Let’s Talk About Sushi, Baby

Japanese chef Atsushi Yonaha at Far & East, Four Seasons Bengaluru, talks about the world's romance with one of Japan’s greatest culinary gifts to the world, while he feeds us with little portions of wonder.

Published On Jun 19, 2024 | Updated On Jul 04, 2024


Did you know that International Sushi Day wasn’t really a thing till 2009 when Chris DeMay, a massive sushi lover, decided to share the love on Facebook. That’s how it all began – as an FB fan page for sushi. All DeMay wanted was to encourage people to eat more sushi; the page got so popular that it eventually became a ‘day’. 

Cut to 2024, it’s celebrated by restaurants all over the world on June 18. Needless to say, we had to think, breathe and eat sushi, to show solidarity of course, and we did it with Japanese chef Atsushi Yonaha at Far & East, Four Seasons Bengaluru, who served what quite possibly has been the best sushi I have eaten in a long time, indulging our taste buds with the most delicate flavours. 


Yonaha is from Okinawa, Japan, and his romance with sushi began at home when he was still in school, all thanks to his then favourite show, the Japan edition of Iron Chef. “The show featured guest chefs from around the world challenging one of the show's resident Japanese chefs in a timed cooking battle built around a specific theme ingredient. I always watched this show with a sense of pride, supporting the resident chefs. This led me to start experimenting with ingredients available to me and travel the world to give everyone a sense of Japanese food,” Yonaha says. 

Since then, Yonaha went to culinary school, mastered his skills and worked for various hotels across the world, and received his Fugu licence in 2010. He’s trained under the guidance of seasoned sushi master. Now, a sushi master is called a ‘shokunin’, which basically means an artisan, which is how Yonaha is also known. And it’s apparent the way he puts sushi together in the most methodical and precise manner. 

As we sat across from him at the chef’s table, watching his brow furrow as he garnished our sushi delicately, or the way his face lit up when he flaunted his recently-acquired box of sea urchin, we realised the level of focus and passion one needs in order to put forth these little works of art. For example, the nigiri; you’d think it’s just a quenelle-shaped dollop of rice with a slice of fish or seafood on top, but it’s far from it. “Yes, it’s raw fish/sea food on a rice ball, but the hand technique used to make it intricate and requires some years of experience to master it,” Yonaha says, adding that the Maguro (tuna) sushi is his favourite. 


Far & East is hosting a limited-menu special just to celebrate the beauty behind the sushi. Whether it’s the Shima Aji (striped horse mackerel) topped with caviar, Awabi hamayaki – the grilled abalone dish, or the Aburi Chutoro (seared medium-fat tuna belly) – the menu is truly a pleasure. And it is here, he’ll also address any questions you might have regarding sushi because there’s enough and more misconceptions that surround Japan’s humble brag. 

“Not all sushi you’ll eat is of Japanese origin, or pure Japanese. For instance, chicken is rarely used in Japanese food, but we do add it to maki rolls. Truffle avocado maki and spicy tempura maki are slightly influenced. The Volcano Makin from our menu is a fusion of Japanese and American cuisine that uses tempura prawn. But influence is inevitable,” Yonaha says, dipping into his experience across various restaurants in the world. “In Japan, most of the food that you eat is around seafood. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in every part of the world. Having worked in UAE and India, consumers do prefer some vegetarian and more spicy options. I always try to offer an experience as real as possible. To suit to their palate, I make modern Japanese dishes that’s a fusion of both the cultures, mostly by the applying Japanese techniques to local ingredients and adapt to the local flavours.” 

But then again, the sushi in Japan itself has undergone many modifications. “Long long back, the original sushi called as Narezushi was just salted fish and fermented rice. Over the centuries, Japanese sushi evolved, with chefs boiling rice, using rice vinegar, and serving smaller pieces. Japan has now become open to using unconventional ingredients in the sushi like using red vinegar instead of the regular one, making nigiris using beef (also called as wagyu),” explains the chef. 

“But I would like to add. Japanese cuisine is not only about sushi. There are plenty other options. And we don’t eat only raw meat – that is used only while eating nigiri or sashimi – and there are many cooking techniques that are applied to fish/meat, including steaming, robotayaki, simmering etc. And I know people say Japanese food is bland, but in Japan we add flavours to our food using various sauce preparations like Ponzu, teriyaki, Sichimi (the seven-spice sauce) etc. However, it all depends on an individual’s palate, and when catering to an audience that is not from Japan, we’ll make adjustments,” he signs off.

The sushi set menu is available at Far & East, Four Seasons Bengaluru for dinner till June 23 and is priced at INR 5,000 plus taxes (per person) 


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