Sushi Etiquette

Dear Annabel Manners, 

 
I hope you can help me. I’m an actress/waitress who moved to L.A. from Iowa six weeks ago. (Total cliche, I know!) 
 
I got asked out on a date and the guy wants to take me to a sushi place. I have never had sushi in my life! I’m really trying to pull off cool/sophisticated but I have no idea what to do. Can you give me any tips? 
 
Farm Girl — Sherman Oaks
Dear Farm Girl,
Welcome to Hollywood, darlin’!  My instincts tell me you should bat your lashes and confess the truth: that you’ve never had sushi and you can’t wait to try it. Just think:
  • It banishes first-date awkwardness by giving you two something to talk about.
  • Your fella gets to be a big shot and show off his vast knowledge of raw fish.
  • It saves you the anxiety of pretending you know what you’re doing.
But if you insist on playing it all cosmopolitan and urbane, here are eight key pointers:
1. Consider a trial run. There must be a million sushi restaurants in your neighborhood. Pop in one and order basics like a spicy tuna roll, yellowtail sushi, and edamame.
2. Learn how to use chopsticks. (Here’s an instructional video that might help.) Out here, you can find sushi at almost any grocery store. Grab a California roll and practice at home!
3. Know your Japanese condiments. For example, many people swirl super-hot wasabi (Japanese horseradish) into their soy sauce and nibble on pickled ginger to cleanse the palate. EatSushi.com has a glossary that will help demystify the lingo.
4. It’s considered bad manners to order anything but fish from a sushi chef. If you need drinks or appetizers, flag down a waiter or waitress.
5. If your date orders a large beer or sake (Japanese rice wine), catch the eye of the sushi chef and say, “May we offer you a drink?” This is customary in Japan, though it’s definitely not required here. Might be an impressive touch.
6. If you’re having miso soup, pick up the bowl with both hands and sip it like a cup of tea. Use your chopsticks to fish out (and eat) bites of seaweed. Whatever you do, don’t ask for a spoon!
7. The proper way to eat a piece of sushi is in one tidy bite, though extra-large rolls sometimes make this impossible. Just be dainty and do your best!
8. Some restaurants provide ceramic chopstick holders to hold your utensils between bites. If you don’t see one on the table, simply rest your chopsticks across your plate as you would a fork or spoon.
You’ll be an old pro in no time. Good luck and have fun!
Graciously yours,
ANNABEL MANNERS
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