So with the awareness and popularity boxes ticked, I got to delve a little deeper in a brief sushi and sashimi masterclass with Ocean Room executive chef Raita Noda earlier this year at his waterside contemporary Japanese restaurant.
|Executive chef Raita Noda,for sushi and sashimi masterclass at Ocean Room,|
Sushi as we know it today, especially the nigiri style where there's a fish or other topping pressed onto an elongated ball of sushi rice, originated from traditional edomae zushi from the Edo period in Japan. The focus is on the neta topping, while the seasoned rice is designed to carry and enhance the flavours of the fish.
There's also a delicacy to edomae style sushi. For example, nigiri sushi pieces are often tailored to be smaller mouthfuls for female eaters, with Noda laughing that he doesn't want to see ladies open their mouths too wide.
|Narito Ishii of Wellstone Seafoods|
Ishii's specialised knowledge of the Japanese approach to fish, and his unwavering demands for quality and freshness, gives Wellstone the impressive claim of supplying pretty much all the high-end Japanese restaurants in Sydney with local and imported seafood.
So trusted is Ishii that Noda's evening fish orders to him could read like the following: "Two white fish, two silver fish, and two of something interesting and unique" - the latter which are normally competitively priced.
The contemporary style of Ocean Room means that sashimi is served with extras on top of soy sauce and wasabi. Indeed, almost every fish featured its own flavour addition - chives with the trevally or minced ginger on the whiting - elevating the experience to much more than a plate of raw fish.
Lightly seared scallops are always a winner, while I've been liking rich mackerel since my Japan trip. There was also john dory formed into a stunning rose, swordfish lightly seared, ocean trout (many Japanese chefs' preference over salmon) and kingfish.
There is serious contention around the threatened status of southern bluefin tuna. It is legal to catch bluefin tuna in Australia but there are conservation measures in place.
Ishii said there were plenty of the impressively large fish about this year, likely because of the reduction in allowable catch numbers in Australia since 2010.
The bulk of tuna fished from Australian waters is exported to Japan, although the rising appreciation of sashimi tuna in Australia means that more high quality tuna are being sold, and valued, in the local market.
|Executive chef Raita Noda,with one of his two sashimi knives|
Noda uses two sashimi knives at Ocean Room: one each of Tokyo and Osaka styles which have slightly different, flexible blades.
|Bluefin tuna belly|
Noda likened tuna to beef steak that needs time to age after killing for flavours to come out. This portion of tuna had been aged for a few days ahead of our class
|O-toro tuna belly nigiri sushi|
|O-toro tuna belly|
|Chu-toro tuna nigiri sushi|
|Imperador nigiri sushi|
With just a sprinkle of sea salt in place of soy sauce, the "interesting and unique" fish were kicking goals.
|Cuttlefish nigiri sushi|
Creamy is probably the last word you'd think to use to describe raw cuttlefish, but it's exactly that, with a bit of bounce to its chew and perhaps more sweetness than raw squid.
|Latchet nigiri sushi|
The soft white flesh made for an appropriate backdrop to the almost Chinese accompaniments of minced ginger, chives and soy sauce.
|Akami tuna nigiri sushi|
The firmer lean tuna flesh is able to stand up to the big soy sauce flavour, making for a completely different eating experience to either of the toro options.
|Narito Ishii of Wellstone Seaafoods (left) and Raita Noda, executive chef |
at Ocean Room (right)
The topic of sustainability came up, not only in relation to the bluefin tuna, but overall commerical fishing methods.
Is trawler and net fishing sustainable when small fish or unwanted varieties also make the catch? What does the demand for 'standard' tuna and salmon sashimi do for sustainability of these and other species? And what about the environmental sustainability of wild-caught fish versus farmed fish, and indeed, versus farmed land animals?
It seems there's plenty to talk about when it comes to fish, sushi and sashimi, See more photos from the Ocean Room masterclass on my Facebook page.
Food, booze and shoes attended the sushi and sashimi masterclass as a guest of Ocean Room, with thanks to Wasamedia.