Enjoy the fresh and slightly sour taste of “the first”
There are various opinions as to when the best season is for “katsuo” (bonito). Autumn is said to be the best to eat as sashimi when they are fattest, but in the world of Edomae sushi “hatsu- gatsuo” (first catch of bonitos) of the spring is highly valued.
“What makes hatsu-gatsuo so special is the profound and slightly sour taste of the red meat along with the fresh aroma. Autumn katsuo doesn’t have all that. To bring out the best of hatsu-gatsuo, I take a block of katsuo and pass over the fire set by burning straw instead of using gas range. It takes extra effort but by carefully scoring the skin and then grilling only that side makes the skin crispy and the flesh tasty.”
Mr. Kanai Jun, the master of Sushi Mana at Yushima, does not use wasabi or “shoga” (ginger) but puts “wagarashi” (Japanese mustard) between the ingredient and the sushi rice when making katsuo nigiri.
“This is a bottled wagarashi made in Kyoto, and it goes very well with katsuo. Every guests who has experienced this combination say they were surprised.”
Not the unique pungency of wasabi but the mild accent of wagarashi lets you enjoy hatsu-gatsuo to its fullest without bothering the deep and sour flavor. The smoky aroma also makes a great harmony with hatus-gatuso.