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When you sit down at a sushi bar and say, “Omakase,” you’re putting yourself in the chef’s hands—telling him, in effect, to amaze and surprise you. “My regulars just come in and let me do my thing,” says Kru owner/executive chef Buu “Billy” Ngo. He typically starts by serving raw nigiri and sashimi, progressing through a series of dishes before finishing with something savory, such as teriyaki braised pork cheek. “Basically, I keep going until a customer says, ‘I’m full.’” But not all customers are willing to take that kind of gamble. For those who are ready to try omakase—but on their own terms—try these tips:
State your likes and dislikes—If you love tuna and salmon but reel at the thought of eel, speak up. “Give your chef a list of what you do and don’t like, and leave the rest to the chef,” offers Ngo.
Don’t forget about allergies—With shellfish one of the most common food allergens, you can’t be too careful at a sushi bar, where shrimp, crab and lobster lurk. Mention allergies and dietary restrictions right up front, says Ngo.
Consult your budget—“Omakase can be expensive because it’s the best food in the house,” says Taka Watanabe of Taka’s Sushi in Fair Oaks. How expensive? Watanabe says you can expect to pay $50 to $120 in local restaurants, including his. If you’re on a budget, tell the chef or wait until you’ve stashed some cash. As Ngo says, “Omakase is usually for when people want to go all out.”
Check your watch—Omakase can easily run five or more courses, and that takes time. “Most times when people come in for omakase, they’re here to relax and enjoy,” says Ngo. If you’re in a time crunch, telling the chef can prevent irritation on both sides of the sushi bar.