The sushi that most of us are eating in the West bears little resemblance to sushi of Japanese tradition, born more than a century ago on the streets of Edo—the old city of Tokyo. Our sushi today lacks much of the delicacy, variety, and sophistication of this age-old Japanese culinary art. Yet most of us don’t realize what we’re missing. Consider, for example, this comment from well-traveled Western business executive and frequent visitor to Japan, after attending one of Trevor Corson’s historical sushi dinners:
“Having been an avid lover of Japanese cuisine for at least the last 25 years, I supposed that, perhaps if I wasn’t an expert, I was certainly a gifted and enthusiastic amateur when it came to knowing my way around the sushi bar. And how completely wrong I was. Within a matter of minutes, I realized that I knew next to nothing about the background, the origins of the myriad traditions behind Japanese cuisine. I was fascinated to begin to understand the reason behind combining certain ingredients, and the methodology of preparing them. Trevor Corson guided us through an extravaganza of taste experiences. It was a truly great, and humbling evening.” *
Unfortunately, much American-style sushi was invented to unload low-quality ingredients on unsuspecting customers. Moreover, even the sushi bars in the U.S. that are believed to be authentic aren’t necessarily so traditional. Trevor reveals that getting the best sushi experience doesn’t depend on going to the “right” restaurant or always ordering the typical trophy fish so frequently pushed by our best-known sushi establishments. In fact, many such fish—the the toro cuts of tuna being a perfect example—are surprisingly foreign to the sushi tradition. Describing Trevor’s unique approach to sushi, journalist and seafood expert Paul Greenberg wrote in the New York Times Magazine:
“Trevor Corson is an East Asia scholar turned popular nonfiction writer and author of the 2007 book The Story of Sushi, and for select groups he will act as a ‘sushi concierge,’ hosting dinners often at the Jewel Bako Japanese restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village, one of which I attended this past winter. A Corson-guided meal aims to reveal the historical truth of tuna and to represent the very different fish that were the staples of sushi in earlier times. Plate by plate I watched as Corson walked a group of Manhattan professionals through a traditional Edo-period meal.”
Trevor works closely with Japanese master chefs to take his guests back to the sort of menu that a Japanese connoisseur a century ago would have favored. Because this style of sushi tends to be so different, Trevor explains all the whys and hows of appreciating the food, and provides tips for soliciting a traditional sushi experience from a chef.
Trevor’s approach to sushi evolved after he lived in Japan for three years and spent a year reading Japanese-language sources on sushi and talking with Japanese chefs. His goal is to equip his guests with the knowledge and confidence to eat sushi in a way that’s not just better and more authentic from a gastronomic point of view, but is also better for their health and the environment. There’s just one problem. Over and over, Trevor hears from his guests after guiding them through a meal: “Now I never want to go back to the sushi I was eating before.”
* Comment received from John Glaister of New York City. See more testimonials.