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O-toro Nigiri Sushi | by Bill Adams
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O-toro Nigiri Sushi

This is yet another in a series of Japanese food photos designed to provide knowledge to those who may not be familiar with such food.


Other educational Japanese food photos can be found in my photostream by searching for the tag; SushiEd



Those of you who have eaten at a Japanese sushi bar are familiar with tuna, or "Maguro" in Japanese. It's a dark red, semi-translucent fish with minimal taste, but people always seem to order it just 'cause it's raw, dead fish, which, after all, is what they came to the Japanese sushi bar to eat.


What you should know is that there are higher quality parts of the tuna fish which can be ordered.


Pictured here is the top-of-the-line portion of the tuna; O-toro. This meat comes straight from the belly of the fish, which is the fattiest and most tender portion for a human to ingest. It's also the tastiest.


There are two grades of tuna between Maguro and O-toro. Those are named; Toro and Chu-toro.


So, to recap, in order of most common to the best tasting, the grades of raw tuna to look for at a Japanese restaurant are as follows:







O-toro can be quite expensive, by the way. The four pieces you see here, which is two orders, cost approximately $34 USD. Compare that to two orders of Maguro, which would cost somewhere around $10-12 USD.


Though this restaurant serves their O-toro with lemon and shiso, which is a leaf from the mint family, it's best eaten plain. The taste of O-toro should be enjoyed without any other substance, aside from a dip in your shoyu sara (shoyu is the Japanese word for "soy sauce" - sara means upside down - dip the fish into the shoyu, not the rice.)


If the Japanese restaurant you've wandered into offers nothing better than Maguro, I'd turn around and find some other place to eat.



This delicious fish was eaten last evening at a Japanese restaurant which opened just this past Monday here on the Big Island. Its name is Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar.


This is the second Japanese restaurant opened here on the Kohala Coast since the first of this year. Including Norio's, we now have three Japanese restaurants within a 5-mile radius.


Sansei's provided a really good customer experience last evening. They're an established restaurant company with two locations on Oahu and one on Maui. The sushi chef previously worked at one of their Oahu restaurants, then transferred over to the Big Island for the opening of this new location.


The staff was well-trained and the overall operation seemed to run quite nicely for a place that opened just this past Monday.


The sushi prices are about 30% less than that of Norio's, but don't expect that to last long. New restaurants always use a bait and switch pricing scheme in the early going. Their prices will rise.


Personally, price is the least important element. Good customer service and consistent quality of fish is what I look for in a Japanese restaurant.


The third restaurant here, which I have eaten in on four occasions, is Kenichi Pacific. Though their fish is of good quality, they leave a whole lot to be desired in the area of customer service. Their sushi prices are not as low as Sansei's, but not quite as high as Norio's.

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Taken on February 28, 2008