There’s sushi—and then there’s sushi.
Vancouverites are well-acquainted with the former: affordable sushi scarfed down casually, like sandwiches. It’s the latter that a Japanese chef wants to help local diners learn more about.
Sushi master Hiroshi Hoshiko, originally from Kumamoto, Kyushu, in Japan, arrived in Vancouver in 2011. In an interview in English and Japanese with the Georgia Straight (with translation by Yuko Kojima), Hoshiko says that although most sushi chefs begin training at about 18 to 20 years old, he was 30 years old when he started.
“Since I started sushi chef quite late compared to other people, I wanted to make myself different,” he said in Japanese. “You can’t really win against younger people.”
Consequently, he decided to move abroad to develop a new approach.
In Vancouver, he worked for Miku and then Minami before he started his own catering company in 2016, which served private dining rooms at Rogers Arena for Canucks home games. However, when the pandemic arrived, all hockey games were cancelled. It may seem antithetical to open a business during a lockdown, but Hoshiko did so. He began working out of another restaurant’s kitchen to provide his high-end catering business—Orizumé —which he launched at the end of the May.
Orizumé offers a range of artistically arranged boxes (the beautiful containers, imported from Japan, are integral to the visual presentation and part of omiya, the shortened version of omiyage or the Japanese tradition of giving a gift to a host to express appreciation) of sophisticated nigiri, sashimi, and sushi, with prices ranging from $30 for a box of 10 wasabi inari (fried bean-curd pouches) sushi to $300 for a large nigiri box featuring 12 kinds of nigiri (four pieces each).
Other selections include a traditional nigiri sushi box ($55), with eight kinds of nigiri, chopped bluefin-tuna belly, and pickled daikon rolls; hon maguro jyu, with three sections of bluefin tuna on a bed of rice ($95); and a hand-roll kit to make temaki, or cone, sushi ($250) with ingredients ranging from sockeye salmon, prawn, and cuttlefish to asparagus, pickled tomato, and egg omelette.
Hoshiko says that his fish buyer, Takuya Hikita, searches Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market for the best quality fish, including Thai snapper, hamachi, and bluefin tuna. In order to help educate people about the differences between various fish, Hoshiko explains that he adds extra seasoning to different fish, such as salt to whitefish, miso to other fish, to accentuate distinctions in flavours of each fish. His high standards of quality extend to his unagi jyu (marinated barbecued eel), for which he uses only wild eels: he says they’re less fatty and firmer than farmed eels.
Something unique about his approach is that he uses aged fish, which can only be made from high-quality fish. Using special techniques passed down from sushi chefs in Tokyo’s Ginza district to clean and treat the fish, he adds marinade and then leaves it for seven to 10 days to age, which creates the umami flavour from amino acids. He says this process makes sashimi much more delicious.
In addition, for his shari (sushi rice), he explains that he uses akazu (red-vinegar rice)—which is made with sake kasu, the lees left from the sake-making process—because it has umami that balances with the aged fish. Hoshiko points out that, originally, sushi was not white: it was red, and he uses traditional sushi-making methods from the Edo era.
All of this is only the beginning. He’s planning to also open Tsukiji Kitchen, named after the aforementioned fish market, to offer a variety of bento for takeout, and he’s searching for a potential space for a physical restaurant so he can serve omakase (dishes selected by the chef).
Most of all, he wants to teach locals more about the depth of Japan’s culinary culture beyond simple consumption. Considering Vancouver’s boundless appetite for sushi, there will be, undoubtedly, no shortage of students willing to enroll in his lessons.