Rolling your own sushi in-house means a more entertaining, authentic and educational experience for customers. But bad sushi is very bad, so it’s important to have all your nori in a row before getting started.

FM asked Sushi Chef Yasuo Saso if he could share some sushi wisdom. He serves fresh sushi daily as part of the Pacific Rim station at the GLOBALCAFE located in the GLOBALFOUNDRIES plant in Malta, NY for PRIME Business Dining.

Saso was an apprentice chef in Tokyo for 12 years. When he came to Albany, NY, he started in the kitchen of Hiro's Japanese Restaurant and later went on to open Saso's Japanese Noodle House, a landmark sushi restaurant. Now, providing excellent sushi choices for 2,200 employees, Saso says he’s always learning and is always looking for cool new sushi ideas.

“I was originally amazed at how sushi has been Americanized here in the U.S., using cream cheese, more fried fish, and tempura,” Saso says.  “In Japan, the sushi is more straightforward, using just fish. I am always learning and I always want to learn more.  Just last week, I made a sushi roll using Hawaiian poke fish that was interesting. I have also made a steak Carpaccio sushi.”

Q: What types of sushi rolls are the most popular for your customers?

A: The Spicy Tuna Roll is most popular, with the daily Chef’s Special being a close second.  This week’s specials included: Eel roll with spicy scallop salad on top, Spicy escolar with tuna and salmon topper, and a Spicy Philadelphia twin salmon roll.  The customers love the variety that the daily specials offer.  A ‘sushi variety pack lunch’ of spicy tuna, salmon, white fish and shrimp, served with a bottle of water is also featured.

Q: What advice would you give to a foodservice director who would like to start an in-house sushi program?

A: Training, training and more training. Take classes learning the importance of fresh ingredients and know your fish. Some fish need special preparation, others need to be frozen and some marinated.  You don’t always have to use raw fish for sushi, for example, tempura is a great way to add texture to your rolls, variety to your menu and increase your selling price. 

Q: Do you roll the sushi in front of the customers? If so, what are some tips/best practices for doing that?

A: Our sushi is all rolled fresh to order in front of the customers. My advice is to use sticky rice, make sure the counters are clean and your fingernails are kept short. To further engage the customer in to the sushi experience, have a quick conversation with each person and educate them as you are rolling their choices.

Q: What are some common mistakes people can make with sushi (technique, ingredients, etc.?)

A: Using the correct rice will make or break the sushi experience. Long grain rice is too dry and will not stick together. A common mistake new chefs make is that the sushi roll isn’t tight enough and the inside fillings fall out when the roll is cut. Use the bamboo mat and continuously work the roll until it forms a tight, cohesive, solid shape. Most importantly, always use fresh ingredients. Always.