How does a chef who never cooks ply his craft? One who rarely comes near a pan or a pot? Who neither stirs a stew nor lards a roast? Ask a sushi chef, as proper sashimi preparation is one of the most prized of gastronomical arts. And the sushi chef’s most valued tool is his knife, says chef Tadashi Ono of Matsuri: “Knife skill is very fundamental, the most important skill.” Ono uses a Masamoto yanagi (sashimi knife) that he bought in Tokyo in 1992. It was originally 30 centimeters (nearly a foot) long, but years of daily sharpening along its right side (as Tadashi is right-handed) have reduced its length by a third, but the knife is still razor sharp. “The surface of the knife is extremely important,” Ono says. “Sashimi must have a silky texture. In Japanese cooking we don’t do much to the ingredients, so they have to be presented in the very best way possible. A coarser knife would leave the fish mushy.” Masamoto knives, manufactured in Ono’s hometown of Tokyo (“We love them because they are our native product”) can be purchased at Korin Trading Company for $232, for a very good knife, or $398, for one similar to the grade Ono uses. But there is no acquiring the fifteen years of hard practice; that you have to get yourself.
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