Good thing we are not in old school Japan and that most elder Japanese/Japanese-trained chefs in the U.S. have adopted our ways.
I could care less how you eat your sushi at the bar or at a table, but with some chefs it could get you kicked out!
Basic sushi bar etiquette:
Oshibori (hot towel) sushi is finger food, except sashimi; and the hot towel provided is to clean your hands before you eat. Please don’t blow your nose or take a sponge bath with that nice, hot wash cloth.
Gari (pickled ginger) is provided to cleanse your palette in between different fishes, rolls, or sashimi, so the flavor does not carry over — and to cleanse your mouth when you are finished. Gari is not a salad.
Fingers: Yes you all have five, so use them. Since sushi is finger food, use your fingers to eat the nigiri or rolls. Some people complain when the rolls are not packed tight enough and the rice falls apart — same goes for nigiri. Good sushi is supposed to melt in your mouth, and a good chef will not pack the rice into a hard ball. Nothing wrong with using chop sticks, but unless you can use them proficiently, the sushi will most likely fall apart.
Soy sauce: It’s not to be used like ketchup with fries! If you do need soy sauce, dip the nigiri or maki in lightly. If it’s nigiri, turn it around and dip it in fish side down so that you don’t soak all of the soy with the rice. Same goes for rolls: dip the corner of the roll; don’t give it a bath. Light dipping will allow you to enjoy the wonderful flavors of each fish or roll, and one of the biggest reasons sushi falls apart is from the rice getting logged with soy sauce.
Do not give dirty/empty plates back to the sushi chef. They are dirty; we work with our hands. Put them to the side for your server to clear.
One bite: Sushi is meant to be eaten in one bite. Please do not cut the nigiri, sashimi, or rolls. By doing so you will lose the intended flavor combination. Yeah, go ahead and stuff your mouth. It’s not rude. Just like slurping noodles, it’s the Asian culture, and shows the chef you are are enjoying the food.
Watch this funny video if you have not seen it before.
Oh, and buy your chef a drink. He/she will appreciate it. And if you get them a bit drunk your slices will get bigger!! We don’t want to cut off our fingers as we start to see blurrs!!