Recently, I had the pleasure of eating at Ikko in Costa Mesa here in SoCal.  While there are many, many Japanese restaurants in the OC, few have the elegance and thoughtfulness of Ikko’s approach to sushi.  And with the company I was dining with, the only way to really enjoy a place like Ikko is to have a gastronomical approach of “letting go”.  And in the Japanese approach, letting go really means, “up to you”, or omakase.

Omakase isn’t that popular, I’m guessing, because we all know what we like, and don’t like when it comes to sushi.  In the words of Anthony Bourdain [paraphrased], “If cooking is about control – controlling the heat, timing, ingredients, etc.  Eating is about submission.”  We have a problems with the word submission.  And rightfully so.  Submitting has this undertone of weak, someone lording over you, being under someone else’s control.  But with food, in particular with eating, submission is a good thing.  Submit to what the chef/cook has done because to try and control it from the dining room is not only insulting to the chef, but also not experiencing new things.  Omakase is one of the best ways to submit ourselves.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doing omakase at Sushi Boy, even if they offer it.  I’m doing omakase at places I trust and look forward to magical things happening.  It’s a way to relax and learn to experience new things for the next 2-3 hours.  It’s a way to experience sushi where tuna, yellow tail, and salmon [the staples of all customers ordering sushi on their own] is forgotten.  Instead, you get things like seared kobe beef [wait, is that sushi?], squid topped with squid liver, toro, and abalone.  No shoyu.  No wasabi.  Just you, your friends, and the chef.  Allow him to  serve you whatever he chooses.  The “up to you” is not only about submission, but it’s about granting trust to someone else to bring content and happiness with the meal.

Submission is not a bad thing when it comes to food.  We shouldn’t always be scared to try something new, especially when you go to a place like Ikko, where the chef knows more about fish than I ever will.  And to not use the shoyu and wasabi as a crutch where most people drown their perfectly good sushi with the stuff.  Let the chef prepare it the way it was meant to be prepared and then take that piece of sushi and put it in your mouth to savor.  And in the end, just say a simple “thank you”, or “arigato” and know that submitting can be a good thing.

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