Embracing Sushi in 8 Steps
When Billy and I were first met, he was a non-sushi eater. Fortunately, this wasn't a deal breaker because I was supremely confident I could get him on a program not to merely tolerate sushi, but actually to request date nights at Japanese restaurants. The first time he suggested sushi, WITHOUT PROMPTING, I did a little jig. It's been dining bliss ever since. I've also put many friends and co-workers successfully through this "plan." (You know who you are!)
So how does this happen?
Slowly. Methodically. According to A Plan!
If you are the "coaxer" in this endeavor, it's important to remember what you didn't like when you first started eating raw fish. If you push too quickly, you'll lose your credibility and your opportunity to have friends work with you on your sushi cravings.
Here's the parameters around my "make a sushi convert" program.
1. Avoid Fish Eggs
Avoiding raw fish eggs is almost always a mental thing, though sometimes the texture can flip people out. Remember this! Don't try and talk someone into joining you in the egg thing. Along the crawl/walk/run continuum, fish eggs are a sprint. The first time or two out, don't even order them for yourself; some just can't take it!
2. Go upscale & sit at the sushi bar
Never, Ever, EVER (like never), take a sushi newbie to a sushi place in a strip mall, or to the grocery store aisle, or to any "low price" option. Fish is expensive and sushi grade fish is at the higher end. Going cheap, at the start, is not appropriate for beginners. Go for the best. After they love it, then you can look for bargains.
I also think it's helpful to sit at the sushi bar. There's something about seeing your meal made in front of you that helps calm the stomach. I can't explain why this is, but it definitely helps!
3. Start with cooked items
When I first started taking Billy out, I had to break with the traditional roll and sashimi drill and make sure he got enough to eat to be full. When in doubt, order some black cod or even a little edamame to start. YUM!
4. Order mixed cook/raw items
Next up, order some "sushi" that has a little bit of cooked items and a little raw. This can be in a roll form or as an individual piece of fish. When there's something cooked in the mix, any texture issues tend to fade into the background.
5. Order "Easy" Rolls
When you start into rolls, begin by ordering rolls where the rice is on the outside. This makes a BIG difference for someone who's a little tentative with the seaweed. Rolls with cucumber, avocado, and, of course, California rolls, are always good places to start.
6. Share, but don't push
The next phase is branching out to more diverse fish. If your "convert" doesn't mind a little heat, Spicy Tuna or Yellowtail is a great option. If you're ordering an eel roll or Rainbow roll, let them have a segment, but don't push. Let them hang out in the "easy" section as long as they like. Never, ever judge someone's sushi selections. The fact they are trying at all is HUGE! Go out of your way to affirm their flexibility.
7. When ready, order known "winners"
When you think your dining partner is ready to jump into something a little more adventurous, wade slowly into the deep side of the sushi pool. Order something that you've either fallen in love with or that the staff says is a favorite. I think yellowtail is particularly tasty when it's paired with a little jalapeno and this seems to be a common option at sushi spots!
8. End on a high
Don't skip dessert! Like all dishes in Japanese restaurants, portions are reasonable, so ending with a little sweet is definitely in order. My favorite is mochi ice cream- though this isn't as common an option in Atlanta as it is in LA or NY. (Though Trader Joes has it if you're craving some!)