The cook matters. In large Japanese restaurants even more.

I’ve posted in the past here about my positive experience when eating at Akai Hana in Rancho Bernardo.
When reading some negative comments I was very surprised as they were not matching my experience and I was unable to imagine how it was possible.
This changed one day last July that I was there alone, but accepted a table anyway contrary to my habitude of eating at the sushi bar.

I ordered a few of my preferred types of sushi and because I had no one distracting me from the food I had the time to focus on it.
I noticed several differences in the cutting and the assembly of the sushi compared to the way I was used to in that place, and the taste was not matching what I had just a day before.

I guess that the large difference is tied to the way the food is prepared in a Japanese restaurant compared to Italian restaurants where I’ve never experienced such a major swing in the taste of the food with the exception of changes of ownership.
While in a large Italian restaurant you find a number of people working in the kitchen the preparation of an individual dish is seldom a one-man process end-to-end and the chef supervises the activity of all the cooks so that the end result for a given dish is always the same.
This likely is not the way it works in the kitchen of a large japanese restaurant due to the nature of the sushi preparation.
For sure this is not happening when eating at the sushi bar where the cook is preparing the sushi and sashimi (and several other dishes) end to end without external collaboration.

Lesson learned: I’ll keep waiting for Hiro-san when eating at Akai Hana: they are very kind and let me have my hot tea while waiting.
I suggest that anyone going there gives them a second chance if not satisfied with the dinner at the table and wait for the sushi bar with my preferred cook.

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