Another year has begun to enjoy delicious food. If you are in the mood for sushi, here is a handy guide: The Art of Sushi, which came out in November 2023.
The author Guy Allen has chronicled his countless dinners at high-quality sushi restaurants, including top sushi bars in Japan, on his Instagram account since 2017. The book showcases the highlights of his experiences in America.
The book covers 232 restaurants in 16 regions in the U.S. Although the vast majority of the list are located in New York and California, there are notable spots in unexpected cities like Charlotte, Omaha and Philadelphia, indicating that high-quality sushi is becoming increasingly more available nationwide.
Allen features only omakase-style sushi bars in his guide. Omakase means “leave it to the chef”: you fully trust the chef’s expertise and you won’t know what you are going to be served. These establishments have many fans and regulars who believe in the chefs’ talent and capability to make their dinners truly special.
Allen grew up in New York eating great food, including plenty of sushi, with his gourmet parents. He got deeply into sushi about 10 years ago when authentic sushi restaurants became abundant in the city.
“There used to be only a handful of sushi restaurants in the U.S. but after Netflix released the seminal documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi in 2012, the number dramatically increased,” he says. “I keep close tabs on all the openings and closings of sushi spots throughout the city and currently, there are close to 150 sushi bars in New York City alone.”
That is why he published the book to help diners to choose a place worth spending money for. Indeed, dining out for high-quality sushi can be costly. The book is full of beautiful, appetizing photos of sushi and Allen thoughtfully indexed the list with prices that range from $54 to $950 per person.
How To Choose A Great Sushi Restaurant
How did Allen choose the best sushi restaurants for the book?
“My preference can be highly subjective. So I curated the list by gathering the collective wisdom of the most knowledgeable experts in America, including 34 different chefs, food writers and passionate omakase fans.”
He also looked into the background of each chef’s pedigree, such as where he/she was trained, and where the ingredients were sourced. The quality of the food is the primary focus of the book but the atmosphere, vibe and décor are also considered for the best dining experience.
Allen, a real estate entrepreneur, goes to sushi restaurants once a week at least. Why is he so passionate about sushi?
“Made with a piece of raw fish and a tiny ball of rice, sushi is seemingly very simple. But no other food takes this level of art form.”
To Allen, the sushi chef is the curator of refined works by all the skilled professionals involved—from fishermen, divers, dock workers, middlemen, farmers, soy sauce makers to importers and exporters. The chef’s unique artistic sense, skills and mindset consummate their values.
“Anyone can make sushi at home, but the top masters spend years and decades perfecting the small details,” he says.
For example, rice, or shari in Japanese, is as important as fish for sushi chefs. Shari’s texture, temperature and size can vary depending on the chef’s preference. The soy sauce can be carefully flavored for a specific type of fish. These are useful benchmarks in determining your favorite style of sushi and the book covers a wide range of styles, reflecting each chef’s distinctive philosophy.
Even for Japanese people, it can be a little intimidating to sit at a sushi counter. What manners should you keep in mind?
“Your respectful attitude towards the chef’s craftsmanship counts. With that in mind, first and foremost, you need to eat sushi as soon as it is served to enjoy the highest quality the chef strived to achieve,” says Allen.
“If the chef seems comfortable, you can ask questions about ingredients, his/her philosophy and so forth. There is so much to discover at a sushi bar and these discoveries will certainly enrich your dining experience.”
Allen does not seem to stop exploring the art of sushi anytime soon. He is planning to publish another guide to feature sushi restaurants in other cities in the world sometime this year.