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Eat Sushi the Right Way: A Beginner’s Guide to Sushi Etiquette

on 18th Jul, 2017
Sushi is widely known as one of the healthiest and most satisfying foods on the market. In addition to having a pleasant flavour, the typical contents of sushi (raw fish, rice, and seaweed) make it a fantastic choice for those who enjoy healthy eating at Japanese restaurants. In fact, sushi restaurants in Dubai or Riyadh, like Sushi Counter have gained a worldwide reputation among health-conscious foodies and the mainstream alike for their exquisite flavours and innovative food designs. Yet, many sushi aficionados are unaware that there is actually proper etiquette with which sushi should be enjoyed.

There are plenty of incorrect ways to eat sushi—with a fork, with ketchup. This guide will help you to eat sushi the right way, so that you can avoid looking silly, at whatever sushi restaurant you choose to attend.  

In general, most sushi experts agree that when enjoying the best sushi, an understanding of Japanese sushi etiquette is the key. Yet, some sushi faux pas can make guests look a little foolish. The purpose of this guide is to help you avoid any embarrassing moments while enjoying some of the best sushi in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Riyadh.

When ordering in most sushi restaurants, simpler is better, and following proper sushi decorum is a great way to ensure that you and your guests have a positive experience. If you’re going to a casual kaiten-sushi restaurant or a mainstream Japanese restaurant in Dubai or Riyadh, the atmosphere will most likely be casual and friendly. However, if you find yourself patronising a non-chain sushi-house (often where you’ll find the best sushi) some formal knowledge of etiquette will be required and appreciated.

Before You Arrive

Believe it or not, for all sushi restaurants worldwide, proper sushi etiquette begins before you even leave your home. The most well-respected sushi restaurants in the region greatly prefer that you make reservations in advance, especially if you have any special dietary needs.

Since sushi is made from raw fish which must be obtained in immaculate condition directly from vendors, making reservations helps sushi restaurants to calculate the amount of fresh fish they’ll need to procure and be sure to honour your reservations.

You’ll find that in sushi restaurants in the Middle East and Japan alike, it is acceptable to tip your chef to show your appreciation. If you are dining by yourself, it is preferable that you eat at the sushi bar, rather than taking up table space reserved for groups and families. Japanese restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Riyadh are steadily growing in popularity, and your consideration of space will be greatly appreciated.

Next, avoid wearing perfumes, colognes, and fragrant body sprays to the sushi restaurant. Some cuts of sushi will have a slight fish odour, and when mixed with modern perfumes, you can make the experience unpleasant for those around you. Being able to smell the sushi is actually crucial to your enjoyment of your meal. In fact, the best sushi smells a lot like the sea—very clean and vivid—with slight undertones of kelp.

Sushi Etiquette - Do's & Don'ts

With that in mind, a refined sushi guest strives to smell neutral, as to not hamper the pleasing aroma of the fresh fish being served. It is bad manners in a sushi restaurant to ask if the fish is fresh, but it is perfectly acceptable to ask the chef for recommendations and about certain seasonal ingredients. 

Don’t Order Too Much Food

If you’re used to frequenting American or Italian-style restaurants, then you’ve likely seen huge portions of food at these establishments. Yet, the best sushi restaurants make virtually everything to order. So, when visiting Japanese restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Riyadh, be sure to order a quantity of food that is reasonable for your party to consume. Also, make sure to dig-in as soon as your meal arrives. The best sushi experience is had by promptly consuming your order.


When at the table in a sushi restaurant, there are a few basic points of etiquette to eating sushi to consider. Firstly, don’t ever rub your chopsticks together, as this is an insult to the establishment and is viewed as a way of communicating that the quality of the chopsticks displeases you. Also, don’t begin the meal by ordering something heavy.

The best sushi experience always starts with the lightest flavours for the palate, and gradually works towards bolder ones as the meal progresses. Japanese restaurants will be happy to help you pick out a selection if you ask for assistance.

Surprisingly, regardless of if you’re enjoying sushi at a casual establishment or a fine-dining sushi restaurant in Dubai or Saudi, it is perfectly acceptable to eat nigiri sushi with your hands. However, you should always use chopsticks when enjoying sashimi.

When eating sashimi (a type of sushi distinguished by the fish placed on the top), you can tip the sushi over with the point of your chopstick. Then, pick the piece of sushi up with one chopstick pressing against the fish side, and the other on the rice end. You never want to get the rice area wet with soy sauce because it will begin to fall apart. Too much soya sauce will overpower the taste of the fish.

Sushi pros also know that you should never break-up your pieces of sushi. Sushi restaurants make sure that your sushi already comes portioned into the perfect bite, so please refrain from donning a knife to saw it down the middle.

Eat Your Sushi in The Right Order

Most sushi aficionados will tell you that there is a specific order in which you should enjoy your sushi. Generally speaking, in all Japanese restaurants, the rule is that you should always start with the lightest flavours, and gradually progress to fish with bolder tastes. In a fine-dining establishment, you should begin with your white fish and gradually eat your way to the heavier items like tuna and eel. Ginger will be provided to clear your palate or a small sip of tea. Never eat the pickled ginger in the same bite as your sushi, as the ginger is intended to clear your palate.

When visiting a Japanese restaurant in Abu Dhabi or anywhere else in the world, use condiments sparingly during your meal. A very small about of wasabi and soya sauce should do the trick. If you opt to lightly dip your sushi in soya sauce, saturate the fish side and never the side where the rice patty sits. Also, never place your wasabi directly into the soya sauce bowl.

Don’t Linger After the Meal

After you’ve enjoyed your meal, correct sushi etiquette demands that you pay promptly and leave. It is very poor etiquette in a Japanese restaurant to ask for a takeaway box for any leftover sushi because sushi doesn’t keep for very long. Most sushi restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Saudi will offer a towel for you to wipe your hands off with, and it is considered good manners to make use of it.

In many other restaurants, it is common for people to linger after the meal has concluded in order to socialise, yet in sushi restaurants, this is sometimes considered a faux pas.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, the best sushi restaurant experiences occur when you follow the rules above. Certain aspects of sushi etiquette were designed to make sure you have the best possible experience.

Eat Sushi the Right Way: A Beginner’s Guide to Sushi Etiquette

Sushi is widely known as one of the healthiest and most satisfying foods on the market. In addition to having a pleasant flavour, the typical contents of sushi (raw fish, rice, and seaweed) make it a fantastic choice for those who enjoy healthy eating at Japanese restaurants. In fact, sushi...