neta temperature: a critical element of Edomae-zushi

Excerpt from a (negative) Yelp review of a local sushi shop:

“They slice a lot of the fish for the nigiri in advance, at the beginning of the service. Fish should be sliced as the nigiris are made.”

Wrong. Wrong. So wrong. And yet this is a common misconception. I’ve already covered this topic in my Sushi Zanmai review, but this subject probably warrants its own post.

Sushi-meshi (aka shari or sushi rice) is best when served at body temperature. Most neta (aka tane, or sushi topping) taste best when served at room temperature (this is a general rule but not the case for all neta). You NEVER EVER want to be served cold sushi rice. And typically, you also do not want to be served cold neta. 

Why is most neta best served at room temperature? Because subtle flavors are too muted when cold, and the texture of the neta will be affected as well. Allowing the topping to slowly rise to ambient temperature insures that both flavor and texture are optimal. And cold neta can be a harsh and unpleasant contrast to body-temperature shari.

The itamae should take an ingredient out of the cold box, then slice it about 15 or 20 minutes before serving (again, this can vary). The sliced neta then sits on the counter (as shown in the photo above) for a while until it reaches its optimal serving temperature.

If the chef was to take an ingredient out of the cold box, slice it, then immediately serve it, the neta would be much too cold to taste good.

One thought on “neta temperature: a critical element of Edomae-zushi

  1. LOL! I saw that Yelp review of ju-ni. ju-ni is so small, everything is pretty much done in front of you. That is its charm, your own personal sushi chef!

    I was thinking about your optimal time elapse of 15 to 20 minutes between being taken from refrigerated box to being served and that would only work well with omakase where the chef knows well ahead of serving what you are going to be eating. It would be a very long and frustrating dinner having to wait that long between ordering a fish and getting it.

    I was trying to remember what different places do and had I ever had complaints about temperature. i remember reading a review of 1 place where the rule was no photos for you had to eat the piece placed in front of you within 30 seconds of getting it to enjoy the perfect temp. I think that was a place in NYC. Most of my sushi has been eaten at Koo in the years pre the omakase craze where you order it and get it soon after. I only remember a few times out of hundreds where my husband and I would look at each other and say a bit too cold. Maybe Kiyoshi has hot hands! LOL Though maybe the sushi chef holds the fish in his hands a tad longer to warm it up a bit.

    I was thinking of Yoshizumi where my recalled gist of it is that Chef Yoshi did cut fish as he served it then I noticed your photo on the top of this page and recognized that Yoshizumi canister! And there on the board was a ton of pre-cut fish! LOL I have to be more observant!

    Coincidentally, last week I did notice at Gintei that our sushi chef was cutting the fish in advance. A few pieces I felt were too warm, a brand new complaint for me. Though all still enjoyable..

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