Recently I had a chance to tour Vancouver and try some of the freshest seafood in Canada. However, one thing that had been on my bucket list for a long time was “omakase”. Omakase is a Japanese word that translates to “I leave it up to you” or “chef’s choice”. In the context of dining, this refers to a style of meal where the chef curates and serves a multi-course menu based on their expertise, creativity, and fresh seasonal ingredients available. Rather than ordering dishes from a menu, omakase is a showcase of the chef’s skills and takes you on a journey of flavors that build up, but also round out, your entire meal.
It is a very different experience that I’ve never had before. I found the entire experience very intimate and entertaining at the same time. However, truth be told the entire meal was not cheap, and definitely not a budget dinner option. But given it was on my bucket list for years, I finally bit the bullet and decided to try it in lieu of an entire Japan trip this summer.
Here’s why you should try Omakase at least once in your life.
- Trust: I found that when I typically order from a menu, I had full control of what I would be ordering. I tend to gravitate towards certain items and neglect others. At a sushi restaurant, I like to stay away from heavy carbohydrate options such as rice balls or maki rolls. At an omakase, the entire choice of the dinner was not in my hands. I found it initially very frustrating not knowing what my meal would consist of and wondering if I would be satiated at the end. However, the chef did an extraordinary job introducing each ingredient. He would be communicating with us at all times, entertaining us with knife skills and also explaining the ingredients that went into making the small tapa like dishes.
- Beauty: As the saying goes, our eyes always eat before us. Even before we begin to dine, the colors, presentation, and plating is imperative to the whole experience. I find that even though sometimes I cook well at home, when the food isn’t presenting well (too mushy, not enough colors, or a lack of texture and variety) it makes for a boring meal no matter how good it tastes. The entire omakase experience was like an art show. The various colors from the fresh green wasabi to the pink translucent features of each fish were a visual showcase. The chef really paid attention to the aesthetics, and the best part was being able to witness how he created the stunning pairings of color and taste.
- Culinary education: I found one aspect that I often missed during my culinary experience was understanding the history behind the cuisine. I also didn’t understand traditional Japanese cuisine as I often ate Japanese fast food such as katsu and fast-food sushi. However, Japanese cuisine emphasize on fresh, local ingredients. Especially ensuring the ingredients are in season. For example, edamame is currently a popular snack in Japan as it is in season right now. Another ingredient that is harvested in the summer is eggplant, which was used in the tempura I had as part of the multi-course experience.
Whether you’re a food enthusiast, an adventurous eater, or someone looking to explore new culinary horizons, trying omakase allows you to immerse yourself in a world of flavors, textures, and culinary craftsmanship. It’s an experience that goes beyond a typical meal, offering a sensory journey that celebrates the artistry and passion of the chef.