While you’re not going to be ejected from your seat if you don’t comply, there’s an etiquette to eating sushi that’ll enhance your experience to authentic new heights.
If you’re opting for sushi or sashimi, one should always sit at the sushi bar — Ponsonby eatery Azabu has one located in the middle of the restaurant. The head sushi chef works closest to the door and appreciates eye contact when ordering. Asking what’s fresh demonstrates that you’re a seasoned sushi eater.
Start with a fish that imparts a lighter flavour, like snapper, so it doesn’t taint the palate. You should then move onto more robust flavours like fatty tuna. Anything with egg, like an omelette inari, has a sweetness to it and acts as a dessert. Interestingly, ordering a simple hosomaki roll indicates a meal is coming to an end, and miso should always be consumed last.
While it’s tempting, rubbing your chopsticks together is considered rude in Japanese culture. Most chefs will assume you are suggesting that his or her utensils are cheap. Additionally, if you’re not profficient when it comes to using them, rather than struggle, eat the sushi with your hands. This is a very acceptable and common practice in Japan.
It’s important to only order what you can eat. ‘Mottainai’ is translated as ‘what a waste’ and reinforces the notion that the Japanese culture deems leaving food on the plate as an insult. So, over ordering leaves the chef offended when you can’t finish it all.