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Omakase: A Japanese Dining Experience You Need To Try

Sushi Chef placing gold on sushi

Japanese culture is full of many different beautiful rituals and traditions, and as they value family and home very highly, it is no wonder that these extend to different foods and meal types too.  Omakase is an amazing type of dining experience from Japan that can also be found outside of the country, in certain Japanese restaurants and establishments around the world. In this experience, you enjoy food in a completely new way, and it is absolutely worth giving it a try, and it is highly recommended for those that are looking for Japanese cultural experiences.  Let’s get right into what exactly Omakase is, and a few more details. 

What is Omakase?

What is Omakase?
Source: Instagram

Let’s start out with the most important question: what is Omakase?  The name of the dining experience directly translates into “respectfully leaving another to decide what is best”, and more or less, that is exactly what this dining experience is all about.  To put it simply, Omakase is a dining experience in which the dinner is carefully chosen and crafted by a head sushi chef, who will be in charge of deciding what you eat and how you eat it. The chef will present you with a dish, and tell you all about it, and once you’ve had a chance to enjoy it, the chef will guess at what you would like next, figuring out your tastes and making an effort to provide you with the best experience possible, without you having to make decisions.  But that’s not all that Omakase is. It is also a full experience that allows for a higher intimacy, not only with the head chef but with the food itself, so that you feel more connected to it and the enjoyment is doubled. With Omakase, unlike in traditional restaurants, you will sit at the sushi bar, right in front of the chef. This way you can interact with the chef easily, as well as being able to observe firsthand how the chef crafts the food for you in real-time.  To add to the experience, the chef will usually tell you all about their cooking experience, and how they got to be where they are. They might share unique anecdotes of their life, and share some of their passions with you.

Omakase restaurants
Source: Instagram

All this, while they also tell you all about the ingredients that are being used, and of the history and origin of each dish, and what it might signify or add to your dinner. This way, you will form a connection to the chef as food is being served to you, and you will also learn a great big deal about what you are eating, which allows you to in turn appreciate the food all the more!  The dishes themselves will be made to an exceptionally high standard, with high-quality ingredients that are purchased fresh from local markets. And you don’t have to worry about feeling pressured just because you are right in front of the chef.

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World’s Most Famous Chefs
Source: Instagram

There is no hurry when eating the food, as it is all about focusing on enjoyment. And if you don’t like talking, you can simply listen and enjoy whatever information the chef has to share.  So basically, Omakase is an intimate dining experience in which a head chef personally chooses and crafts the food that you eat, all while talking to you about their life and about the food they are making for you. It adds a whole new perspective to the food, and many people love the precision and care that goes into the whole process! 

The Cost

Chef serving sushi omakase style

If you want to give Omakase a try, which we wholeheartedly recommend you do, then you will be wondering how much it costs, on average. The truth is, that compared to other Japanese meals and restaurants, Omakase is more on the expensive end of things, but that is because it is a far more intimate experience, with a lot more care, and with high-quality ingredients chosen just for you. It is well worth paying a little more for the overall experience of it all!  As a general rule, you should expect to pay at least around $100 to $300 per person for an Omasake dining experience, but this can vary from place to place. In recent years, more affordable Omasake dining experiences have emerged, and you can sometimes find these for less than $50 per person. However, these are rare and hard to find, and they might not always be as good as the more expensive ones.  The thing with Omakase, as well, is that as it is such an intimate and personalized experience, they can’t take on too many customers at once. Especially as each group of customers will have a head chef all to themselves. So quite often, you will need to book your Omakase dining experience with plenty of time in advance, as they are usually in very high demand! 

Popular Omakase Items

most popular Omakase dishes
Source: Instagram

You might be wondering what type of food Omakase usually serves. As they will usually get their ingredients fresh and from local markets, it’s safe to expect dishes that are commonly found in the area that the experience is located.  A lot of different types of sushi are served in Omakase, but there are also other cooking styles and dishes that are common.  Some of the most popular dishes are Hassun, which are small appetizer dishes, Sashimi, fish without the rice bit, Dashi, which is a type of Japanese broth, and many other dishes with a variety of ingredients and combinations.  The truth is, no two experiences will be the same, because the head chef will customize the experience to the specific customers, aiming to please their particular tastes and preferences through guesswork and interaction. 

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Tips and Advice

If you’re going to experience Omakase for the first time, you might be worried about what does or don’ts are important, so that you keep the right etiquette, and get through the experience in an appropriate way.  So here are some of the top tips and pieces of advice that can help you do things right!

  • The Omakase dining experience is all about leaving it up to the chef, so avoid asking for specific dishes, and avoid asking for alterations in the recipes. The chef knows best, just go with the flow, and your reactions alone will help the chef proceed forward in the right direction. 
  • When you first meet the chef, it is traditional to greet them by saying “itadakimasu”, which is pronounced “ee-tah-dah-kee-mah-su”. 
  • When you finish your Omakase experience, it is traditional to thank the chef by saying “gochisosama deshita”, which is pronounced “go-chee-sou-sa-ma-deh-shee-tah”. 
  • If you are given a piece of sushi or something similar, it is best to eat it in a single bite if possible, as they are designed so that you get the perfect ratio of all the ingredients included at the same time.
  • Just be respectful. Listen attentively to anything the chef has to say, and enjoy the experience as it comes! 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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