What is a Sushi Bar? What to Expect When You Visit One

A sushi bar is different from a regular sushi restaurant in several different ways, many of which might come as a surprise to those who have never been in one.

What can you expect from a sushi bar? First of all, if you are visiting an authentic sushi bar, the expectations of adhering to certain etiquettes go up, so you need to learn them. Secondly, a sushi bar is where you both eat and drink, where alcohol is consumed alongside sushi. Finally, instead of plated sushi, you get them in pieces.

A lot of the differences between sushi bars and sushi restaurants can come down to the individual issues related to the establishment, but most of them do share commonalities worth remembering.

How Sushi Bars Differ from Sushi Restaurants

Sushi restaurants and sushi bars both deals in sushi but depending on where you are, they can either be somewhat different to wildly distinct. You have to understand that markets tend to vary in terms of where you are. The sushi bars you get in California, for example, will not be the same as those in Montreal.

You better believe that the distinctions will be even more pronounced when you go somewhere like Okinawa or Kyoto or some other places where traditional sushi is taken very seriously. Fortunately, chefs and staff in all of these areas can be quite forgiving, provided you actually understand a few general differences.

These differences will ultimately be related to such things as:

·         Etiquette

·         Serving style

·         Sushi variety

·         Method of consumption

·         General expectations

·         Atmosphere

As long as you keep in mind how those will likely not be the same when you are eating at a restaurant as opposed to a sushi bar, you can get by reasonably well. For more specific differences, you can take a look at the table below.

Serving styleThe serving style in sushi bars involve you sitting on a counter where the chef makes the sushi, serves it to you, and then moves on to make the next sushi that they will serve to you
Dining crowdMost of the people eating at sushi bars are there to relax and enjoy, with there being fewer families or large groups
InteractionsRather than speaking to a serving person to place your order, you basically go up to the bar, greet the chef, and choose from the options that they give you right there
Dining speedIt needs to be emphasized that you cannot dawdle at sushi bars because there might be other customers waiting their turn
BoozeSushi bars are also places where people can drink alcohol, mostly sake or beer, so don’t be surprised if you see plenty of people doing so
EtiquetteYour manners, voice volume, gestures, and method of eating your sushi will be closely observed when at a sushi bar, so be sure to behave properly

By simply keeping these aspects in mind, your sushi bar experience should be quite satisfactory. Don’t let those considerations intimidate you, either, since they sound more frightening than they really are. At worst, you can simply alert the staff that you are a first-time diner and you may need some help with the subtler parts of dining at a sushi bar.

Etiquettes in Sushi Bars

Traditional sushi restaurants might have their rules but they are nothing compared to traditional sushi bars. Yes, establishments in the latter category might be considered less fancy, but they are also seen as the best way to experience sushi in its most natural form. This is why you have to be absolutely sure that what you are doing is in accordance with traditional etiquettes for the sake of authenticity.

Fortunately, these rules and practices are not really that complicated. Among the etiquettes that you will need to remember, the most important are:

·         Treating the chef and staff with respect

·         Not talking in a loud voice

·         Eating at a reasonably quick pace

·         Not bringing outside food

·         Not going crazy on the booze

·         Don’t rub chopsticks together

·         Don’t use too much soy sauce

·         Use your hands when eating nigiri

·         Don’t complain

·         Don’t make a mess

·         Don’t distract the chef

·         Don’t take photos or videos without asking first

Other than those points of behavior, everything else is considered forgivable by the folks in the sushi bar. Not everyone is expected to adhere to some of the subtlest of mannerisms, after all, and even the most rigid of traditional sushi chefs understand that. So they won’t make a fuss unless you do something particularly rude.

Why Etiquette Matters in Sushi Bars

Now, you might be wondering why all of those pesky rules are even in the picture when all you want to do is to enjoy some good sushi. First of all, a lot of it has to do with the bar’s atmosphere. Every single person in that establishment is playing a crucial role in maintaining the mood of the place. If one acts up, there is a good chance that they will be ruining the experience for everyone else.

This is simply not acceptable in a Japanese establishment, especially one that deals with something as culturally significant as sushi. Another reason for it is simply getting the most out of the experience. In the case of eating nigiri with your hands, for example, it is actually more gratifying to do so than if you were to use chopsticks.

Not dipping into soy sauce too much operates under the same line of thought and you better believe that you will absolutely regret holding up the seats for too long. There is no faster way to get the entire sushi bar, both the staff and the customers against you than not following this simple rule.

Finally, eating sushi is as much of a journey as it is a dining practice. You are experiencing every single step with every single service as it is in that moment and no other before it completely goes away. These etiquettes are meant to amplify that, as well.

Related Questions

What Do They Say When You Enter a Sushi Bar?

When you enter a sushi bar, the staff will shout “Irasshaimase!”, which roughly translates to “Welcome!” or “Please come in!” This is a standard practice in the Japanese food industry and you will likely come across it every time you eat at a restaurant in Japan.

Are You Supposed to Eat Sushi Rolls in One Bite?

Every single piece of sushi except for the California hand rolls are meant to be consumed in one swift bite. You are not meant to take nibbles off of nigiri or maki because they are specifically molded or cut in portions that you can easily pop into your mouth and chew without much of an issue.

Why Eat at Sushi Bars?

Eating at a traditional sushi bar is one of the best ways to experience authentic sushi dining and this is simply because this is how the food trend started, in the first place. The first sushi was served in a place much like a sushi bar and since then, it has only gotten more popular. These days, you can find sushi in pretty much every corner of the globe, but only a few of them can be considered authentic.

In the first place, sushi is more of an event than it is a typical dining experience. There is pageantry involved and a lot of it has to do with how the chef makes the sushi right in front of you, serving each piece one by one. You get to see exactly what is going on with your own eyes and the dish is basically guaranteed fresh.

Another great thing about sushi bars is that you have the chance to experience new kinds of sushi dishes that you might not find anywhere else. This is not exactly something that you can easily pick up anywhere else and you can certainly believe that the more authentic the sushi bar, the stranger the dishes will become.

If this is something that interests you, then it might be in your best interest to give it a go. It’s not exactly disadvantageous to you. Plus, you can drink without reservations. That’s a huge plus.

When to Eat at Sushi Bars?

If you are craving sushi, there are a bunch of other options other than sushi bars to choose from. As such, you might be wondering when is the best time to eat at a sushi bar. The answer is that you can go pretty much any time you want. However, there are times when you might not want to do so such as when you are going there in a large group.

As a rule, most traditional sushi bars can’t really host big crowds unless they reserve the place beforehand. With this being the case, if you are going to dine as a family or as a crowd, it would be better to visit sushi restaurants instead. On that note, the very best time to go to a sushi bar is actually when you just want a place where you can eat good food and relax.

There is something oddly satisfying to sit at a counter, order your food, sip on sake or beer, and just watch the chef make your food for you right in front of you. It is quite a relaxing experience and one that has drawn many weary office workers and business people to even the dingiest of sushi bars. That’s just the kind of atmosphere it has.

If you are weary from your travels, a sushi bar can be a great place to take a load of, as well. You will finally be able to breathe without anyone looking you over and sizing you up. That’s not the kind of place this is.

As a result, you will be able to relax without any reservations and you will also be able to leave while feeling quite good about yourself. After downing a few shots of good sake, eating some good sushi, and perhaps having some good conversations, you will certainly believe that you are getting this right.

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