His hands move quickly and expertly dipping into a large dark bowl of soft white rice. A dab of green wasabi is added before he rolls the mixture into a ball in his palm and carefully layers it with a slice of raw pink fish. With a practised flourish he presents it on the bench in front of me. I reach for my chop sticks and am told no. “Use hands. Hands are better. Old way.” I pick up the yellow tail and rice portion, slip it into my salivating mouth and groan audibly.
I’m at Sentori Sushi in Kanazawa, central Japan eating the best sushi of my life. Nine more servings follow the yellow tail down my grateful gullet: flounder, shrimp soft roe, bail shell, abalone. My chef, Kazuhisa Yoshida, is the third-generation owner of the restaurant which welcomed its first customer seven years after the war (1952). He’s been to Australia twice and speaks English slowly and thoughtfully. He tells me about the local fish market and his grandfather and his fondness for the Australian artist, Ken Done. I watch him operate his knives and carefully wrap seaweed around another delicacy. This is real Japanese sushi, similar yet so very different from the kind we know in Australia and the USA. There is no avocado, cream cheese or cooked meat and the meal has been paired with a sweet local sake. I sip, eat slowly and smile contentedly.
At the meal’s conclusion I ask Kazuhisa about the secret to great sushi. He thinks on this a while. “Hospitality,” he decides. “Fresh ingredients and good rice are needed. But hospitality and presentation make for the best sushi.” When I leave a waiter appears with my winter coat and helps me into it. Kazuhisa follows me to the door and we thank each other gratefully and sincerely. It is the Japanese way.
It’s a short taxi ride from Kanazawa train station to Sentori Sushi.
To get to Kanazawa, fly to Tokyo and catch the Shinkansen train (takes 2.5-3 hours one way).
US$30 for ten pieces of sushi (US$45 including local sake)