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Best day to order sushi?


mcohen
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Can somebody break down when fish is delivered to a restaurant, and thus what day it would be the freshest?

I remember Bourdain warning readers to avoid eating fish on Mondays as it was likely to be leftover from Thursday or Friday. But, what about the rest of the week? Is a fresh batch of fish being delivered each weekday, or do they come in big shipments every couple of days?

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Really depends on where you live and the business of the restaurant. Therefore I cant really speak for any other restaurants besides NJ/NYC which I have worked.

But primarily in the City we would get deliveries almost everyday (fairly busy/big rest.). What Bourdain said was true too; they do not deliver on weekends, so therefore Fridays shipment is the biggest so it lasts the weekend.

Once again, this is just from my own experience. Smaller restaurants would perhaps order enough to last couple days, but in the case of sushi I would just trust your own instincts on their customer base.

Oh and supermarkets..I usually just stir up a casual convo with the monger/worker there to see what day(s) they get deliveries. Prob most of the time they would say its daily, which once again depends on their business. But even so, sometimes when I look at their filleting jobs; looks like they massacred them with rocks.

Jim

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Really depends on where you live and the business of the restaurant. Therefore I cant really speak for any other restaurants besides NJ/NYC which I have worked.

But primarily in the City we would get deliveries almost everyday (fairly busy/big rest.). What Bourdain said was true too; they do not deliver on weekends, so therefore Fridays shipment is the biggest so it lasts the weekend.

Once again, this is just from my own experience. Smaller restaurants would perhaps order enough to last couple days, but in the case of sushi I would just trust your own instincts on their customer base.

Oh and supermarkets..I usually just stir up a casual convo with the monger/worker there to see what day(s) they get deliveries. Prob most of the time they would say its daily, which once again depends on their business. But even so, sometimes when I look at their filleting jobs; looks like they massacred them with rocks.

Jim

Bourdain also wrote that book a long time ago when stardard practices werent that great. Today the industry is far better in their practices, and you can get orders/deliveries 6 days a week.

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Our local dig seems to be Thursday. We are regulars and know the head chef/owner. I notice all the specials appear on Thursday and he puts me on to what he has best. Much quieter and relaxed on Thursday so we get to talk and watch. Occasional freebies since they know us. Obviously he gears for Friday and some more items that required prep appear, but it is way too crowded on the weekend.

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Most fish used for sushi is frozen, making the delivery date unimportant. And most restaurants (sushi or otherwise) that serve fresh fish use the FIFO (first in, first out) system, so it's not like the fish delivered on Tuesday is served on Tuesday -- it could easily be the fish that's still left from the previous Thursday. The most effective strategy for getting good fish is to choose a good restaurant, in which case the restaurant will serve good fish every day.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 2 weeks later...
Most fish used for sushi is frozen, making the delivery date unimportant.

Thanks, Steve. I can't wait to read your new book.

But, now, I have a further question. So, if most of the sushi fish is frozen, then why are there such differences in quality between the sushi in one city vs. another like LA vs. NYC. With both cities, and the economic base to support fine sushi, wouldn't both cities get the same quality frozen sushi? Or, is it because there's a higher concentration of better sushi chefs in one particular city vs. another?

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Are there such big differences? I'm not well traveled enough to say it authoritatively, but the fish I get at similarly situated sushi places seems pretty much the same to me everywhere I've been in North America. In other words, my sense is that the upper-middle-market places everywhere are getting similar fish to one another (though of course there are many more such places in New York than in, say, Cleveland). The crummy places are getting similar fish to one another. The Chinese buffets that have sushi on the buffet are getting similar fish to one another. Etc. At those levels fish for sushi is a global commodity and you can bid on it and get it anywhere, so it would follow. Of course there are better and worse restaurants per category, but I get the sense that's mostly due to factors like how much the owners care -- not the basic availability of ingredients. The ingredients differentiation seems to me to appear at the higher levels of the business, where seriously talented sushi chefs intersect with seriously well moneyed clients. There you find that each place has a rather distinct supply structure set up, and the different fish taste really different. Places at that level are also using a lot more fresh stuff than at the lower levels.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Isn't it possible that in some restaurants in the Unites States (and other countries), raw fish is handled in an improper way? Raw fish sliced one minute ago is different from that sliced one hour ago.

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Isn't it possible that in some restaurants in the Unites States (and other countries), raw fish is handled in an improper way?  Raw fish sliced one minute ago is different from that sliced one hour ago.

I'd say that most sushi places in the United States -- other than at the very top level -- make various handling mistakes. Not to mention the rice is lousy. So yes, a top sushi chef could come and take the same salmon that True World Seafood sells to everyone and make a much better piece of nigiri sushi than you get at the sushi counter next to the Mongolian barbecue counter at the local pan-Asian place on Route 28.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Isn't it possible that in some restaurants in the Unites States (and other countries), raw fish is handled in an improper way?  Raw fish sliced one minute ago is different from that sliced one hour ago.

I'd say that most sushi places in the United States -- other than at the very top level -- make various handling mistakes. Not to mention the rice is lousy. So yes, a top sushi chef could come and take the same salmon that True World Seafood sells to everyone and make a much better piece of nigiri sushi than you get at the sushi counter next to the Mongolian barbecue counter at the local pan-Asian place on Route 28.

So when you walk into the market and they have "sushi grade" fish on display, is that a bunch of bunk? If the fish used by most sushi places is the same as any other fish found at the market, does that mean the non-sushi grade is lesser quality?

I'm already weary of questionable fish sources, this topic isn't helping that.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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I think I agree with FG here. I think the quality of sushi comes 99% down to:

Quality of the product being dealt with in the first place (some salmon, tuna, whatever is clearly better than others)

The handling of the ingredients once they're actually in the restaurant.

Chicago is a pretty mediocre town for sushi. Even the best places here can't come close to touching the best places in NYC. It has nothing to do with how long it takes the fish to get here (some places have supplies brought in everyday, some don't). It has almost everything to do with what kind of fish is coming in and how it is being handled.

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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Sushi in most places is no different than eating at McDonalds. The fish is frozen, non-descript and 99% of the time prepared by non-Japanese with no classical training. In short, its worthless.

One has to search out classically trained Chef's that use fresh fish.

There certainly is a difference between sushi grade fish and non-sushi grade fish whether fresh or frozen. Typically sushi grade, if frozen, is held at much lower temperatures than regular frozen fish in very expensive ultra low temperature freezers. With the right contacts in Japan or the Islands, one can get fresh sushi grade fish but it won't show up at any Chinese buffet. Browne Trading will ship fresh sushi grade fish with blue fin being available in the summer months. That is where i usually obtain my fish for sushi/sashimi. Purchasing sushi grade fish at your local fish monger can be like playing with dynamite, you just don't know what you will get.-Dick

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With advances in freezing technology, frozen fish is now as good as fresh fish. Among the factors critical to the quality of sushi ("sushi" meaning vinegared rice + topping) are the temperature of the rice and the proper handling of the topping.

The rice must be at hitohada (human skin temperature) and the topping must be at lower temperature (but must not be at too low a temperature to savor the flavor). This difference in temperature gives you a pleasant sensation when you put the sushi in your mouth.

In most kaiten zushi (conveyor-belt sushi) restaurant in Japan, they use frozen fish, but what is bad about kaiten zushi is that the plates with sushi on them can go round and round for hours*. By the time you pick one plate and eat the sushi, both the rice and the topping may have reached room temperature (and may have dried on the surface).

* Some kaiten zushi restaurants have a sophisticated system whereby each plate is automatically removed from the conveyor belt in 30 minutes.

In traditional sushi shops like the one I frequent, they usually use fresh fish, and handle each fillet with great care. Great care goes to the rice, too. In this particular shop linked to above, the chef wraps each fillet in plastic wrap and slices it only after he receives an order. (I haven't seen fillets stored this way anywhere else. And, in many traditional sushi shops, they pre-slice fillets to save time.) He doesn't put tuna in the display case, where the light can deteriorate and discolor the tuna. (As for salmon, he buys fresh ones and puts them in the freezer to kill any parasites that may be in them.)

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Regarding frozen fish, it can be excellent (though it often isn't), however freezing has also created a lot of uniformity in the sushi world, because it eliminates issues of distance and time. It also in many cases eliminates issues of handling. When a sushi chef is dealing with whole fresh fish there's a whole process of breaking down and working with the fish that comes into play, whereas the typical frozen shipment consists of industrially pre-portioned blocks of fish -- so the sushi chef at the all-frozen-sushi restaurant level mostly just winds up slicing fish and forming pieces of sushi.

As for "sushi grade" fish, if a typical American retailer is selling it I don't place much stock in the claim especially since there don't seem to be any formal rules governing the use of that designation. However, within the food-service industry there are all sorts of gradations of fish and terminology that professionals use to communicate quality and that chefs rely on.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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When it comes to purchasing fish in general for my own consumption, ( I make sushi at home as well as other types of preperation.) I am always weary of frozen fish in general and always consider the source in particular. I will not buy farm raised tilapia from bangladesh and would never even consider it in a frozen state.

I look for "Wild Caught" from the closest region to me. Also, I prefer to select from fresh fish that I can judge quality from prior to purchase. I look for clarity of eye, darkness of gill color, smell, condition of scales, firmness of flesh when buying fish.

Tangent- I keep seeing news reports of restaurants serving fish that when genetically tested turns out to be an asian catfish species most commonly called "Basa" and not the grouper or whatever the menu said it was. I've gone into local asian fish markets and not been able to visually tell a difference in the frozen grouper filets and the basa right next to it. I think that more oversight is needed in the fish import industry.

Edited by RAHiggins1 (log)
Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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