Pictured here: TwoKoi's salmon lover's roll. Janet Jensen/The News Tribune.
Welcome to my week of sushi. I'll write about seven South Sound sushi restaurants this week.
Much can be written about the vast sea of sushi. Nigiri, sashimi, maki – all command volumes about individual styles and Japanese regional influences.
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But when I consider complexity and interest in texture and flavor — the components that draw me to food of all cultures – I think of maki rolls, those cylinder shaped rice rolls stuffed with fish and vegetables. So my series this week focuses on maki. Maki appeals to neophyte and expert sushi lover alike because maki can be simple and accessible to most palates (think shrimp tempura roll), or complicated and challenging (think unagi roll with a double dose of eel).
Maki can be sour and sweet, savory and spicy, mild and creamy, crunchy and chewy, raw or cooked. They can vary from kitschy to traditional. The components of maki reside in a sushi chef's palate. Their tastes, training and preferences drive the ingredients and flavors that make maki so interesting.
This week, I'll tell you about three chefs at South Sound sushi restaurants – Jackie Young Koh of Tacoma's TwoKoi, Kazuya "Kazu" Kamada of Tacoma's Gari of Sushi and Trapper O'Keeffe of Bonney Lake's Sushi Town. Each has a different approach to maki, and each an interesting background in sushi. I'll also take you on smaller tours of four other South Sound sushi restaurants. My focus will be on maki.
You may not see your favorite sushi restaurant listed here. I couldn't eat at every single sushi restaurant (I was a little concerned about having Jeremy Piven mercury levels), so please comment in this thread and tell us about your favorite. Be specific about what you like about the sushi restaurant. Is it the nigiri? The maki? Is it the service or atmosphere?
A look at my week in sushi:
Today: TwoKoi and Chef Jackie Young Koh
Tuesday: Gari of Sushi and Chef Kazuya "Kazu" Kamada
Wednesday: Sushi Town and Chef Trapper O'Keeffe
Thursday: Mini report of Sushi Tama
Friday: Mini report of Happy Bento
Saturday: Mini report of Sapporo
Sunday: Mini report of Osaka Sushi Bistro
If you're new to sushi and unfamiliar with its language, here are a few glossary terms that can help guide you through the week of sushi:
Maki (Also called make or maki-zushi or long rolls): A layer of rice wrapped around interior ingredients; or a layer of nori seaweed wrapped around rice and interior ingredients.
Norimaki: A roll with seaweed wrapper on the exterior. Filled with rice, fish and/or vegetables.
Uramaki: Inside-out roll, rice on the outside with nori on the inside and filled with fish and/or vegetables.
Sumaki: Regular sized maki roll.
Futomaki: A supersized or very large roll.
Temaki (Also called hand rolls): Raw or cooked fish and sometimes rice or other ingredients.
Sashimi: Raw or cooked fish served sliced, and artfully displayed (without rice).
Nigiri: Raw or cooked fish served sliced, and draped atop mounds of rice.
VEGETABLES AND ROE
Shiso: Leafy Japanese herb.
Daikon radish: Crunchy white vegetable with a radish bite.
Yamagobo: Pickled burdock root.
Tobiko: Flying fish roe.
Masago: Roe from smelt fish.
Wasabi: Green, spicy condiment with a bite similar to horseradish that will bring tears to the eyes. Use sparingly if newbie.
Pickled ginger: Pungent pink or white slices of pickled ginger root.
Glossary sources: thenibble.com, sushiref.com, sushifan.com
A few of my tips for feasting on maki:
1. Don't know what to get? Ask your server to be your guide. Or, sit at the sushi bar and order omakase style, where the sushi chef serves you sushi of his/her choice.
2. Eat mild rolls first, then move to more complex. If you start with a spicy tuna roll, the sweet nuance of a kappa maki (cucumber roll) will escape your palate.
3. Go ahead, eat with your hands. Kazuya "Kazu" Kamada, chef owner of Tacoma's Gari of Sushi, said that using your fingers to eat maki is perfectly acceptable (so long as your hands are clean). Regarding nigiri, Kamada recommends dipping fish side down in the soy sauce, then placing the nigiri in your mouth, fish side to your tongue.
4. Ask about ingredients. I was surprised at a few sushi restaurants when I ordered a crab roll, but got krab instead. Has it become acceptable to just substitute artificial crab without telling the diner? It certainly seems that way. If in doubt, just ask to be sure you're getting the real deal.
5. The health department did not make me write this, but I feel compelled to mention that consuming raw seafood may increase your risk of foodborne illness. And it's worth mentioning that medical professionals advise pregnant women to lay off the sushi. That being said, eat wisely sushi lovers.