|By Stephen Volkamer
While most seafood restaurants can competently cook seafood, serving sushi requires a much higher preparation skill set and completely fresh ingredients. Recently we sat down with Naoki Nakashima, Executive Sushi Chef at Shaw’s Crab House for an introduction to sushi. Naoki came to Shaw’s after 20 years of training and working in California, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Sushi is a natural fit for Shaw’s Crab House, they excel at serving fresh seafood, and it’s one of the editor’s favorite restaurants.
Bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna (maguro), salmon (sake), and yellowtail (hamachi) are popular fish for sushi and sashimi. The freshest sushi-grade tuna can sell for as much as $10,000 a fish, each of which can weigh 800 pounds!
Sushi is an emblem of Japanese cuisine, appearing in a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors. Sushi, in contrast to a popular misconception, is not really about raw fish. The term ‘sushi’ refers mainly to the vinegar-seasoned rice dish. This dish combines any assortment of fish, seasonings and vegetables wrapped in seaweed. While raw fish is traditionally used, sushi itself is an open-ended culinary experiment. Try the Shrimp Tempura at Shaw’s for an example of the wide variety of sushi. The Shrimp Tempura is sushi combined with fried shrimp, masago (caviar), cucumber, frisée, and wasabi mayonnaise. If you want to try something yet more exotic, try one of their offerings of sashimi, thinly sliced raw fish paired with only a dipping sauce. By eating the fish by itself, you savor all its subtle flavors unimpeded.
To ensure the highest quality of fish used for sushi, Shaw’s serves only fish caught in the wild because wild fish tastes better than farmed fish. Wild fish are tastier because they eat a greater variety of food than farm raised fish. Even the details of how people catch the fish are important. For example, tuna tastes best when caught individually. Nets subject fish to bruising which affects the quality of meat, and the result of long-line fishing (where there are many hooks to a single line) is that the tuna caught first aren’t nearly as fresh as the last tuna hooked. This is important because when tuna die, their meat degrades rapidly.
Only a very small percentage of all seafood is fit for sushi or sashimi. In Japan, people look for two qualities in tuna, oil and marbling for flavor and texture. Pink meat is the most highly prized of all tuna. Its color comes from the fatty marbling in the meat, similar to prime steaks.
Sushi and sashimi are safe to eat. Freshly caught saltwater fish have relatively few bacteria. Vinegar-seasoned rice and wasabi sauce help to kill any germs. Sushi is also good for your health—it consists of lean meat, complex carbohydrates, and many vitamins! Fish oil is helpful in lowering cholesterol, which in turn is good for the heart. Traditionally, portions of sushi are small compared to America’s penchant for super-sized meals. These factors combined, make sushi a superb way to eat healthy!
What is healthy and delicious is also beautiful to the eyes. Preparation and presentation is an art in nuanced flavors and bold colors. Naoki and his staff are committed to their presentation as they are to the quality of sushi they serve.
If you’re an expert on sushi, you’ll appreciate Shaw’s. If you’re a new to sushi, give it a try, it’s delicious.
As a sushi novice, I was unsure about Naoki’s recommendation of BBQ Eel the first time he suggested it. I’m glad I took his advice, it’s delicious! The staff at Shaw’s can help ease you into this great food as they did with me.
Shaw’s Crab House
1900 East Higgins Rd., Schaumburg
21 East Hubbard Street, Chicago