Omakase is the chef’s choice meal at sushi restaurants. The sushi chef selects and creates a personalized menu for the guests, allowing him or her to be creative with all dishes. The chef will usually choose to create dishes that best represent his or her skills, as well as what is available and fresh on that day. This often leads to more unique and better quality items than what can be found on the regular menu.
Omakase meals consist of a series of dishes. They can have upwards of ten rounds of sushi, with each round consisting of one or two rolls. This allows the guest to try a larger variety of items and get a little taste of everything. I had omakase at KAZ Sushi Bistro in Washington, DC. We sat at the sushi bar as 15 rounds of premium sushi were prepared in front of us and served to us.
One of the sushi types we sampled was Nigiri. Nigiri-style sushi is typical of omakase. Nigiri rolls consist of sushi rice with a dab of wasabi and thin slice of raw fish on top. The chefs sometimes add a drop of a sauce or other ingredient that complements the flavors of the different fish.
With nigiri, diners can better taste the flavor of the fresh fish. This is preferable for omakase because many of the fish selections are the highest quality and freshest available that day. Omakase also often includes Japanese delicacies such as sea urchin, known as uni. These rare and unique offerings are what make omakase so distinct from other sushi options.Omakase is presented as a series of dishes, so the chef can make selections that best complement each other. In addition to the sushi, the meal may also include sake pairings with each round.
At KAZ, we began with a raw tuna appetizer and proceeded into simple nigiri, such as salmon and yellowtail, along with four or so sake pairings. We worked our way up to more complex nigiri, such as shrimp, scallops, uni, and torch-seared white tuna. Each round consisted of two pieces of nigiri. We finished with a round of foie gras and then a green tea crème brûlée for dessert.
This experience is not for picky eaters. Innovation is key in these dishes, and it is essential to go into this experience open to surprises. Although it can be expensive, it is one of the finest ways to experience sushi. If possible, sit at the sushi bar so you can watch the sushi chef craft his rolls as the art of omakase unfolds. I found it to be an amazing experience because I got to try varieties of sushi I didn’t even know existed, and you could see the chef enjoyed crafting creative dishes.