarding him with a special honor for his contributions and hard work as a sushi craftsman. Today there was a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan and here are just some of the juicy bits. In attendance was food writer Masuhiro Yamamoto, Jiro Ono, and his eldest son, Yoshikazu Ono.

Jiro started working in a kitchen at the age of eight, so he has been in this craft for 81 years. Yamamoto said that Jiro is still far from retiring.

Jiro was awarded a distinction, similar to a Living National Treasure, when he was 80-years old. This new award is not usually given to individuals but to groups, so this new award is very unique.

During the introductions the interpreter said Sukiyaki Jiro (instead of Sukiyabashi Jiro) to which Yamamoto politely corrected her and mentioned that there is in fact a person who is called Sukiyaki Jiro. :-)

Yamamoto-san said that he believes that Sukiyabashi Jiro is the cleanest restaurant in the world. He went on to say that Jiro says 50% cooking and 50% cleaning.

At Sukiyabashi Jiro Yoshikazu will cut the seafood and Jiro will form the sushi in his hands. This is how it is done now.

Regarding standing all day for work, Jiro said that since he started working in a kitchen from the age of 8 he was too busy to do his homework so at school he was constantly being made to stand in the hallway, so he’s used to standing all day.

The movie, Dreams of Sushi, had a big influence for Jiro. That before the movie he was famous in Japan, but since the movie he moved into a cult-like status.

About 70% of the diners at Sukiyabashi Jiro are foreigners, so for some Japanese dining there they say that it doesn’t feel like they are in Japan.

Sukiyabashi Jiro

Masuhiro Yamamoto, Jiro Ono, and Yoshikazu Ono

Jiro believes that part of truly enjoying sushi comes from eating it properly. For this reason, he teamed up with Yamamoto to write a book, Jiro Gastronomy. There is a section in the book that describes how to properly eat sushi.

Jiro is an innovator. For example, Yamamoto said that in the past shrimp was boiled in the morning and then served to the customer later in the day, but that Jiro will wait until the customer has arrived until boiling it. Yamamoto also used the example that 30 years ago sushi courses usually started off with tuna, but that Jiro started serving white fish like flounder or sole before moving onto tuna.

Very interesting fact-checking on President Obama dining at Sukiyabashi Jiro.

The restaurant opened for Obama and Abe only after the regular customers finished their meals, so no customers were told they had to give up their reservations.

The left-handed Obama is very good at using chopsticks.

Obama ate all of the omakase sushi course. Some rumors were saying that Obama had only eaten a few pieces, but this is not true.

Jiro Gastronomy

Masuhiro Yamamoto contributed to Foodie Top 100 and to Jiro Gastronomy

These are two books that were given out to journalists at the press conference. I will include these in a blogpost so stay tuned.

Cafe Salvador in Marunouchi


I am very excited to hear about this new cafe that opened today in Marunouchi. Cafe Salvador will have magazines, both Japanese and foreign, for customers to peruse while drinking their java. Titles include Vanity Fair, GQ, The New Yorker, Conde Naste Traveller, and more. The cafe collaboration with Conde Naste and the Cafe Company is a brilliant idea. As it just opened today I haven’t been but look forward to going there soon.

Cafe Salvador

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 3-2-3, Fuji Building 1F

Monday – Friday 7:00〜23:00; Saturday 10:00〜23:00; Sunday and holidays 10:00〜20:00; open daily



Book Review – Dashi and Umami

Dashi and Umami

Dashi and Umami

This book includes the contributions of many star chefs, including Takashi Tamura (of Tsukiji Tamura), Eiichi Takahashi (Hyotei), Kunio Tokuoka (Kyoto Kitcho) and Yoshihiro Murata (Kikunoi). Photos of their kaiseki cuisine make this a handsome coffee table book, and students of Japanese cuisine will be impressed with the depth of information on umami-rich ingredients like kombu, katsuobushi, niboshi, and shiitake, all of which are essential in making dashi. Even water around the world is ranked from soft to hard—a hot topic for kaiseki chefs who have traveled the globe.

Umami has been covered in many other books, and not always well, but this work captures the essence and explains it without missing any details. The tutorials on dashi may change the way you make this staple at home. The end of the book includes simple home recipes that are easy to incorporate into your repertoire.


Various contributors (Cross Media, 2009, 162pp, ¥4,120)

This review first appeared in Metropolis magazine:

Book Review – Japanese Hot Pots

Japanese Hot Pots

Japanese Hot Pots

Finally—a book on nabe in English. Chef Tadashi Ono of Matsuri restaurant in New York and journalist-blogger Harris Salat of the Japanese Food Report have teamed up for the definitive guide to Japan’s quintessential comfort food.

The first chapter deconstructs the basic parts of a good nabe: broth and dashi; foundational ingredients like Napa cabbage,daikon, Japanese mushrooms and tofu; seasonings such as miso; and yakumi (condiments) like ponzu and yuzu kosho. There are helpful suggestions on how to incorporate shime, the rice or noodles added to the hotpot as the traditional end of the meal.

Recipes include classics like mizutaki (chicken and vegetables), yudofu (tofu) and the sumo wrestler’s staple,chanko nabe. Readers in Japan who want to try the book’s regional dishes are fortunate to have access to esoteric ingredients like ishiri fish sauce from the Noto peninsula or the grilled rice “logs” of Akita (kiritampo).Japanese Hot Pots is so easy to follow that you may soon find nabe becoming a regular part of your repertoire. And vegetarians, don’t despair—there are plenty of meatless recipes to keep you well fed through the winter.


By Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat
Ten Speed Press, 2009, 150pp, ¥2,406

This review first appeared in Metropolis magazine:


Book Review – Takashi’s Noodles

Takashi's Noodles

Takashi's Noodles

Takahashi Yagihashi has been a chef and restaurateur in the American Midwest for two decades. In 2000, he was named one of America’s Ten Best New Chefs by the prestigious Food & Wine magazine, and in addition to his namesake restaurant in Chicago, he’s been collaborating with Macy’s department store on a nationwide chain of noodle shops.

This book is packed with recipes for common noodles like ramen, soba, udon and somen, as well as pasta and other Asian varieties. There are also popular appetizers often found at izakaya, like gyoza, yakitori, braised pork belly (which can also be used in ramen dishes) and shumai.

Yagihashi has covered all the noodle bases, including a thorough collection of ramen dishes: chilled, tantan-men, miso and even tsukemen (noodles served separate from the broth). There are cold somen dipping sauces like shiso-umeyuzu and tomato, plus dishes like curry udon and hearty duck Namban soba that will keep you warm throughout the winter. The pasta recipes include that Japanese standby, spaghetti with spicymentaiko; another, based on onsen tamago (soft-boiled egg), is Yagihashi’s twist on classic carbonara.


By Takashi Yagihashi with Harris Salat
Ten Speed Press, 2009, 168pp, ¥2,401

This review first appeared in Metropolis magazine:

Book Review – The One-Straw Revolution

The One-Straw Revolution

The One-Straw Revolution

First published in English 30 years ago, this little green tome by Masanobu Fukuoka has been reissued by The New York Review of Books as part of its Classics series. And the timing couldn’t be better—as issues of sustainability, agribusinesses and the use of chemical fertilizers have come to the fore, the book is more relevant than ever.

Fukuoka (1913-2008) was a farmer who employed radical methods to grow his crops, like cultivating rice in dry fields and not weeding by tillage. (The title comes from his innovative system of spreading straw in gardens.) This compact work puts forth his opinions and chronicles the success he enjoyed with these and other practices. There are also interesting and informative mandala-like diagrams showing seasonal Japanese produce and seafood.

Anyone who supports the Slow Food movement, enjoys working in a garden, or is concerned with sustainability will treasure The One-Straw Revolution—and most likely share it with many friends. Fukuoka’s book beautifully conveys his belief in eating healthful, natural food, and in doing so reminds us that an egg should taste like an egg.


By Masanobu Fukuoka
The New York Review of Books, 2009, 184pp, ¥1,535

This review first appeared in Metropolis magazine:


Book Review – Everyday Harumi

Everyday Harumi

Everyday Harumi

This new work by the doyenne of Japanese cookbook authors will be welcomed by everyone who loves washokuEveryday Harumi is filled with easy-to-cook, home-style recipes that cover a wide range of meat, seafood and vegetable dishes.

The book opens with an entire chapter on cupboard essentials for making Japanese cuisine, in particular sauces that you will go back to often: ponzumen-tsuyu, and vinegar with mirin.

Among the basic recipes are chicken karaageshoga-yaki(ginger pork) and classic vegetable dishes like tofu salad with sesame dressing. Kurihara has also adapted a few recipes so that they’re easier to prepare with ingredients found in the Western kitchen—watercress, celery and cauliflower. There’s even an udon dish with a ground-meat miso sauce that could be mistaken for pasta bolognese.

Even if you’re a collector of Japanese cookbooks, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the new recipes to be discovered in Everyday Harumi. Bonus: the food is presented in lovely Japanese pottery and other traditional vessels.


By Harumi Kurihara
Conran Octopus, 2009, 192pp, ¥3,098

This review first appeared in Metropolis magazine:

Book Review – The Niigata Sake Book

The Niigata Sake Book

The Niigata Sake Book

There’s relatively little information on sake printed in English, so whenever a new work on nihonshu comes out, it’s worth carefully perusing. The Niigata Sake Book does not disappoint, especially for readers wanting to know more about the technical side of sake. It’s based on a work called The Niigata Sake Expert Textbook and, according to translator Mike Masuyama, is “the first sake book written in Japanese to be translated into English.” With its cool temperatures, rich water sources and highly esteemed rice, Niigata is an ideal location for making top-quality sake. This book is geared towards those looking for more scientific and technical information, including details about the brewing process, how to read labels, and what the differences are between rice strains. It’s suitable even for the beginner, though, with an opening section that’s filled with color photos and simple tasting notes. Masuyama deftly guides readers through the nuances of sake, offering insightful tips on flavor profiles that will empower anyone to become knowledgeable. This book is destined to become a reference guide—not only for Niigata sake, but for sake in general.


By The Niigata Sake Brewers Association
The Japan Times, 2009, 86pp, ¥2,100

This review first appeared in Metropolis magazine:

Book Review – Sushi



A professor of biophysics at the University of Southern Denmark, Ole G. Mouritsen has penned the most extensive and authoritative book—dare I say encyclopedia?—on sushi to date. This weighty tome is packed with more information than most readers will ever need. Yet that’s exactly where it shines. The author’s curiosity and passion about fish is evident throughout. Perhaps most notable is that, unlike other sushi books written by non-Japanese, the information about seafood is factually correct. Sushi will educate readers on all aspects of fish—texture, taste and how they are served. Packed with photos and illustrations (by the author’s son), this comprehensive guide also includes information on other dishes at the sushi counter, from the rice and vinegar used to make theshari to the green tea that ends the meal. With an extensive glossary and a rich bibliography, Sushi will find its way onto the bookshelves of chefs and foodies the world over. After consuming this work, readers themselves should be given a PhD in sushi.


By Ole G. Mouritsen
Springer, 2009, 330pp, ¥3,357

This review first appeared in Metropolis magazine: