Even for many Japanese, sitting at a sushi bar, especially at high-end omakase only sushi restaurant is a challenge. Many places have no menu, no manuals as to what to do and how to do it. It can be intimidating.
If it’s your first time, you should go with someone who’s been there already – not someone who’s only been there once, but at least enough times to know the basics like the manners and how things work. (price too!)
This is why I say sitting at a sushi bar is like being at a member only private club. You go there a few times and then, if you like it, you request to join the club, or at least that is how it works a regular private club.
But at the sushi bar, things are different.
First, there is no written rule. No membership guidelines. No requirements. Most importantly, there is no membership card: it’s invisible. It is not available to everyone. It’s only given. Not available to purchase. You cannot request it. It’s entirely up the sushi chef. You never know if and when you will get it. You may never get one.
Luckily these days, things are getting much easier, or shall we say, many boutique high-end restaurants are getting more accessible, perhaps more friendly than what they used to be.
So, please, go and visit that sushi bar you always wanted to go. Walk in. Sit down. Have a nigiri or two. Talk to the chef. If you like the experience, come back more. If not, then go and visit another until you find the one you like.
Someday, you will be awarded with your membership card.
How would you know?
Oh, I am sure you will know when that happens.